Little risk, high upside for Seattle Seahawks

The surprise wasn’t that the Seahawks added two running backs during the three-day NFL draft.

The surprise was how they did it.

As good as Seattle’s draft was — and there were plenty who evaluated the Seahawks’ haul as one of the league’s best — it would have been incomplete without the trades for LenDale White from Tennessee and Leon Washington from the New York Jets.

Hmmm, a pair of veteran backs added to resuscitate the rushing game. That sounds familiar.

The Seahawks re-signed a league MVP in Shaun Alexander, recycled a Hall of Famer in Edgerrin James, and tried to resuscitate T.J. Duckett’s career. Despite all that, Seattle is one of four teams without a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the past four seasons.

So why will this be any different? Washington is coming off a broken leg, and White has faced questions about his weight and his attitude. Can Seattle really count on them to invigorate a backfield that also includes Justin Forsett and Julius Jones?

Well, this time Seattle has nothing to lose if it doesn’t work out and everything to gain. In draft terms, these deals are nothing but upside.

If Washington returns to form, Seattle has a dynamic player who is one of the league’s top kick returners and a receiving threat out of the backfield. If he doesn’t, Seattle didn’t exactly hamstring itself, turning a fifth-round pick into a seventh-round pick.

White was even cheaper. Seattle moved down seven spots in the fourth round and nine spots in the sixth — the draft-day equivalent of pocket lint — to acquire White and defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson.

If White comes with too many Happy Meals bulging out from beneath his shirt, Seattle has alternatives. Jones is still in Seattle. So is Forsett.

Coach Pete Carroll said Saturday that not even he knew how this would sort itself out. He can just wait and watch for who emerges at running back. Competition certainly won’t be a cliché, because there won’t be room for all of them on the 53-man roster.

The pair of trades were the finishing touch on a draft that earned rave reviews. It started with the first-round selections of left tackle Russell Okung, who will fill a position where Seattle started four players last season; and safety Earl Thomas, a playmaker for a secondary that allowed the third-most passing yards in the league in 2009. The second round brought Golden Tate, a big-play threat for a team whose longest reception last season was a screen pass to Jones.

The acquisitions of Washington and White were the most significant moves Seattle made on the draft’s final day.

Washington was one of the league’s most exciting backs before his injury, and he’s playing for a new contract. And perhaps White has developed a taste for vegetables. After all, there’s one heck of a carrot dangling in front of him given the fact he has one year left on his deal.

“He knows he’s at the point in his career where he needs to take a step forward or it’s not going to happen for him,” said general manager John Schneider. “We believe it’s going to happen for him, and we felt like the risk versus the reward was worth it.”

The risk was nominal, and in exchange Seattle gets a running back who rushed for 1,110 yards his second season in the league and has a nose for the end zone.

The Seahawks may not have gotten younger at running back in this draft, but they did get better.