A judge’s ruling Monday may provide the first breakthrough toward solving the labor dispute that has threatened the 2011 NFL season.
The sooner the better for the Seattle Seahawks, who can benefit from every option possible in the very critical quest to find a functional quarterback before the start of the season.
They’ve proven they can be creative: Their top receiver had been an overweight, under-motivated free agent; their top rusher was picked up in a trade five weeks into the season; and their most dangerous return man was landed for almost nothing after a hideous leg injury the previous fall.
And the biggest bafflement of all was that they somehow got into the playoffs with only seven wins. So, anything seems possible.
But it’s been a decade since the Seahawks were so unsettled at the most important position on the field … and, frankly, their options right now don’t include any sure things.
With the No. 25 draft pick, the Seahawks likely will not be able to land a rookie who can walk in and take over the team immediately. A guy for the future, maybe. A guy for now? Don’t count on it.
Veteran Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent and open to the market, and would be among options considered when the labor dispute reaches some manner of settlement.
And Charlie Whitehurst, the lone quarterback under contract, has been an unconvincing candidate as a cornerstone piece since being picked up in a trade during the previous offseason.
At the time of the trade, Whitehurst’s prime appeal seemed to be that he was one quarterback they could get who had not yet proven his limitations. Still, in four seasons with San Diego, he never threatened to get on the field, either.
To get him, they moved down 20 spots in the second round of the last draft (five of the players taken in that gap made the all-rookie team) and gave up this year’s third-round pick. They’re also paying him $4 million this season.
While Hasselbeck was dealing with injuries and inconsistency – and stretching his string of declining seasons to three – Whitehurst never proved to the staff that he could be the starter.
Hasselbeck threw 10 interceptions in a four-game span, and they still thought he was their best option. That should say a great deal about their impression of Whitehurst’s potential.
Before the labor window shut, no deal could be reached with Hasselbeck over a new contract. Good team guy, good leader … sure, they’d like to have him back at a reasonable rate and short span. But he’s going to be 36. They seem to say: Test the market and get back to us, Matt.
Draft? General manager John Schneider made it clear last week he’d like to trade out of the first round to stockpile picks.
Even if they stay at 25, the top quarterbacks probably will be gone. If you take a quarterback in the first round, you need to feel strongly he will be your guy in the near future. Over-reaching in the draft for a quarterback can have long-term negative effects. But a lower-round guy usually needs more of an apprenticeship.
News that the market may open means the Hawks could soon start shopping, trading, or dealing with Hasselbeck again.
Or maybe the draft falls just right for the Hawks, and a targeted prospect is available.
If not, the irony is ripe.
Schneider wants to trade down because he laments the absence of a third-round pick, while he’s the one who traded it away for Whitehurst.
Meanwhile, if Whitehurst had been better last season, he might have taken over from Hasselbeck and proven himself as the man for the future.
And if he’d been worse, he wouldn’t have been effective enough to lead the Hawks to the win over St. Louis, an effort that got the Hawks in the playoffs, but also cost them more than a dozen spots in the draft – and probably took them out of the range of landing one of the few elite prospects.
The options start becoming available with Thursday’s draft. But right now, they all carry significant question marks.