By Rob Staton
The Cleveland Browns completed the free agent signing of Ben Watson today. A good signing for Mike Holmgren as he hopes to install his offense in Ohio. Amongst those who missed out on Watson? The Seattle Seahawks. Adam Schefter reported shortly after terms were agreed with Cleveland that Holmgren out bid his former employees. It's unclear how much the Seahawks coveted Watson, but it was certainly enough to justify an early visit to Seattle and a contract offer.
The Seahawks are currently meeting with another former Patriots tight end, Chris Baker. There was some initial surprise amongst the fan base that the team were targeting high profile tight ends in free agency. John Carlson has been one of the few highlights during the last two seasons, registering 1201 yards and 12 touchdowns. It's unlikely that Seattle are looking for a replacement for the talented former Notre Dame star - but it does show that they intend to add a worthy partner.
Brian McIntyre points out that the Seahawks offense could utilise a lot of two-tight end sets:
"Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has said that his system will resemble the one Mike Shanahan ran with the Denver Broncos, where Bates was an offensive assistant from 2006-08. According to Football Outsiders' Pro Football Prospectus, the Broncos used two-tight end sets 32% of the time in 2006-07, and 25% of the time in 2008, the year Bates was calling the plays. During that '08 season, Broncos tight ends Tony Scheffler (61) and Daniel Graham (50) were the fourth and fifth most-targeted receivers in an offense that attempted the third-most passes in the NFL.
"Last season, the Seahawks used two-tight end sets 16% of the time, which was an increase over the 12% from 2008, which ranked 32nd in the NFL that season. John Owens, Seattle's current backup tight end, had just six passes thrown his way in 2009, and while he did catch 3 of them for 16 yards, he is at his best when he's blocking." - Brian McIntyre
The Seahawks may eventually find their second tight end in free agency. They could also look to further develop last year's seventh round pick Cameron Morrah - who is known more as a pass catcher than a blocking tight end.
However, there could also be solutions (and real value) in the draft. It's not something I've really discussed on the blog so far. This is mainly due to the fact Seattle has so many needs that adding a second tight end relatively early in the draft wouldn't appear to be a priority. But if the Seahawks are in the market for another tight end, the top end of the second round will provide some options.
One prospect well known to Pete Carroll is USC's Anthony McCoy. He had a breakout year in 2009, putting in some eye catching performances as an all round blocking/receiving threat. He looks the part at 6'5" and 250lbs and recorded 457 receiving yards at an average of 20 yards per-catch. At times in 2009, McCoy was playing like a late first round pick.
An ankle injury forced him to miss three games and he was suspended for the Emerald Bowl against Boston College due to academic issues. It wasn't the first time this has happened and it remains a pressing concern as McCoy prepares to enter the pro's. However, the talent is there and he would offer a superb complimentary option to Carlson. Aaron Wilson at the NFP reports that McCoy had an impressive combine and Senior Bowl and has received further interest from Seattle. I've included a highlights video below courtesy of Trojan Wire:
Another option could be Jermaine Gresham. Injury and attitude problems could keep him out of the first round - he's had serious injuries to both knee's. The team that does draft the Oklahoma tight end could get a steal if injury pushes him into round two. Gresham was talked about as a potential top-15 pick last year before opting to return for his senior season. He was injured before the 2009 campaign began and never returned.
There's possibly nobody more risk/reward than Gresham in this year's class. He could be a difference maker in the NFL as a true receiving threat. We're talking, potentially, top end good - Antonio Gates/Tony Gonzalez good. On the other hand, it's hard to look past the knee injuries and the character issues - such as an arrest by police earlier in his career. Dare I say, however, that if the Seahawks are willig to entertain the prospect of making a significant trade for Brandon Marshall, they'll consider Gresham if they can get over the injuries.
Other options? Rob Gronkowski (Arizona), Aaron Hernandez (Florida) and Dorin Dickerson (Pittsburgh). Is it a luxury? I certainly think a lot of people would see it that way. However, if the Seahawks do intend to run a lot of two-tight end sets, it might not be as unlikely as it perhaps seems. A run on the receivers or defensive lineman expected to be around in the early second round could make the possibility a lot stronger if the Seahawks are looking for value. Keep an eye on the tight ends when pick #40 comes round, there could be a surprise.