Yes, Seahawks can afford to trade Tyler Lockett; but is there a market for him?
Assessing what Seattle could get in trade
A year ago, I proposed in the Seaside Joe daily newsletter that the Seahawks could flirt with the idea of trading Tyler Lockett and/or Bobby Wagner, capitalizing on what would likely be the greatest value that either player would ever have again. Not knowing what Lockett or Wagner could actually fetch on the trade market, I theorized that Wagner was good enough to command a late first (I recommended talking to the Browns about that) and that Lockett would be worth a second rounder.
As of this week, the Seahawks released Bobby Wagner and will receive nothing other than the cap relief that would have come with a trade anyway, and if Lockett isn’t on the trade block yet—he should be.
It does not mean that I believe that Seattle should have or could have traded Wagner or Lockett last March. Only that I was one of the few people (only?) writing at the time that their respective Seahawks careers could be coming to a close sooner than anticipated and that we're living in a brave new world of NFL player trades. I was suggesting that Seattle could be trailblazers in that world and understandably, I didn’t hear a lot of “hear-hears!” for proposing those scenarios.
Then in early April, the Seahawks did the exact opposite of my suggestion, ignored my warnings about age-30 receivers, and signed Lockett to a four-year, $69 million extension.
A year ago, even before the contract, people were screaming “No, no, no—Seattle would NEVER trade Wagner or Lockett!!!” Today, Wagner is one of the most coveted free agents on the market and fans of 31 teams are screaming for Lockett.
Ignoring anyone’s personal affinity for either trading or keeping Tyler Lockett, what are the important facts and figures to keep in mind as the Seahawks explore what they can get for the veteran receiver in a deal? Let’s keep our emotions aside for a second and take a logical look at: “Tyler Lockett, trade asset.”
2022 salary cap hit: $10.05 million
Seahawks 2022 savings, if traded: -$5.15 million
What acquiring team would pay for Lockett in 2022: $3 million
What acquiring team would pay in 2023: $15.3 million+$1.6 million roster bonus
Factoring in contract: Yes, the Seahawks would actually LOSE $5 million in 2022 cap space if they trade Tyler Lockett, but as of now that is completely inconsequential to Seattle’s interests. They’re either paying Lockett $10 million to be there, or $15 million to not be there.
The Seahawks have as much cap space as any team in the NFL and they’re practically designed to waste money this year if they have to, so the reason why Seattle would trade Lockett is not for cap savings; it’s for the draft picks they would acquire in return.
How good could those draft picks be at this point?
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I’ve been prognosticating trades and free agent contracts for over 10 years and this is essentially how I find my starting point: How many teams need (PLAYER) and how many other (PLAYERS LIKE HIM) are on the market?
The good news is that a lot of teams could use a veteran starting wide receiver like Tyler Lockett. The news that is not necessarily “bad” but no less relevant is that there are a lot of wide receivers on the market, and as I keep saying, the “Over-30 Club” is drying up even faster than an older-30 nightclub.
I don’t know about you, but when I turned 36, I knew that 9:30 was far too late to be out at night.
Lockett, whose 30th birthday is coming up in late December, will be one of the few starting wide receivers in the league to be born in 1992 or earlier. However, the GREAT news for the Seahawks, if they put him on the market, is that Lockett’s $3 million base salary (if I understand it correctly) could make him even more attractive than a potential first or second round pick with a comparable cap hit.
Tyler Lockett had a $13 million option bonus for 2022 in his extension, but as I understand it, that is essentially just a delayed signing bonus and will be added to Seattle’s tab no matter what they do.
The team that trades for Lockett only has to worry about his base salary and $3 million is 405 robbery.
Next, I want to know which teams a) have an opening for a WR1 or WR2 and b) believe they’re going to contend for the Super Bowl next season and c) have draft picks they’re willing to part with right now.
I’ll identify potentially contending teams in the AFC that might love to add Tyler Lockett as a starting wideout: Patriots, Browns, Steelers, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers.
