The 2022 Seattle Seahawks are facing all kinds of questions as they come into the new season — primarily at quarterback in the Russell Wilson era — but a similarly prominent question for head coach Pete Carroll as training camp got underway this week was the status of receiver D.K. Metcalf. The 2019 second-round pick was heading into the final year of his rookie contract, and he had been “holding in” through the first couple days of camp – i.e., showing up, but taking no reps.
“We’re working, and I don’t have any update for you, but we are working,” Carroll said Wednesday.
Well, now we know. On Thursday, the Seahawks signed Metcalf to a three-year, $72 million contract extension with $58.2 million guaranteed, and a $30 million signing bonus — per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the largest signing bonus ever given to a receiver.
It’s something the Seahawks had to do in the post-Russell Wilson era, where Geno Smith and Drew Lock are fighting it out to see who can “replace” Wilson. Receiver talent will be at an all-time premium, even given Carroll’s preferences for a balanced offense, and there are few more premium athletic talents than Metcalf. When you have a 6-foot-4, 235-pound receiver who can run a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, you’re dealing with a rare individual.
Moreover, Metcalf’s athleticism and speed have shown up more and more on the field as he’s expanded his route palette. Since his rookie season, Metcalf ranks 10th in targets among all NFL receivers (358), 17th in receptions (216), third in yards per reception (14.7), eighth in yards per target (8.9), and tied for fourth with Cooper Kupp in receiving touchdowns (29). Imagine what he could do in a pass-first offense…
Maybe we’ll get that chance down the road, because Metcalf will have another turn at free agency when he’s 27 years old.
What has made Metcalf so important to Seattle’s route-running is not his specific route excellence, though he has improved in that regard, and he’s always been better at it than a lot of people have given him credit for.
In June, Seahawks passing game coordinator Sanjay Lal was very specific regarding how good Metcalf is when it’s time to be exact with his routes.
“I’ve told people he’s the best receiver I’ve ever been around that took the techniques from practice into the game,” Lal said. “If we ran a stutter-hinge versus Patrick Peterson, how it looked and walked through, how it looked in an individual period, how it looked in team is exactly how it looked against Arizona. You can look at the tape. I’ve actually made cut-ups of, here’s how he did it here, and here’s how it looked in the game.”
Here’s how it looked when the Seahawks faced the Vikings in Week 3 of the 2021 season. The stutter-hinge is a route where Metcalf pushes a vertical look, gives the cornerback a double move, and then, looks to come back at the end of the route to present a favorable picture to the quarterback.
The next example Lal brought up was a 19-yard reception against the Patriots in Week 2 of the 2020 season, when Metcalf was facing Stephon Gilmore at a time when Gilmore was arguably the NFL’s best cornerback.
Lal didn’t mention this vicious whip route that left Peterson, a future Hall of Famer, out of the picture, but it’s worth reviewing.
Remember, folks: DK Metcalf can't run routes. pic.twitter.com/sa6t5D2Sq3
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) June 15, 2022
“The Stephon Gilmore ‘V’ route, [the] pylon route that he caught, we’ve got walkthrough reps of him running it exactly like that,” Lal said of the Gilmore play. “He had to get a yard inside the hash. He had to get his eyes back for a count, otherwise Stephon would not undercut him. It’s very rare for a receiver under duress, under the lights to go do that in a game and he did it perfectly.
“You watch the clip, as soon as he touches the hash, his eyes come back inside, Steph goes underneath, and he puts his foot in the ground and goes over the top. Had it been one yard off, that play wouldn’t have worked. Even with all that precision, it was still a bang, bang play downfield. So he’s the best I’ve seen at that.”
Of course, there are other times when Metcalf just bodies the poor defender facing him, and that’s where the size/speed equation becomes quite unfavorable for the other side.
Back to the route stuff, though — here, Metcalf puts Jalen Ramsey in the blender with a preposterous pivot-and-up. Good luck with THAT.
I mean, this was just NASTY. pic.twitter.com/W9IwBIfceT
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) October 8, 2021
And, he’s already proven to be a more than able target for Smith, who replaced Wilson for a time last season due to injury. This 84-yard touchdown against the Saints’ top-tier defense on a quick throw from Smith was basically Metcalf saying to cornerback Marshon Lattimore: “I’m D.K. Metcalf, and you’re not.”
Safety Marcus Williams tried to help from single-high, but that was not going to happen, either.
Turns out, Lattimore didn’t appreciate Metcalf’s physical style.
DK Metcalf was really treating Marshon Lattimore like his little brother last night😭 pic.twitter.com/tahjVUONoL
— Owen Kidd (@OKiddVT) October 26, 2021
Metcalf’s new deal puts him in the elite category among receivers, which is exactly where he belongs.
Four WRs taken outside the first-round in 2019 have gotten paid this offseason:
AJ Brown: 4-years, $100M
DK Metcalf: 3-years, $72M
Terry McLaurin: 3-years, $71M
Hunter Renfrow: 2-years, $32M
Deebo Samuel and Diontae Johnson are two more 2019 wide receivers still waiting.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) July 28, 2022