RENTON, Wash. -- In what seems like a perpetual search for big-bodied wide receivers, the Seattle Seahawks took a look at Brandon Marshall earlier this month, bringing in the 34-year-old to gauge his health coming off a severe ankle injury.
They apparently did not like what they saw enough to sign him.
Really, it only would have made sense if they were confident that Marshall was all the way back after being limited to five games and 18 receptions last season with the New York Giants, who released him with a failed-physical designation. The 2016 version of Marshall (59 catches, 788 yards, 3 touchdowns) could have helped Seattle even though his production dropped off considerably from the year before (109, 1,502, 14).
But if Marshall isn't healthy enough to be the No. 2 or 3 receiver behind Doug Baldwin and possibly Tyler Lockett, what would be the point of having him in a reserve role? With practice reps limited these days by the current CBA and only so many game snaps to go around, Marshall's presence would stunt the development of Seattle's younger receivers, and the production wouldn't be there to justify it.
But moving forward without Marshall -- as it appears the Seahawks are doing -- also means that they'll need someone to emerge from that group of unproven youngsters behind Baldwin, Lockett and free-agent pickup Jaron Brown.
Two of them are 2017 draft picks Amara Darboh (third round) and David Moore (seventh). Darboh was active for all 16 games last season but finished with only eight catches, while Moore spent most of the year on the practice squad before he was promoted to the active roster in November.
Can they make the second-year jump?
"From the first to the second year, the biggest jump is realizing the speed of the game," Baldwin said after Thursday's organized team activity. "Obviously, when you come from college to the NFL, the speed of the game can be a culture shock, if you will, and also you're learning an entirely different system sometimes, and so it takes some time to get to the level where you can just go out there and play free. I think that's the biggest aspect to it, is it takes time for guys to learn the speed of the game, learn the offense that they're in and then go out there and play free like they used to in college."
Plenty can change between now and the end of the preseason, but here's how Seattle's receiver corps projects.
Baldwin. He has led Seattle in receiving in five of his seven seasons and barely missed out on reaching 1,000 yards for the third straight year in 2017, finishing with 991. Over those three seasons, only Antonio Brown (31) has more touchdown receptions than Baldwin's 29. Seattle will need all the scoring production it can get from Baldwin now that Jimmy Graham and his 10 touchdowns from 2018 are gone.
Lockett. He impressively made it back by Week 1 of last year from a gruesome compound leg fracture he suffered on Christmas Eve in 2016. That seemed to affect Lockett's speed last season, though he looked plenty fast on a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Week 17. A fully healthy Lockett should be Seattle's No. 2 receiver, a role he had ascended to in 2016 before his injury. And a bounce-back season would be well-timed with Lockett in the final year of his rookie deal.
Brown. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds, the former Arizona Cardinals starter adds size that Seattle doesn't have in Baldwin or Lockett, who are both sub-6 feet. "Because he's bigger than the guys we have, he will fit in as a blocker, he'll be able to do a lot of the stuff over the middle and inside that you love to see a guy do," coach Pete Carroll said earlier in the offseason. Brown's contract isn't huge -- $5.5 million over two seasons -- but his $800,000 base salary for 2018 is guaranteed along with his $1.95 million signing bonus, so you can safely pencil him in to the roster.
On solid ground
Darboh. In addition to their interest in Marshall (6-foot-5) and their addition of Brown (6-3), the Seahawks brought in Terrelle Pryor Sr. (6-4) for a visit and had one scheduled with Jordy Nelson (6-3) before he signed with Oakland. Notice a trend? Seems Seattle has been looking for a big target, something its offense lost when Graham left in free agency. Darboh (6-2, 219 pounds) will have a chance to help fill that void.
Moore. Among the reasons the Seahawks surprisingly waived Dwight Freeney last season was because they needed to clear a roster spot for Moore, whom they were afraid would be signed by another team. That's an indication of how highly Seattle thinks of him. Moore also has some size (6 feet, 215 pounds) and good speed to go along with it, running a 4.42-second 40 at his East Central (Oklahoma) pro day last year.
Marcus Johnson. Acquired from the Eagles in the Michael Bennett trade, Johnson has an even more impressive size-speed combo. Listed at 6-1, 204, he reportedly ran a 4.38-second 40 at his University of Texas pro day in 2016, before he went undrafted. That type of physical profile brings to mind Ricardo Lockette, who became a special-teams demon and an occasional contributor on offense for Seattle.
Damore'ea Stringfellow. The name might sound familiar in the Pacific Northwest as Stringfellow (6-2, 209) played at the University of Washington before he transferred to Ole Miss following an altercation that led to an assault charge. He went undrafted in 2017, took part in the Seahawks' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis earlier this month and was signed to a contract afterward. At Thursday's OTA, Stringfellow went up in traffic to make a nice leaping catch in the end zone. This was a noncontact practice in May, of course, but that's precisely the type of play that Russell Wilson will need someone to make now that he no longer has Graham to throw to in that part of the field.
Tanner McEvoy. At 6-6 and 230 pounds, he's by far the biggest receiver on the Seahawks' roster and was one of their top special-teams contributors last season in terms of snaps. That will no doubt help his case as it does any receiver who's fighting for a spot on the bottom of the depth chart, but McEvoy will have to show he can provide more on offense. He caught five passes last season and dropped two in one game.
Caleb Scott. An undrafted rookie from Vanderbilt, Scott (6-2, 203) got a $10,000 signing bonus, the fifth highest among Seattle's UDFAs. He sat out Thursday's OTA and also missed time during rookie minicamp with an undisclosed injury, so he's a bit behind as he fights for a roster spot.
Cyril Grayson Jr. A track star at LSU, Grayson (5-9, 183) is diminutive but looks surprisingly polished for someone who didn't play football in college.
Keenan Reynolds. The Seahawks signed the former Navy quarterback to a contract earlier this month that includes no guaranteed money. He has return ability, but the Seahawks are pretty well-stocked with backup options behind Lockett.