SEATTLE -- If the Seattle Seahawks are truly interested in taking a quarterback early in the 2023 NFL draft (April 27, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC, ESPN App), they’ve acted unconventionally. Instead of laying low and using the natural cover of an already strong quarterback room as well as much bigger needs on defense to keep teams off their scent, general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have done the exact opposite.
The team’s top two decision-makers have said they may still take a quarterback after re-signing Geno Smith and backup Drew Lock. They’ve been front and center at the pro days of the top four prospects -- and have even taken selfies with Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson -- posting each of them to the team’s Twitter page for all the NFL to see.
The idea that the Seahawks could take a quarterback early is based not on need but on their unfamiliar draft position. The No. 5 pick they own from the Denver Broncos via the Russell Wilson trade marks the highest they’ve drafted since 2009, the year before Carroll and Schneider arrived.
The Young and the restless pic.twitter.com/mBJo8ZDPtR— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) March 23, 2023
So they may have a shot at the kind of quarterback who’s usually long gone by the time they pick, though three other QB-needy teams are sitting ahead of them, and speculation persists that the Arizona Cardinals could trade back from the No. 3 slot.
The Seahawks also have their own first-rounder, No. 20 overall, and an extra second-rounder from the Broncos.
“In our exit interviews with Geno and with Drew, we told both those guys, ‘Hey, look, we haven’t picked up here in a long, long time. There’s a chance -- we can’t say if we will or we won’t. We’d love to have you guys both back but we don’t know if we are going to take a quarterback or we’re not,’” Schneider told Seattle Sports 710-AM. “We just don’t know yet. So those guys were in the loop in terms of everything we have going on with all these quarterback studies this year.”
Stroud and Young have widely been projected to go first and second overall. So barring an unexpected fall by one of those two, the Seahawks’ quarterback options at No. 5 would be down to Richardson and Levis, depending on what the Indianapolis Colts do at No. 4 and whether the Cardinals stay put at No. 3.
Richardson and the Seahawks have been a popular pairing in mock drafts since he lit up the scouting combine in February. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had Seattle taking Richardson in consecutive projections before his latest one, which has Richardson going third via a trade, Levis going fourth and Seattle taking defensive lineman Jalen Carter at No. 5 before trading up to draft Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker late in the first round.
Any team picking Richardson that high would be doing so based off his immense upside, rather than his college resume. Richardson, Kiper’s fourth-ranked quarterback, struggled with accuracy during his lone full season as a starter. But he has off-the-charts measurables and physical tools, including a blazing time of 4.43 in the 40-yard dash and a combine-record 40.5-inch vertical jump -- at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds.
His pro day had a less intense look to it, with Richardson flashing smiles and operating at a moderate pace before finishing the workout with a running backflip. But Schneider called the showing “really impressive.”
“Really great athlete,” Schneider told 710-AM, shortly after they had knocked out a group selfie. “Great young man. He’s only -- he turns 21 May 22. He has a ton of physical talent, there’s no question about it. There’s definitely questions there, like there are with all these guys. He’s like 6-6 as a starter. New staff here this past year with Coach [Billy] Napier. But, yeah, a really impressive workout. He had fun. He was loose. He had a good time with his teammates.”
Levis, Kiper’s second-ranked QB, has a rocket arm and experience in a pro-style offense, but inconsistent tape and underwhelming college production.
Hooker, Kiper’s QB5, would be rated higher if he weren’t coming off a torn ACL. ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum, the former New York Jets general manager, still thinks highly enough of Hooker to write in his recent mock draft that he’d take him at No. 5 if he were the Seahawks. Part of Tannenbaum’s logic is that Hooker could continue to rehab in 2023 on a team that wouldn’t need him to start right away.
Similar thinking has been applied to the Seahawks and Richardson, given how his game may need at least a season’s worth of refining until he’s ready to play. Smith’s contract has also added to the belief that the Seahawks could draft a quarterback early since it’s structured in such a way that Seattle could move on after 2023 with manageable cap penalties if he regresses from his breakout season last year.
Smith would be receptive to quarterback draft pick, according to Carroll.
“I talked to Geno way back,” he said at the annual league meeting. “He knows what’s going on. I thought that was an obvious demonstration of respect, understanding how he would look at it and how other guys have looked at it in the past and all that. So I told him what we were doing and what the idea was and what could happen, and just like Geno has done about everything, he was totally on board. He understands. And if we get a guy, he’s going to take care of him and look after him. He gets it. So we’ll see what happens.”
The Seahawks brought back Lock on a one-year, $4 million deal that contains $1.75 million guaranteed. One reason to think they won’t spend an early pick on a quarterback is that in Lock, they already have a young option with lots of developmental upside. They targeted Lock in the Wilson trade, with much of the organization expecting him to be their starter last year, and they still believe he has that kind of ability.
Interestingly, though, Lock’s contract includes $510,000 in per-game bonuses, which may suggest the Seahawks were trying to secure some financial protection in the event that a draft pick beats him out for the No. 2 job.
In 13 drafts under Carroll and Schneider, the Seahawks have only taken one other quarterback other than Wilson: Alex McGough in the seventh round in 2018. They were, however, so enamored with Patrick Mahomes that they were prepared to take him if he fell to them in 2017. They felt similarly about Josh Allen in 2018 and called the Cleveland Browns to gauge their interest in trading the top overall pick for Wilson, who was still in his prime.
That history lends credence to the thought they could pounce on a quarterback early if a guy they love falls to them, though there are several reasons why it wouldn’t make sense -- especially at No. 5.
With the overhaul of their front seven far from complete, passing on defenders like Carter, Tyree Wilson or Will Anderson Jr. at that spot would mean foregoing their best chance to add the kind of difference-maker up front that they still badly need. For a team that is low on cap space and cash, it would also be an inefficient use of precious financial resources to devote first-round money to a quarterback who’d be locked into a backup role as a rookie, if not longer. And if someone trades up to take a quarterback at No. 3, then four of them could be gone by the time the Seahawks are on the clock.
That’s a lot of factors that would seemingly work against taking a quarterback that high -- more than you can shake a selfie stick at.