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Jermaine Kearse ‘would love’ to return to Seahawks. What would it take to bring him back?

Then-Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse celebrates by firing the ball into CenturyLink Field shaking stands after his touchdown catch in overtime beat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game on Jan. 18, 2015. Kearse, from Lakewood and the University of Washington, told Seattle’s KJR-AM radio he’d “love” to return to the Seahawks as as a free agent after two seasons with the New York Jets.
Then-Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse celebrates by firing the ball into CenturyLink Field shaking stands after his touchdown catch in overtime beat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game on Jan. 18, 2015. Kearse, from Lakewood and the University of Washington, told Seattle’s KJR-AM radio he’d “love” to return to the Seahawks as as a free agent after two seasons with the New York Jets. AP

What would it take for the Seahawks and Jermaine Kearse to reunite for the 2019 season?

Apparently, not much more from Jermaine Kearse.

The Lakewood native and ex-Seahawks playoff hero is a free agent; the Jets recently let the veteran wide receiver go after his two years with New York. Thursday he was asked by his former Seattle teammate Cliff Avril on KJR-AM radio about the possibility of returning to play for the Seahawks in 2019.

Yeah. Look, I would love to play back in Seattle,” Kearse said. “Obviously, things have to work out on its own and things have to be right.

“It would be an opportunity that would be a great opportunity.”

Kearse, now 29, said his agent and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have a great relationship, and that he’s “pretty sure” those two have talked this offseason.

The former Lakes High School and University of Washington standout still spends a lot of his offseason around his Seattle-Tacoma home area. His wife Marisa is also from here. They had a baby girl in the summer of 2017.

Less than three months after the baby’s birth, Carroll and Seahawks general manager John Schneider traded Kearse and a second-round choice in the 2018 draft to the Jets for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (who only played for Seattle for a few months before he signed with Minnesota). Kearse is so beloved by the Seahawks and the area, late team owner Paul Allen publicly thanked him at the time of the trade for what he did for Seattle’s team and community.

Seahawks top wide receiver Doug Baldwin still considers Kearse like a brother to him.

The Seahawks signed Kearse in 2012 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of UW. That spring he and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson formed a tight bond by playing pitch and catch long after minicamp practices ended.

“I have not personally talked to John and Pete,” about a return, Kearse told Avril on KJR Wednesday.

What would it take for the Seahawks to bring Kearse back in their ongoing search for a bigger, veteran receiver to complement smaller Baldwin and Tyler Lockett?

First, Jordy Nelson would have to decide to sign elsewhere. The 33-year-old former star Packers receiver for Aaron Rodgers got released this month by Oakland after one season with the Raiders. He visited Schneider and the Seahawks this week.

Schneider was Green Bay’s director of pro personnel in 2008 when that team drafted Nelson in the second round. Schneider was interested in possibly signing Nelson this time last year, before Nelson signed with the Raiders instead.

At 6 feet 3 and a listed 217 pounds Nelson is two inches taller and eight pounds heavier than Kearse. But he’s four years older. And he would likely cost more than the less-accomplished Kearse, even in the one-year deal Seattle would be likely to offer either veteran. That is this team’s M.O. in the secondary waves of free agency.

Signing Kearse again would also likely be after Seattle comparison shopped for other veteran receivers. And it would be after the Seahawks perhaps decided one of the NFL-low four picks they currently own in next month’s draft would be better used on needed help on the pass rush and defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary than on a big, younger wide receiver that may not be able to make an immediate impact.

In 2013, Kearse had moved from rookie special-teams player just trying to make the team to a trusted target of Wilson. Kearse had four touchdown catches in 2013. He then had some of the most famous plays in Seahawks postseason history.

His catch on a post route in overtime of the NFC championship game against Green Bay on Jan. 18, 2015, after interceptions thrown by Wilson earlier in the game off Kearse’s hands and chest, sent Seattle into Super Bowl 49.

In that Super Bowl two weeks later, Kearse made a stupendous catch trapping Wilson’s long sideline pass that had been tipped by a New England Patriots defender against his lower leg while on the ground inside the 5-yard line with a minute left.

It would have gone down as one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, but most people forget that play because of what happened next. Wilson’s infamous interception from the 1-yard line in the final seconds kept Seattle from a second consecutive NFL title.

What made Kearse so popular in the community during his time with the Seahawks, beyond the fact he’s from here?

In the spring of 2016 he signed a $13.5 million extension with Seattle. As the deal started going down, Kearse got a call that prompted him to uncharacteristically cancel an appearance at a robotics event for grade-school-aged kids and up at Graham-Kapowsin High School.

The moment was finally at hand, the one for which Kearse had been playing football since he was growing up in Lakewood and his dad was an Army sergeant at Fort Lewis. The moment he’d been working toward since he starred for coach Dave Miller at Lakes High School in the 2000s and then at the UW. Kearse was on the cusp of signing his second NFL contract, the big-money one for which anyone who wears a helmet and shoulder pads aspires.

Yet Kearse’s conscience bothered him about missing the robotics event in his native Pierce County. So he called a teacher who’d led the kids to the event.

“We’ve got some pretty resilient kids here who miss you,” the surprised teacher said on speakerphone to Kearse.

She passed her cell phone around a semicircle of giddy, even-more-surprised kids seated on a floor in the high school. One boy was wearing a blue Seahawks game jersey with “Kearse, 15” on the back.

“Where did you go?” the boy asked almost in a whisper, gasping that he was speaking to his hero.

“I wish I could be with you guys,” Kearse replied to him and all. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. I hope you guys do fantastically and have a great time.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.

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