Monday, 2 March 2009

The Houshmandzadeh effect

With T.J. Houshmandzadeh completing a five-year, $40m deal to join the Seahawks today, how does this effect Seattle's preparations for the 2009 draft? Arguably one of the team's biggest needs was at wide receiver and the gaping hole has been filled by an ultra productive veteran. This is very much a 'win now' philosophy for a team looking to bounce back quickly from a disappointing 4-12 campaign.

The first question everyone will ask is - does this rule out Michael Crabtree? I'm going to guess that by this time next week, the majority of mock drafts slating the 'Hawks to pick Crabtree will have changed their prediction. Jamie Dukes and Charles Davis from the NFL Network have already begun the trend. Personally, I wouldn't be so quick to rule out Crabtree. The Seahawks were in part decimated at receiver last year because they relied too much on Deion Branch and Bobby Engram - neither 100% healthy to start the 2008 season. Nate Burleson will begin 2009 in a similar position to Branch last year - recovering from a serious knee injury. Branch has shown an inability to stay healthy - whilst Bobby Engram is unlikely to be retained. They can avoid such a situation in 2009 by adding Houshmandzadeh and drafting Crabtree, releasing the pressure on both Burleson and Branch to be starters in week one.

What today's signing does guarantee is the team won't be handcuffed into getting a receiver in the draft, be it Crabtree or someone else later on. In 2008, the Seahawks were forced into an aggressive trade to get John Carlson - filling a big hole at tight end. They have avoided such a need in 2009, but the option is still there should a receiver top their big board any time they're on the clock. Let's also remember, Houshmandzadeh will be 32 when the season begins. He's a solid short term option, but the Seahawks may want to add a play maker who can contribute some now (without total dependency) but be a more dominant weapon in 2010 and 2011.

However, the knock for Crabtree is the amount the team has now invested at wide receiver. With Houshmandzadeh, Branch and Burleson all taking up a large chunk of cap space, they may find it hard to justify another big contract (probably in the $10m a year range) on a rookie receiver taken fourth overall.

They may instead look to invest money elsewhere. So far, they have filled two glaring needs. Colin Cole fills a gap at defensive tackle, and Houshmandzadeh comes in at receiver. There have, however, been no improvements to the offensive line which has lost depth with Ray Willis entering free agency. It is unclear whether the Seahawks intend to pursure Willis.

Although one of Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe is expected to go to St Louis second overall, one could also be available to the Seahawks should they wish to select a long term replacement for Walter Jones. Alternatives? They could even look at a quarter back such as Mark Sanchez, whom it is believed will soon be coming to Seattle for a work out. Selecting either an offensive tackle or quarter back would be with an eye towards the future, albeit an expensive one.

If you're looking for 'impact' prospects who can start right away, then you're probably looking at guys like Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas), Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia) and Chris Wells (RB, Ohio State). It would be a big reach to select any of these players with the fourth overall pick, perhaps making a longer term investment more likely.

One thing is for sure, the signing of Houshmandzadeh is a statement of intent for the immediate - this team want's to win now.


Anonymous said...

Well, now I am praying for Mark Sanchez at #4. Eugene has way too many "ifs" for an OT at #4. Might as well hold off and get Jamon Meredith in Round 2 who probably fits the bill better in the ZBS at a reduced cost. Not to mention, he is versatile enough to play anywhere on the line and has done so.

Rob Staton said...

Essentially, there is little to choose between drafting Crabtree, Sanchez or Monroe now. All will be coming into a team with veterans already on the roster (QB-Hasselbeck, Wallace OT-Jones, Locklear, WR-Houshmandzadeh, Branch). None of the positions are classified needs, which I think is the position Seattle wanted to be in. Essentially, they aren't handcuffed by the draft. If Crabtree goes 2nd/3rd overall - there's no crisis as they try to find a solution at WR.

I still find it hard to envisage Seattle going with someone like B.J. Raji for character concerns, or reaching on an Orakpo or Moreno. Therefore, the chances are whoever they draft in April with the 1st round pick will not be a bonafide starter in week one.

booji said...

It's still a great situation as far as #4.

My preferred scenarios, in order of preference:

1) Trade down. Pick up a DL at the lower first rounder, get another pick or two for depth - ideally an extra second rounder, which could net you a future starting S/QB/OL. . I guess I see this team as getting older and older and more picks = younger players. A trade with Oakland would make sense but I'd prefer a team at 9-12 given the trade value chart they all use since we maybe could get a 2nd rounder when trading there.

As an aside, having a 31 y.o. WR for 5 more years doesn't help you get younger.

