Seahawks Insider Blog

Sheldon Richardson leaves too, signs with Minnesota, as drafting Malik McDowell still haunts Seahawks

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is the 11th Seahawks to run away from Seattle in the last nine days. He signed a one-year contract with Minnesota in free agency on Friday.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is the 11th Seahawks to run away from Seattle in the last nine days. He signed a one-year contract with Minnesota in free agency on Friday. AP

The ghost of Malik McDowell continues to haunt the Seahawks.

And he indeed remains an apparition. They still have zero indication when or if their top draft choice from 2017 will ever play for them.

The latest reminder of what McDowell’s career-stopping ATV accident has caused came Friday. Sheldon Richardson, the three-technique defensive tackle Seattle traded for in September, signed a one-year, free-agent contract with Minnesota.

Richardson, 27, is getting “about” $11 million from the Vikings, according to Yahoo! Sports. NFL Network broke that down as $8 million in base pay plus up to $3 million in incentive bonuses.

That combined is about $3 million less than the Seahawks were willing to pay him in the most direct way they could have kept him for one year, the franchise tag. Seattle declined to do that in its window to do so this month, because $14 million was far too expensive for them.

“They gave me a better off than Seattle did,” Richardson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, stating the obvious--and the I atrend this month for the Seahawks.

The Seahawks traded a second-round choice in April’s draft plus wide receiver Jermaine Kearse to the New York Jets days before the 2017 regular-season began to get Richardson. The only reason they paid that price was because McDowell--another dynamic, versatile defensive lineman seven years younger--sustained serious head and other injuries in a mysterious ATV accident in his home start of Michigan in July. He didn’t practice let alone play for Seattle all last season.

As of the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis two weeks ago, coach Pete Carroll said the team still doesn’t know when McDowell will be able to make his overdue debut.

“Nothing new. Same kind of thing. He’s got a process he is going through,” Carroll said March 1. “We get information rarely in his case, but there will be a time when you will hear more.

“Don’t have much for you now. Sorry.”

Richardson had an impacting season in Seattle as a three-technique defensive tackle. Forget sacks numbers; Richardson was best between in the guard-tackle gap stuffing blockers to free All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner for a season worthy of NFL-defensive-player-of-the-year talk last season. That was until Wagner’s hamstring injury in December.

When the Seahawks acquired Richardson he was entering the final year of his rookie contract. That’s why they began talking to the 27-year-old Richardson and his agents about a contract extension in December. They made it a big priority to get a deal with him done this offseason. And Richardson said he was interested in staying.

But until this week the Seahawks didn’t have money available under the salary cap to give Richardson a competitive offer that might keep him testing free agency. They traded Michael Bennett and waived Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead to save $19 million in cap room. By the time they finally had that cap room, the Seahawks couldn’t get a deal done before the NFL’s official start of the free-agency signing period on Wednesday.

Once Richardson left to shop as an unrestricted free agent for the first time, he was gone. In style.

Thursday, he got picked up in a private plane sent by the Vikings. Then they had him dine with Kirk Cousins, the $84-million (guaranteed) quarterback they had just signed. Yes, Richardson got the red-carpet treatment in Minnesota.

It worked.

But not for the Seahawks.

The net result of Seattle drafting McDowell, him getting seriously injured and the corresponding, go-for-it move of trading for Richardson: one solid season from Richardson, not making the playoffs for the first time in six years and perhaps a compensatory draft choice in 2019 in round three or four for Richardson signing with Minnesota, in exchange for giving up a second-round pick this rebuilding team sorely needs next month plus a number-two wide receiver.

A sub-optimal swap, to be sure.

On top of that, the Seahawks lost Paul Richardson, Kearse’s replacement by November as number-two wide receiver, this week in free agency. He signed a $40-million, five-year contract with Washington.

The double Richardson whammy is part of the 11 former starters gone from the Seahawks in the last nine days. They have gained two imports in that span: outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and, Friday, tight end Ed Dickson, both with free-agent contracts.