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Seahawks go deep at receiver, run route toward stability

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The receiver class in this NFL draft went deep, and the Seahawks simply couldn't pass up the chance to take a couple of shots themselves.

It is considered to be one of the best WR groups ever, and the Seahawks took full advantage of it -- even if they didn't originally think they would.

The additions of Colorado speedster Paul Richardson and Alabama go-to guy Kevin Norwood not only add talent to an underrated receiving group, they give the Seahawks some protection against the looming uncertainty at the position.

With Golden Tate gone, undrafted standouts Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are the top returning receivers, but Baldwin has not signed his restricted tender and his future beyond 2014 is up in the air pending a possible contract extension. Kearse will be a restricted free agent in 2015 but then could be free to go after that season.

Meanwhile, the Hawks are hoping to get a healthy season out of Percy Harvin and they also brought back Sidney Rice on the cheap to see if he could come back from his ACL injury.

It's no guarantee that any of them will be on the team in 2016 -- Harvin and Rice due to health questions, Baldwin and Kearse due to contract status -- so the Hawks really needed to do something to add some stability to the squad.

Assuming Richardson and Norwood are as good as advertised -- the blazing Buffalo and the consistent Crimson Tider -- the Hawks have options.

The Hawks had targeted Richardson apparently after losing out on Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley, and they still got the receiver after trading down twice, from 32 to 40 to 45.

Using one of the fourth-round picks they acquired in the second trade -- appropriately, with their favorite trade partner, Detroit, who signed Tate away in March -- the Hawks dropped down again and still got the guy they really wanted in the fourth, Norwood.

"We had taken Paul already and didn’t necessarily anticipate another receiver being there because there was a big clump of them," general manager John Schneider said. "We felt like they were going to just come ripping off, and they did. And (Norwood) stayed there. Maybe because … there’s nothing overly flashy about him, except that he’s incredibly tough and reliable and smart and savvy. I think that’s probably why he lasted as long as he did."

Norwood is the third receiver Schneider has drafted in the fourth round, but the Alabama standout seems more capable than either Kris Durham, who was a reach in 2011, or Chris Harper, who didn't make the team in 2013.

Richardson, who said he has run a 4.28 40-yard dash, and Norwood, who was Alabama's most reliable receiver, join a receiving corps that has been efficient and clutch, if little used at times.

Baldwin, who had at least half a dozen amazing catches last season, is the top returning receiver (50 catches, 778 yards, five touchdowns in 2013). Kearse came on in his second season, catching 22 balls for 346 yards and four scores. He and Baldwin both caught TD passes in the Super Bowl.

The Hawks got Harvin in a blockbuster deal last year and made him the highest-paid player on the team (until Richard Sherman got paid earlier this month), and the Seahawks hope to get a healthy season out of the mercurial star in 2014. They also brought back Rice, who was lost to an ACL at midseason last year, on a one-year deal.

Behind those guys are a bunch of players who shuffled on and off Seattle's practice squad and/or other rosters the last couple of years: Ricardo Lockette, Bryan Walters, Phil Bates and Arceto Clark. And then there are two other additions, CFL import Chris Matthews and injury-bitten Taylor Price.

That's 12 players for what amounts to probably five spots again. Talk about competition.

"It’s pretty dang stiff," Schneider agreed.

If Harvin, Baldwin, Kearse and Richardson are roster locks, that ostensibly would leave Rice fighting Norwood for the fifth spot. Of course, the Hawks could keep six guys, but they have rarely done that -- never for very long and usually only in injury situations -- because they don't throw that much.

Coach Pete Carroll said Richardson is kind of a combination of Harvin, Baldwin and Kearse.

"His speed is extraordinary," Carroll said. "He has the terrific hands and a great catching range. He’s really got characteristics like the guys that have been successful for us. He’s got quickness kind of like Doug Baldwin, he’s got speed kind of like Percy Harvin, and he has that catching range kind of like Jermaine Kearse. So we just felt really comfortable with his style of play."

Richardson, who played at around 160 pounds at Colorado, needs to bulk up; he said he is up to 183 and wants to hit 190.

The Seahawks did a case study of lighter receivers in NFL history and found more than enough success stories to make them think Richardson could handle it.

"A lot has been made about his weight being a light guy," Seahawks scout Matt Berry said, "but if you look back at guys like Marvin Harrison, Donald Driver … guys like that, there is a history of guys that come to the league a little bit undersized that have had a lot of success.”

Schneider said Richardson is a combination of Driver, Baldwin and DeSean Jackson -- lean with long arms and quick hands like Driver, quick off the line and getting "instant separation" like Baldwin and "can get up on top of you and throttle his speed" like Jackson.

Norwood seems like a bigger version of Baldwin, who became Russell Wilson's No. 1 clutch receiver in 2013.

Schneider ran down the checklist on Norwood: "He’s 6-2, he’s 4.47 (in the 40), he’s long, he has big hands, he has a savviness about him as a route runner, he can drop his hips, he knows exactly where the sticks are, he works very well with quarterbacks.

"I don’t want to say silky smooth or anything like that, but he’s got a smoothness about him," Schneider added. "But he’s got more power than you think, too. He’s a little bit more of a gainer down the field than you would think. He has very good body control, and he has really quick feet, and he gets his head around real quick, and he has real quick eyes. I can’t believe we were able to draft him; it’s pretty neat."

That is glowing praise for a fourth-round pick and makes you think Norwood has a much better shot at making the team than his fourth-round predecessors, Durham and Harper. (Durham made the team in 2011 but played sparingly and ended up on injured reserve. He was released in final cuts the next summer.)

If Harvin, Baldwin and Kearse are the top three and stay healthy, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Norwood get more playing time than Richardson next season. If the Hawks go with five and Rice is the odd man out, the team would be out only his $150,000 signing bonus.

If they keep six and Harvin and Rice stay healthy, it is easy to see both Richardson and Norwood mostly "redshirting" their rookie season -- kind of like Benson Mayowa did last year when he was on the 53-man roster but inactive for most of the season.

Then, in 2015, it all depends on whether Harvin has stayed healthy and Baldwin has a new contract.

If Harvin has problems getting on the field again in 2014 and the Hawks think Richardson can basically take his place, they might end up cutting Harvin next year (it would save them $5.7 million against the salary cap). Not their first choice, obviously; but, if he can't play, the team has other ways it can spend that money.

Baldwin seems likely to get his extension. He said last week that talks had begun. Of course, he probably will have to be happy with about $4 million a year. If he prices himself out like Tate did, the Hawks probably will go with Norwood in his place.

The Seahawks surely would be ecstatic to have Harvin, Baldwin and Kearse for at least the next couple of years, but they did a good job of giving themselves a couple more (wide)outs just in case.

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