Seattle Seahawks: Charlie Whitehurst Cost Trade Analysis

Charlie WhitehurstThe Contract

Seattle Seahawks: Whitehurst’s deal was originally reported as being two-year, $10M deal, which Schefter referred to as “unprecedented for a veteran who never has started an NFL game”, and which Sports Illustrated’s Peter King called “lunacy”.

(Why similar comments weren’t made about Derek Anderson’s potentially $18.25 million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals remains a mystery, since it’s fairly unprecedented for a QB with a 44% completion percentage one year to get $9M+ per year the next.)

Of course, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck signed a five-year contract worth up to $24 million dollars in August of 2001. Up until that point, Hasselbeck had never started an NFL game, though he had attempted 29 passes after two seasons backing up Brett Favre, and one season on the Packers’ practice squad.

Hasselbeck earned just under $15M over four years of that contract, or just under $4M annually, so Whitehurst’s contract size, particularly the APY (average per year), isn’t at all unprecedented considering how quarterback salaries have exploded over the last five years.

Seahawks Vice President/Football Administration John Idzik is a creative cap/contract specialist, so until the exact details regarding the structure of the contract are known, final judgment of the contract size should be withheld. Less than 24 hours after the acquisition was reported, the APY of the contract has decreased by 20%, and the guaranteed portion of this contract remains a mystery.

The Cost to Acquire Whitehurst

The Seahawks and Chargers swapped 2010 second-round picks, with the Seahawks moving from the 40th pick to the 60th pick in what many “experts” project to be a very deep draft class. Seattle will also trade their third-round pick in 2011 to the Chargers.

In the same week where a former first-round pick like Brady Quinn is being traded for a fullback, a sixth-round pick in 2011, and conditional pick in 2012, it’s understandable to have some sticker shock when a 27-year old quarterback who has never attempted an NFL pass costs twenty spots in the second-round and future Top 100 pick.

That sticker shock is justified.

Whitehurst was tendered at the “original round” level, which for teams possessing a full complement of draft picks—which the Seahawks did not have—meant third-round compensation for a team that signed Whitehurst to an offer sheet.

Given Whitehurst’s role and future, or lack thereof, in San Diego, and with the Seahawks armed with two fourth-round picks after the Darryl Tapp trade, it’s hard to see why the Seahawks agreed to ship a future third-round pick and swap second-round picks in this year’s draft, when the future pick might have been enough to get a deal done.

Why Whitehurst Over Derek Anderson, Seneca Wallace

Whitehurst has no NFL track record to point to, and even his pre-season numbers (104-of-197, 1,031 yards, 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 61.5 passer rating) are uninspiring. What Whitehurst does have is ideal size (6-5, 223), arm strength, mobility, and the ability to throw on the move that make him a good fit for the offense that Jeremy Bates will be running in Seattle, where sprint-outs and bootlegs will be commonplace. (12% of Jay Cutler’s pass attempts in Denver were outside the pocket, according to Stats, Inc.)

Derek Anderson may have a cannon attached to his right shoulder, but lacks Whitehurst’s mobility. Seneca Wallace has outstanding mobility, but lacks Whitehurst’s size, arm strength, and upside as a starting quarterback.

With an uninspiring crop of quarterbacks in the 2010 NFL Draft, and Hasselbeck turning 35 in September and entering the final year of his contract, the Seahawks front office has determined that Whitehurst, despite his inexperience, provides the sturdiest bridge to the future at the team’s quarterback position.