2) Draft Crabtree at 4. In my opinion, the Jury is still out on Ruskell's ability to get playmakers. Most of the acquisitions he's made, especially at QB and WR have been pretty bad across the board. But the fact is that we need to have playmakers and we need to "get them the damn ball". I think Crabtree will not be a bust and anyone who gets him will get a legit playmaker.

3) Draft OL at 4. This seems to be a draft strength, we can surely figure out how to plug in a stud rookie OL.

4) Draft a DL at 4. Seems like a reach, esp. value-wise.

5) QB. I think keeping a rookie QB on the bench for this year makes sense, and perhaps Hass will ride into the sunset after this year. Still, I can't say I'm that impressed or comfortable with Mark Sanchez, esp. at 4.

Mind of no mind said...

Do you not still think Sanchez fails the character test? I had never considered it, until you pointed out his history on this blog. I think it would be an interesting option, but just seems unlikely.

The only upside to offset the character concerns is that it would probably draw a lot of the hispanic community towards the seahawks. That would probably make it easier to deal with any PR issues at least.

Bruce M. said...

Sanchez at 4 would be a risky, risky pick--one season, on a dominant team, with one great game. And ginormous bucks to sign him at #4.

germpod said...

I am curious on why it is thought Brian Orakpo is a stretch at four? He plays a premier position, had good production, has the physical talent, and played in a big school.

If you look at the draft as going Stafford, Jason Smith, and Currey, who is so much better then Brian Orakpo at a premium position?

germpod said...

I am curious on why it is thought Brian Orakpo is a stretch at four? He plays a premier position, had good production, has the physical talent, and played in a big school.

If you look at the draft as going Stafford, Jason Smith, and Currey, who is so much better then Brian Orakpo at a premium position?

Rob Staton said...

Booji, it's an interesting list you've created there. I still think Seattle will struggle to trade out of the top five picks, although I would never rule anything out. I'm also sceptical of the defensive line talent in this draft. The top prospects (Raji, Brown, Orakpo) are better suited to the 3-4 in my opinion.

Ruskell did find one productive playmaker last year in John Carlson. He could be a focal point in this offense for a long time. Aside from that you are accurate in that the team hasn't spent much attention on using the draft to build the offense. Guys like Branch, Burleson, Houshmandzadeh, Duckett, Jones - they are all expensive free agents or trades. I still think the team needs to find an identity on offense, and find some potent play makers of their own.

Mind of no mind - the character flags on Sanchez are certainly legitimate and I'm sure the team will have to do all the required background checks before any decision is made. He's certainly a vibrant personality, as proven at the combine, but Ruskell has predominantly kept away from risky characters. The simple fact is, he could become a liability and with the investment invovled fourth overall - the team would have to be absolutely 100% sure he is a reliable choice.

Another thing to take into account is his inexperience. I imagine the team have a good relationship with Pete Carroll and his staff at USC considering the number of times we've gone to that particular well. Carroll was visibly dismayed by Sanchez' decision to declare, and he's started just 16 games. Everyone knows Ruskell's preference for prospects who stayed at school - Sanchez very deliberately didn't to chase the dollar.

I threw his name out as a suggestion because I firmly believe Matt Stafford is a shoe in to go first overall. No other QB is a realistic option in the top 10 after Stafford and Sanchez.

Louis the Legend said...

Dude u cant believe how happy i am with this news. When i got home from school today and heard on 950KJR that we had signed Housh, i was literally jumping up and down in joy. This is what i would like to see this team do:

1. Trade down and grab Moreno with a pick around 13 - 15 overall.

2. Draft Michael can never have too many good WRs...just ask the Cardinals

People are also listing OL and QB, but i think that these are not our concerns at the moment. At the end of the season, you could see our amazing depth at the OL position and Hasselbeck is good when healthy. When not, Senaca proved that he can win games for us.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I know Sanchez has red flag from the past with the sexual assault charge, but it was quickly thrown out. What are the chances that some young girl saw the up and coming hot shot at USC (the biggest football factory) and saw some $ compensation? It sounds awful, I know, but that stuff happens. I am not trying to make excuses, but this happened in southern California, which is a breeding ground for that type of behavior (the girl's side of the equation).

I just think we are in a unique position to grab a young QB from a pro system and are not forced to start him right away. With the popularity of the spread in college, it's becoming harder and harder to find kids who actually learn how to play QB.

Rob Staton said...

germpod - I'll try to explain my position on Orakpo a little better. For starters his size. He's about 20-30 lbs lighter than Julius Peppers, and approximately 15-20 lbs lighter than Patrick Kerney. At 6'3" and 260 ish lbs he is almost identical in size to Terrell Suggs (Baltimore). Personally, I see him as a 3-4 OLB and think he could excel in that system and potentially be amongst the best at his position. But not, for me, as a 4-3 end.

