Count Paul Richardson as the first of the Seahawks’ 16 unrestricted free agents to move on as the NFL Network reported Tuesday morning he will sign a five-year, $40 million contract with Washington.
The deal reportedly includes $20 million guaranteed and represents a significant payday for the player who was Seattle’s first pick in the 2014 draft, taken in the second round at number 45 overall.
Richardson confirmed he will be moving on with a thank you note to the Seahawks and Seattle fans posted on Instagram Tuesday afternoon, concluding “Gonna miss that blue and green.”
Richardson finished his original Seattle rookie contract — a four-year, $4.7 million deal — last season when he had the best year of his career with 44 receptions for 703 yards and six touchdowns, and maybe most importantly a 16.0 yards per reception average which marked him as one of the best deep threats available in free agency this year.
Richardson had a halting start to his Seattle career with just 51 catches for 599 yards and two touchdowns in his first three seasons, due in part to suffering an ACL injury in a playoff game in 2014 and then a hamstring injury when he returned in 2015, which limited him to one game that season.
Richardson also was originally drafted with the idea that he could be a returner and he was the team’s primary kickoff returner for the second half of the 2014 season following the trade of Percy Harvin. But those duties went out the window when he was injured and Seattle then drafted Tyler Lockett in 2015.
A contract that likely set a floor for Richardson is the three-year, $24 million deal Albert Wilson of the Chiefs got from the Dolphins, also reported earlier Tuesday. Wilson had 42 receptions for 554 yards and three touchdowns, with a 13.2 yards per reception average and will be 26 in July. Richardson was better in every area last year and also turns 26 this year.
It had been already thought that $7 million a year would be too much for Seattle, and once it got to $8 million the Seahawks likely barely gave it a second thought.
But his departure leaves Seattle’s receiving corps in some flux, especially with Seattle’s top two leading receiving tight ends — Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson — also set to become free agents, with Graham having been heavily rumored likely headed back to New Orleans.
Doug Baldwin, Lockett, Tanner McEvoy and Amara Darboh are all under contract, as is David Moore, a seventh-round pick last year who was promoted to the 53-man roster late in the season to prevent him from leaving the practice squad and signing elsewhere, a move that appeared designed in part to assure there would be depth at receiver with the possibility that Richardson would leave.
Also on the roster is Marcus Johnson, who was acquired last week from the Eagles in the Michael Bennett deal. And former LSU track star Cyril Grayson signed a futures contract in January after being on the practice squad at the end of the season.
But the Seahawks could well be in the market for a receiver in the second or third wave of free agency (maybe Dallas’ Brice Butler could be an option) as well as the draft.
What the Seahawks may also look to do this offseason is extend Lockett, who will be entering the final season of his initial four-year rookie deal in 2018. It had long been thought that the Seahawks wouldn’t be able to re-sign both Richardson and Lockett and that what they did this year with Richardson would indicate the choice the team had made.
Seattle had 16 players who could be free agents when the new league year begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. Two are now accounted for with Seattle on Monday re-signing safety Bradley McDougald and now losing Richardson.