Mychal Kendricks will play for the Seattle Seahawks in their Monday night game against the Chicago Bears even though the newly signed linebacker is appealing an NFL suspension and faces possible prison time after pleading guilty last week to insider trading charges.
Quite a bit to unpack there.
Let’s get to it with the help of ESPN NFL writer Kevin Seifert, ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson and ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter Tim McManus.
Why did the Seahawks sign him?
Because they were in desperate need of help at linebacker. K.J. Wright is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and Bobby Wagner suffered a groin injury in the opener that will keep him out against Chicago. The Seahawks had to waive another linebacker, Jermaine Grace, with an injury designation when they signed Kendricks on Friday, which gives you a sense of the shape they’re in healthwise at the position. Their other two options to replace Wagner and Wright are rookie Shaquem Griffin and 2017 undrafted free agent Austin Calitro, who have a combined to play in two regular-season NFL games. So the Seahawks didn’t just need a linebacker; they needed one with starting experience, at least until Wagner and Wright return, which could be as early as next week. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hasn’t said publicly how much Kendricks will play or which position he’ll be at -- middle or weakside linebacker -- but a source close to Kendricks said he’ll have a significant role against the Bears. "Thank god Mychal is in pretty decent shape because they are going to start him on Monday," the source said. "He might get beat a couple times, but I guarantee you he is going to make some plays." -- BH
How good is Kendricks?
Pretty good. From purely a skill standpoint, he's the best the Seahawks could do at a position that isn't exactly flush with available help. They actually had quite a bit of interest in Kendricks in the 2012 draft; he was chosen in the second round, one spot before Seattle chose Wagner. Kendricks played well enough over his first three seasons to earn a four-year, $29 million extension from Philadelphia in 2015. But his snaps had been diminished in recent years before he re-emerged as a significant contributor during the Eagles' Super Bowl season following an injury to Jordan Hicks. Kendricks was second on the team in tackles with 77 over 15 games. According to McManus, Kendricks relies primarily on his athleticism and instincts, traits that make him an effective blitzing linebacker. The downside is that he improvises at times and can be caught out of position. -- BH
But wait … isn’t he going to jail?
It’s a possibility. Based on federal guidelines, Kendricks could be facing 30 to 37 months in prison. The consensus, though, is that his transparency during the investigation should help him. As a financial adviser to the stars put it: “He’s going to pay a penalty. He may or may not get time if he cooperated and told the truth. You don’t always go to jail for insider trading. You go to jail for lying to the authorities.” -- TM
Does the NFL care?
The league did not respond to a series of questions about Kendricks over the weekend. Suffice it to say, the NFL would prefer that one of its teams not sign a player who is awaiting sentencing for a felony. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the league was strongly considering placing Kendricks on the commissioner's exempt list but decided not to. -- KS
The league did not respond to a question about that decision. It's true that Kendricks pleaded guilty to a non-violent crime, but the league's personal conduct policy covers it nonetheless. Among its prohibitions: "Crimes of dishonesty such as blackmail, extortion, fraud, money laundering or racketeering." Usually, however, the commissioner's exempt list is utilized for the time period between a charge or allegation and final adjudication of the case. -- KS
What would that have done?
A player on the commissioner's exempt list receives normal compensation and benefits but is not eligible to play in games. The list is a collectively-bargained mechanism, used most notably in the case of then-Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson in 2014, that acts as a paid suspension. It allows the league to impose a decision on teams, who have the option to deactivate any player for a game, and eliminate the optics of allowing a player facing criminal charges to be on the field. -- KS
Could Kendricks still face an NFL suspension?
Absolutely. Like all players, he has the right to an appeal following league judgment. If he loses his appeal -- and, remember, he has pleaded guilty to what amounts to a violation of the personal conduct policy -- a suspension would begin immediately. So it's possible that his time with the Seahawks will be short. -- KS
How did Kendricks end up in this mess?
Kendricks met Damilare Sonoiki, a Harvard grad who was working as an investment banking analyst at a large investment bank, at a party in 2013, according to the SEC complaint. In 2014, Sonoiki tipped off Kendricks about at least four corporate acquisitions before they were public. Kendricks purchased the securities of the companies that were about to be acquired and illegally turned $80,000 into about $1.2 million in profits in just a few months, the complaint reads.
Kendricks said in a statement that he was "drawn in by the allure of being more than just a football player." In September 2014, around the time when these transactions allegedly occurred, Kendricks spoke of the desire "to stem away from that stereotypical ideology" tied to professional athletes and be as successful off the field as he was on it. He dreamed aloud of heading his own company and owning his own helicopter to get in and out of the city as he pleased.
Those familiar with the matter believe a mix of greed and ignorance led to this situation, and that Kendricks did not have a full understanding of what he was getting into. Sonoiki’s status and educational prestige lulled Kendricks into a false sense of security. -- TM