His run defense was reportedly improved in 2008, but is still a concern for me. I think if Seattle drafts him, you're spending the 4th pick on a situational pass rusher. He hasn't got elite speed and not many of his sacks come from rushing on the outside. Put him in space and make his route to the QB a little easier, and he could be good as an OLB.

If I'm spending in the top five picks I really want to get Chris Long quality. I think with Orakpo, you're getting someone who immediately needs to bulk up without losing speed (which isn't elite anyway). He just isn't a 4-3 defensive end as things stand today, and that presents a risk and a project the team might avoid with the fourth overall pick. Later in the first round, at a lower price he might be viable.

If there was an elite 4-3 end in this class I am positive he would be on the hit list. I just don't see one unfortunately.

Rob Staton said...

Louis, Seahawks fans deserve some joy after a dissapointing 4-12 season, so I'm glad you're happy today.

As you say, a lot of talk between now and the draft will focus on offensive line. This is very much an option for the Seahawks, but they will have to be sold on the prospect. Eugene Monroe is a more polished LT than Jason Smith, but I feel like Seattle is more likely to favour Smith's athleticism in a zone blocking scheme. Added to that, concerns about Monroe's heart and effort.

If Jason Smith is there at pick four - he could be the choice. However, a lot of mocks have him going 2nd overall. If that's the case, it forces Seattle to consider other options anyway. Then you're back looking at alternatives, which will almost certainly include (if available) Michael Crabtree, Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez... and potentially as a wild card Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno.

Annonymous - you are correct and I think it's important to stress that the charges were dropped against Sanchez with regard to the sexual assault. But this is one of the good things about having a two month period between the combine and draft. They undoubtedly spoke to Sanchez in Indianapolis in my opinion, so will have got his side of the story. Then they can do research, speak to people at USC. By draft day, they'll know whether Sanchez is a legitimate character concern or not.

Louis said...

If we get Crabtree, our WR group would immediately become a strength instead of a weakness...

If we dont resign Robinson and Engram, our 5 that we keep on our roster would still be really good:
1) Micheal Crabtree
2) TJ Housh
3) Deion Branch
4) Nate Burleson
5) Ben Obamanu

I still see RB and DT as our biggest holes rite now though....Im not sold on Julius JOnes (how could u be after last year) and just signing Cole wont do it after losing a DT that was probably better according to, do u think the signing of COles was an upgrade or downgrade from Bednard?

seabeckg said...

Housh actually makes taking a chance with Crabtree more appealing but, as has been said ad nauseam, so much has been invested in WR already. I've always assumed a LT prospect [Monroe has too many 'ifs'??? I don't think so.] However, if Raji's 'character' problems posted on this site are the only ones, well, that is no hindrance as long as, again, those are the only ones. Orakpo I've watched but once so have no handle. I just know the defense has been the big weakness so wouldn't be surprised if Mora, a defensive coach, went this way..or does Ruskell have all the power??? These things we just don't know. I think Monroe or Raji if not Crabtree.Really doesn't look like a strong draft at the top so they had better go for who they think is a sure thing regardless of need.

Louis said...

Tight...i just made a blog!

Tampa Curt said...

I wonder if Ruskell and Mora are on the phone with Sark? They must see something there for a #4 pick.

Rob Staton said...

Hi Louis, with regard to Cole and Bernard, it could end up being an upgrade but for a different reason. If Cole takes up the one technique position previously filled by Mebane, you can essentially move Mebane accross to the three technique. I think Mebane got 5.5 sacks at nose tackle last year, which is remarkable. Imagine the damage he could do from the three?

So essentially, rather than Cole becoming a direct comparison to Bernard, it might be worth checking on how Mebane does - and what signing Cole does to his stat sheet.

seabeckg - I disagree slightly with regard to Raji's character problems. Not many prospects get red shirted before their senior year, especially ones taken in the top five picks. But that with his suspension for punching an opponent and on paper you're looking at a guy with questionable intelligence and a short fuse. Considering also the amount of rotation the team uses at DT, the character issues could be the straw that broke the camel's back.

Jamil said...

I don't think too highly of Sanchez, especially at #4. Hasselbeck has a few years left in him before we have to bring in a replacement. Plus the draft class for QB this year is especially weak.

I like what Rob had to say with regards to Cole and Bernard, but lets be honest, Cole is a serious downgrade at DT. I can only see Cole playing in a situational role. I'm also curious to see what Red Bryant will do this year having sat out most of last year.

