What's Cook-ing In Seattle? Pull The Trigger
By Corbin Smith
With less than three weeks to go until the 2014 NFL Draft, the Seahawks' situation would be envied by most. The franchise won its first Super Bowl last February with one of the youngest rosters in the league and appears to be in great position to remain a contender for the next several seasons.
Head coach Pete Carroll reached a lucrative contract extension to remain with the team through 2016. Quarterback Russell Wilson continues to put in overtime despite his increased fanfare and remains driven to bring multiple championships to the Pacific Northwest.
Before anyone starts to put Seahawks and dynasty into the same discussion, it's worth noting that not everything has gone well for Seattle this offseason. Free agency has been brutal for the franchise, with the biggest loss coming when Golden Tate fled the nest to head to Detroit. Depth has taken a hit at multiple positions, which makes next month's draft all the more important if this team wants to remain relevant on long-term basis.
General manager John Schneider and Carroll both have publicly stated that this offseason has gone according to plan, and in many ways, it has. Seattle kept its most imporant free agent by locking up defensive end Michael Bennett for the foreseeable future and most of the players who left during free agency were second and third string on the depth chart at their respective positions. Even though they failed to sign Jared Allen, the organization had no problem with sitting dormant while other teams spent big cash for veterans.
The Seahawks have challenging hurdles to face down the road regarding cap space with Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and other key players seeking large contract extensions. It's understandable why they didn't feel the need to break the bank to add players like Allen or Henry Melton, and it's even easier to comprehend why they let Tate walk. He was a great player for Seattle, but they didn't consider him irreplaceable and knew they would need the money to sign more valuable assets like Thomas and Sherman. Not every player could stay with the Seahawks, and Tate ended up being one of the odd men out.
The decision to allow Tate to sign elsewhere made sense financially, but Seattle has to find his replacement. Normally, a reigning champion doesn't need to make the so-called big splash to stay in contention, but this Seahawks' team needs to make an aggressive move and add a versatile weapon at receiver. Schneider hasn't been known as one to trade up in the draft. That needs to change. He needs to roll the dice and make a move to land standout receiver Brandin Cooks out of Oregon State.
Trading up can be risky business, especially if you're trying to move into the top 10 of the first round. These picks have a high price tag, and normally a team has to surrender multiple first-round picks, maybe more, to simply jump up that high. That's a bold move to make for just one player, and there have been plenty of times where such a move backfired.
In the case of Cooks, Seattle desperately needs to do it. The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner broke multiple Pac-12 records by hauling in 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior at Oregon State, and he plays much bigger than his 5-foot-10, 189-pound frame would suggest. Cooks can return punts and kickoffs. He can play the slot and the outside, and he makes moves in the open field that look video-game worthy on a regular basis. Pound for pound, Cooks also is one of the toughest players in this draft class, and Seattle needs that presence on the field after losing Tate.
Some would say trading up for Cooks would be a luxury. Not true. It is a necessity when you look at the state of the roster.
The Seahawks' stable of receivers is steady, but lacks an elite target. Wilson needs a playmaker he can count on consistently in order to take the next step in his development and, as the this highlight reel shows, Cooks can be a real game-changer thanks to his blazing speed and ability to break tackles after the catch. Just picture Cooks teaming up with a healthy Percy Harvin on the same field. Defenses already have a tough time trying to defend the Seahawks with Harvin out there alone, and adding the speedy, well-rounded Cooks would only complicate things further.
Two questions remain: How much would the Seahawks have to give up to acquire Cooks? And would he be worth the final asking price?
Seattle actually has pretty good ammunition to start trade discussions with teams in the 15-20 pick range. The roster is full of intriguing young talents who could garner interest from other teams, and the Seahawks would be wise to consider shopping a player or two that may not be in their long-term plans. Most mock drafts have Cooks falling anywhere from the 15th pick to the 23rd pick, which would put Schneider in prime position to make a deal.
If he's still on the board when Pittsburgh selects at No. 15, the Seahawks need to pick up the phone and throw together an offer they can't refuse. The Steelers could use help at linebacker, and shopping a player like K.J. Wright or Bruce Irvin, along with the 32nd pick and a couple of future picks, could be enticing enough to at least get a discussion rolling. If the Seahawks could get them to agree to a trade with similar structure to that one, it would be well worth it.
Dallas and Baltimore own the next two picks, but it might be tougher to swing a deal with either team for various reasons. The Cowboys need help along the defensive line and most likely wouldn't have interest trading out of that spot -- and the Ravens have interest in Cooks, which complicates things.
Schneider would need to remain aggressive and try to see what it would take to acquire either of those selections for the right to draft Cooks. If he falls to the Jets at No. 18, he will be immediately taken off the board. New York needs a weapon for Geno Smith, and Cooks has been high on the Jets' draft board. Seattle's main goal should be to target the 15-17 pick range and try to make a deal, as it looks highly unlikely the Jets would have any interest trading out of pick 18.
Schneider hasn't traded up in the first round during his time with Seattle, but he has made aggressive moves in the past. He dealt away a first-round pick to acquire Harvin from the Vikings last season, and it wouldn't be out of the question for him at a trade to move up for a speedy receiver. Carroll loves having explosive athletes on offense, and Cooks would fit the bill in every way. He can be utilized as a deep threat, he can break a few tackles and pick up big yardage after the catch, and he can run the football. Add in the fact that he excelled as a return man at Oregon State, and you're talking about one of the most dynamic players in this class.
If he's still around come pick 15, the organization has no other alternative. Just watch his game film and it becomes a no-brainer. Pull the trigger, Mr. Schneider.