Where will Jermaine Kearse sign in 2016 NFL free agency?
Jermaine Kearse has had a fascinating career. An undrafted free agent out of the University of Washington, he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012 to buttress a largely uninspiring receiving corps.
After a quiet first season, Kearse began to make a habit of coming through for his quarterback and his team at the most opportune moments when the stakes were at their highest – two of his best games came in the 2013 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers and the ensuing Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.
But he’ll forever be known for two other gigantic plays the following season: his miraculous 35-yard overtime touchdown grab, his only reception of the 2014 NFC Championship Game, that completed the Seahawks’ comeback against the Packers and sent them to their second straight Super Bowl; and of course the equally miraculous, juggling catch in the Super Bowl against the Patriots that came after the ball bounced off his body four separate times.
Notable stat: 6 touchdowns in 8 postseason appearances
Pro Bowls: 0
All-Pro Teams: 0
Kearse just finished playing on a one-year contract with a base salary of $2.3 million… not bad for a wide receiver who went undrafted out of college. He’s certainly earned a better deal by routinely coming through for Russell Wilson in the Seahawks’ biggest games, but on the flip side, one has to wonder why he hasn’t been more conspicuous during the regular season as well.
Kearse has been in the league four years now, and not once has he had even 50 receptions or more than five touchdowns in a season. Part of that is an underwhelming number of targets, but it’s worth noting that Kearse has supposedly been second on the wide receiver depth chart for a while now behind Doug Baldwin. Seattle’s receivers have endured their share of criticism during the team’s rapid ascent because of their perceived mediocrity, and besides Baldwin’s red-hot second half of last season, the reputation has largely been deserved.
As a result, Kearse probably will get a new deal that pegs him somewhere in the land of the Cole Beasleys, Jarius Wrights, and Jeremy Kerleys of the world.
Estimate: 4 years/$17 million/$8 million guaranteed
Will he stay?
There doesn’t figure to be an enormous amount of interest on the open market judging by Kearse’s relatively ho-hum track record during the regular season. The place he’s probably the most valued is the place he currently resides in, though the Seahawks face a number of difficult decisions in-house this offseason with regards to expiring contracts.
Word on the street is they’d also like to come to an extension with Baldwin, whose deal is up next year, and that certainly doesn’t help Kearse’s position since Baldwin is clearly a higher priority to the team (as he should be).
If Kearse is willing to take a little less, then there’s a decent chance both sides end up committing to one another. Unfortunately, though, while Kearse has admitted he’d prefer to stay in Seattle, he’s also said before that he’s not comfortable with taking a “hometown discount” if that’s what it comes to.
If he leaves…
Despite Kearse’s lack of supposed desirability in free agency, there are actually plenty of teams with a very real need for receiver help. So he just might strike gold after all this summer thanks to the mechanics of high demand versus low supply among eligible wideouts on the market. The Cleveland Browns could sure use someone to stretch the field, among their myriad other needs as a team.
Travis Benjamin was a pleasant surprise in 2015, but he’s also a free agent himself, and beyond Benjamin there’s not a lot to like on the roster at receiver.
The New York Giants also figure to be a team that could benefit from adding Kearse to the fold. Obviously Odell Beckham Jr. is the unquestioned centerpiece of this offense, but with opposing defenses selling out to stop him at any cost, Eli Manning would love to have another reliable option to chuck balls to downfield. Victor Cruz hasn’t proven anything recently other than he has a hard time returning from injuries, and Rueben Randle is extremely streaky (and a free agent himself).
Finally, Kearse could reunite with his ex-teammate Golden Tate in the Motor City. The Detroit Lions are staring Calvin Johnson’s retirement in the face, and other than Tate, their receiver depth chart features big names like Jeremy Ross, Lance Moore, and Corey Fuller. Yuck. The perennially-disappointing Lions should make a play for Kearse and just give in to their new identity as Seattle East, at least as far as pass-catchers go.