I would be fine with the Hawks taking Macklin or Crabtree at #4 or maybe even Pat White (although a stretch) there's a possibility he could fill that QB role, and if not he'd find a way to be a playmaker on offense.

However, I think our biggest need is somewhere on the OL. Walter Jones isn't getting any younger, and our inability to run the ball last year was unbearable to watch. Raji scares me a bit because I can totally see him getting Ken Hamlin-ed in Pioneer Square after hours.

Anonymous said...

Pat White @ #4? Umm, what?

Every year, people always say the QB class is down. It's the most scrutinized position in the draft. Last year, all I heard was that no way Matt Ryan is successful. Now, leading up to this draft, the same guys hating on Ryan the year before are the first to say that Sanchez/Stafford are no Matt Ryan. It's actually funny.

That said, it's unique that the 2 top QBs this year have run pro systems. I will agree with one part, the depth at QB is bad this year. However, I don't think there is ever more than 2-4 guys every draft that are considered possible franchise QBs. This year has 2 with a possible third with Freeman.

I am honestly getting sick of hearing how it's stupid to find a future replacement for Hass. He's 34 and has been hurt. Do we want to wait and put ourselves in a situation where we can't find a QB for 4 years? That's what happens when you are unprepared. In no way am I saying Hass is done, but it's never too early to look for a future QB, especially since our current one is 34 and has been hurt. I don't think the Packers regret drafting Rodgers and allowing him to sit and learn.

Rob Staton said...

You make some good points annonymous. Tim Ruskell has admitted the team is 'in the zone' regarding finding a long term option at QB. Hasselbeck is coming off an injury plagued season and is approaching the kind of age where he will essentially become a 'game manager' type QB. I'm sure there's something left in the tank, but if the team didn't address QB this year and Hasselbeck goes down with more back problems in 2009 - you're either putting a lot of faith in Seneca Wallace or you're viewing QB as a big need in the 2010 off season. I'd hate Seattle to be in the position currently taken by Tampa Bay, New York etc - no viable free agents on offer and relying on a draft pick way below the likelihood of the top guy(s) being available.

However, there are also thorny issues with drafting a QB. I wonder how Hasselbeck would react to the team essentially drafting his replacement? Would he thrive in the position as mentor, or feel undermined by a new regime with his biggest backer - Mike Holmgren - a distant memory? That could cause problems.

Also, with the investment involved, how long do you keep an expensive rookie QB benched? Are you pressured to start him in 2010 or can you truly wait it out with Hasselbeck?

Nevertheless, I personally think Matt Stafford is well worth the investment and would be a steal fourth overall. Sanchez - there are perhaps more question marks.

Brandon said...

Rob, its Brandon from Jaguars Football Talk. I havent posted in a while with a new mock draft on the way. Great insight in your posts here. I have to say if qb equals lineman on value when you guys pick. I vote qb. Dont get me wrong i love hasselbeck, i hope hes an nfl network commentator so i can laugh and learn at the same time, BUT he is getting up in age and look at rodgers...

but raji would be a force and he was in a 43 in college, i would love to have him.

Orakpo, i dont know much about but hes barely bigger than curry...

Walter Jones is old so i could easily see justification on his replacement. so if yall get a tackle you can get another need in the second and if i remember correctly DB is a need?

good to talk again, ill try and get on more so we can learn from each other.
take care,

Rob Staton said...

Hi Brandon, it's always good to hear from you. Hope things are going well on your blog.

I'd love to know which direction you think the Jaguars would go if, for example, Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith were off the board (if they are even legitimate options).

Anonymous said...

Hi Rob, Great stuff here.

It seems that the talent available won't match the money paid to a #4 draft pick.
I was thinking of an NFL draft I attended in the mid-eighties when a team, I don't remember who it was, but when they were on the board they let the clock expire. 3 or 4 teams with the next picks almost immediately ran to the podium to make their picks to take advantage of the team not using their pick. Everyone at the draft was howling with laughter.
It turned out the team had not been able to trade down. They simply slid down and got their man for considerably less $. A shrewd move from a salary cap perspective.

Rob Staton said...

Hi annonymous,

I seem to remember the Minnesota Vikings doing something similar recently. I think they dropped down a couple of spots doing the same thing.

The team would have to be very careful in that situation. If they did let the clock run out and eventually picked later on - when it comes to contract time an agent could argue their prospect is 'still' the 4th overall pick. It could lead to hold outs, disagreements. The financial value of the top picks is very poor and a rookie salary cap is a must for me. Unfortunately Seattle might have to absorb the financial cost this year, which makes getting the pick right even more important.