NFC: Commanders, Bears, Falcons, Saints
Did I miss any? Tell Me:
It’s a large enough market to believe that even if Lockett were the fourth or fifth-best available wide receiver, he’d still have many suitors at a $3 million base.
I’d next look to those teams that may feel they have a little bit of “house money” to play with because they have additional 2022 and 2023 draft picks. I would not be surprised if the Seahawks were willing to wait for a 2023 draft pick because that tends to make the return go up by one round.
The Jets have an obscene amount of picks this year (two firsts, two seconds, one third, two fourths, two fifths) and they might want another veteran presence next year to help support Zach Wilson. But do they want to block Elijah Moore’s development and could they possibly win more than eight games? (I’m for it: I think Zach Wilson is still the star of the 2021 class.)
Atlanta has two second round picks and wide receiver Calvin Ridley has been suspended by the NFL for one year. The Falcons should want to make the most of their $48 million quarterback (yes, that’s how much Matt Ryan is costing them this year) and their number one receiver under contract is Olamide Zaccheaus.
Another team high on my list would be the Cleveland Browns. It appears that after cutting Odell Beckham Jr in November, the Browns will next release Jarvis Landry. Cleveland is reportedly sticking with Baker Mayfield, so the Browns aren’t hitting “reset” just yet; can we really expect them to have Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz as their starting duo?
The Browns have always been active on the pick trading market, plus they own third round compensatory picks in each of the next two drafts, as well as holding an extra fourth this year. In fact, the Seahawks could practically pit the Falcons and Browns against each other: Atlanta owns pick 58 from the Titans in the Julio Jones trade, but Cleveland could counter with pick 44, and maybe some sort of pick swap if they felt that their second was a little too rich. Here’s the twist:
The Falcons own pick 43.
Could Seattle give the Falcons an ultimatum on using their own second round pick instead of the one from Tennessee?
Washington owns pick 42 and they just committed to Carson Wentz. Ron Rivera needs to make the playoffs next season or he’s probably out, but do the Commanders feel confident enough in Curtis Samuel or Dyami Brown to contribute a high number of snaps or targets next season?
I was also asked if the Denver Broncos would want to get involved in Lockett trade negotiations. The Broncos hold pick 40 in the second round, as well as the Rams’ second rounder at 64 and third rounder at 96. It’s not too outlandish to suggest that Seattle could broach this scenario despite not taking care of it in the Wilson trade (the Rams traded Michael Brockers to the Lions weeks after they had acquired Matthew Stafford), and surely Wilson would see Lockett as a hugely valuable addition.
What makes me skeptical is that the Broncos would probably have to part with either Courtland Sutton or Tim Patrick because they’re definitely not giving up on Jerry Jeudy yet. Lockett may be an upgrade over either Sutton or Patrick, but Denver made hard financial commitments to both (at a combined $22.5 million in 2022 cap space) and there’s no savings to be had by trading or releasing them.
It’s hard to imagine GM George Paton bringing in another starting wideout when the team has Jeudy, Sutton, Patrick, and recent second rounder K.J. Hamler already. They traded for Wilson in part because they expect him to make them all look better.
Finally, the Patriots seem to be desperate to get Mac Jones more help and they’ve been known to trade second round picks for Mohamed Sanu.
EDIT: As I was writing this, it was reported by Jay Glazer that Eagles were nearly done trading for Ridley prior to his suspension; I had written off Philadelphia because I assumed they wouldn’t be aggressive in upgrading at wide receiver but that’s clearly not the case. Add the Eagles and pick 51 to the mix, since they already have so much first round capital.
I know that it’s been a confusing paradigm shift this week for everybody because I’m also still reeling from the departures of Russ and Bobby myself. So the suggestion that Tyler Lockett could be traded may seem like punching someone while they’re already down. However, this is clearly a new era of Seahawks football in that it is most likely an acceptance that “This year is not gonna be our year” and that means writing the types of articles that I’ve never had to write before when it comes to the Pete Carroll Seahawks.
Putting Tyler Lockett through that type of season in Seattle would also be confusing.