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Seahawks accomplish 1 of their combine goals: Get the NFL thinking they’d take a QB at 5



The Raiders, Falcons and Panthers heard them.

People in Chicago heard them, too. So much so, one report from there cited Seattle as a potential trade partner with the Bears up to the first-overall pick in April’s draft.

“Pete Carroll’s QB remarks put Seahawks on Bears’ radar for No. 1 pick trade” was the amusing headline from NBC Sports Chicago.

That was after Seattle’s coach said on the first day of the annual NFL scouting combine: “It’s the position that we are in. We are totally connected to the quarterbacks that are coming out. This is a really huge opportunity for us. It’s a rare opportunity for us. We’ve been drafting in the low 20s for such a long time, you just don’t get the chance for these guys. So we’re deeply involved with all of them.”

Before the first prospect ran his 40-yard dash, the Seahawks succeeded in one of their chief objectives at the combine. They got the rest of the league thinking Seattle is strongly considering taking a top quarterback with the fifth pick in the draft — even while honing in on an expected, new multiyear contract with Pro Bowl QB Geno Smith.

Why would the Seahawks consider that?

“Because they don’t grow on trees,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said of elite, franchise-ready quarterbacks.

“It’s probably the hardest position to acquire talent that everyone feels very confident in.”

Seahawks general manager John Schneider speaks during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine at the Indiana Convention Center, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Indianapolis. Darron Cummings/Associated Press

That, to the league, is a sign the Seahawks are serious about drafting at five a quarterback on top of re-signing Smith. Whether they actually are or not, the perception creates a signal that Seattle’s fifth pick is up for trade bidding for QB-needy teams.

Potential suitors abound.

Las Vegas, Atlanta and Carolina pick seven, eight and nine, respectively, behind Seattle. All need a quarterback, after cutting their starters from 2022.

Or do you think the Raiders are going to roll with Jarrett Stidham and Chase Garbers for 2023? Those are the only quarterbacks currently on the Las Vegas’ roster, after the Raiders let go of Derek Carr recently.

Panthers are intriguing

The Panthers have the ninth pick. They are particularly intriguing to the Seahawks.

Carolina’s general manager is Scott Fitterer. Before he got that job, the 49-year-old was a Seahawks scout, director of college scouting, co-director of player personnel and vice president of football operations for Schneider from 2010 through ‘20. Those were the first 10 years Schneider and Carroll ran the Seahawks.

Wednesday at the combine, Fitterer made it clear his Panthers are in the market to trade up from nine to draft a quarterback. Seattle trading down from five with Carolina could net the Seahawks another first-round pick in 2024, and still allow them to four picks in the first 52 to draft defensive-front help and/or quarterback.

Fitterer said it would be best for the Panthers to trade into a spot to get a rookie quarterback to develop, rather than stopgap with another temporary veteran the likes of Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker Carolina tried for at least five starts each last season.

Carolina Panthers general manager and Seattle native Scott Fitterer at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis March 1, 2023, said his team is exploring possibly trading up from the ninth pick in the draft to get a top quarterback. The Seahawks, for whom Fitterer worked under GM John Schneider from 2010-20, own the fifth pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Associated Press

Ideally, the Panthers want to trade up before free agency begins March 15. That’s so they know how hard to go after a veteran QB on the market, versus the likelihood of drafting an elite college passer among, say, the top five picks.

“That’s obviously one of the things you have to look at. Because if you if you want to go that veteran route, that’s going to happen a lot earlier and those guys are gone,” Fitterer said inside the Indiana Convention Center. “That’s why we’re going to take this week to get all the answers that we need to get. We’ve talked to a lot of the young quarterbacks, the ones in the draft here. But yes, I think the next two weeks is very important.

“I think in an ideal world you always want to draft the quarterback; draft, develop and then have that guy here for five, 10 years. …There’s so many benefits to drafting and developing. That is the right route to go. We’ll see if we can get in a position where we get one of the guys we like. …

“I don’t think it’s wrong to necessarily look at the veteran route, if you can’t (trade up in the draft). But in an ideal world, you do want to draft.

“You go get the guy that you want. If you have conviction on a guy, you go get him. It’s pretty simple that way.”

Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud, expected to be among the first players taken in this year’s draft, speaks during a news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 3, 2023. Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Seahawks and Geno Smith’s contract

The Seahawks’ plans hinge on how long of a contract they get done with Smith.

A two- or three-year deal has been expected for the 32-year-old who came off seven years of being an NFL backup to breaking Russell Wilson’s season passing records in 2022. If Smith signs for two or three years, with attractive cash guarantees up front, the Seahawks still would be in the market to draft a quarterback for the future, beyond Smith’s new deal ending.

They don’t know when they will be picking fifth again. Carroll, 71, and Schneider hope its not while they are still running the Seahawks. They only are at five, the team’s highest pick the year before Carroll and Schneider took over the Seahawks, 2009, because Wilson and his Broncos flopped to 5-12 this past season. That was after Wilson engineered Seattle trading him to Denver 12 months ago.

This is a generational pick for the Seahawks. If Carroll and Schneider were ever to draft a quarterback first, it’s this spring. This year’s is a draft with multiple QBs scouts believe can start right away in the NFL, such as Bryce Young from Alabama, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and perhaps Florida’s Anthony Richardson .

“We have not been in this situation. We have not felt like this, ever,” Carroll said. “So all of the build up to it has been exciting, and we’re hoping to obviously max out everything we can with it.

“We know that the opportunity is something special, so we’re looking forward to it and we’ll see how it goes.”

This story was originally published March 3, 2023, 11:06 AM.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. He is a two-time Washington state sportswriter of the year, voted by the National Sports Media Association in January 2023 and January 2019. 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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