Malik McDowell’s injury created costs and challenges for Seahawks throughout 2017

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A variety of moments could have changed Seattle’s fortunes this season, from injuries to salary struggles but all those consequences unite in the accident to their top draft pick

The 2017 season thus far has been a roller coaster, and while the Seattle Seahawks are not completely out of the playoff hunt the loss against the Los Angeles Rams this last Sunday looms large as Seattle confronts the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. But if the season comes to a close without a postseason opportunity, is there a point we can look back and find where it all went wrong? Let’s run through a few of the options.

Re-sign Steven Hauschka

Re-signing Hauschka wouldn’t have been cheap considering the Buffalo Bills signed him for more than $3 million a year, not to mention living in Buffalo puts him much closer to his hometown in Massachusetts. Let’s assume the Seahawks re-sign Hauschka at the same rate the Bills paid, what does this cost us? Obviously Seattle wouldn’t have signed Blair Walsh, but that cap savings still wouldn’t have been enough to cover the cost. One possible option would be to forgo the signing of Eddie Lacy, but would John Schneider have been willing to enter the season without another established back given C.J. Prosise’s injury and Thomas Rawls’s inconsistency in 2016? Hard to tell exactly what would have played out. Maybe signing Hauschka costs Lacy, that’s a deal I would take as the transplanting of Hauschka’s performance in 2017 like gets Seattle a win versus Washington and possibly also against the Atlanta Falcons. But without factoring a potential savings from Lacy, would the lack of extra cap room have cost the Seahawks chances of trading for Sheldon Richardson or Duane Brown? I’d be less likely to take such a deal in that case.

Prevent the George Fant injury

This is a bit more in line with having a magical wish than making a different decision. If Fant never gets hurt and performs as he was expected to, Seattle doesn’t have to put Rees Odhiambo into a position he wasn’t yet prepared for, and also keeps the more-suited guard Odhiambo available to sub for Luke Joeckel during recovery the veteran’s early season knee operation. Without starting so much out of position, Odhiambo likely doesn’t injure both of his hands, the Seahawks likely don’t trade for Duane Brown, have more cap space to deal with defensive injuries down the stretch, perhaps bring in a kicker for competition late in the season, and if nothing else enter the 2018 draft with one more day one pick than they currently possess. 2018 becomes easier to manage for cap space and perhaps the team is better off in the long run. With more cash available to spend in 2017, John Schneider might have been able to better fill gaps in depth from injuries later in the year. But, if gaining back Fant lost Seattle, Brown perhaps the current offensive line learns less from a proven veteran. A solid case could be made that Brown provides the experience to help develop young offensive linemen such as Germain Ifedi and Fant himself in the future.

Steal Malik McDowell’s ATV keys

It may or may not have had keys, but the injury to McDowell reportedly while riding an all-terrain vehicle before the season set in motion the eventual trade for Sheldon Richardson. Not trading for Richardson again allows the Seahawks to retain a higher round pick, and in addition keeps Jermaine Kearse in Seattle. While fans and writers alike made a pariah of Kearse after struggling in 2016, he has since performed like his old clutch self for the New York Jets. Preventing the injury to McDowell, like all of these changes, has cascading effects throughout the franchise. With more cap space, better 2018 draft capital, and a receiver we know works well with Russell Wilson, perhaps the 2017 Seahawks end up better off.

My choice

Thinking through these three big choices, assuming I could go back and change anything I wanted for the team, I would prevent the McDowell injury. This isn’t to say I don’t like Richardson; I think he’s played really well but he wasn’t what the Seahawks needed. Hindsight being what it is, I would rather have a developing young star on defense than a one year rental for as large a cap hit as Richardson demands. Couple this with the loss of Kearse and a high round draft pick and it becomes the one part to the puzzle I would change if I could. Seattle might still need to solve its kicking problem but would’ve been in a cap situation to possibly do so—earlier in the season there were free agents to be had if the front office had the space to do so and overall if I have to pick between Brown and Richardson I think improving the offensive line was the more dire need.

There are so many more options to choose from, such as reversing injuries all over the defense, but none of those has had such long term impacts to our cap space, draft capital, and overall franchise health. Perhaps the Seahawks will be best off with Richardson and I’m wrong, an outcome I would warmly welcome. But if I could turn back the clock and keep McDowell from getting hurt in the first place that would be my first choice.

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