During the first half of the 2020 season, the Seahawks lit up scoreboards in large part due to a dynamic passing game orchestrated by Russell Wilson. Through eight games, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were both on a historic pace for over 1,300 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, while Wilson was nearly on pace for 50 touchdown passes.
But Seattle's offense cooled off substantially in the second half as opponents schemed to take away the deep ball with two-high safety looks. With Metcalf and Lockett bottled up and a third receiver unable to emerge down the stretch to help pick up the slack, the team failed to score more than 20 points in five of its final nine games, including a wild card round loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Though Metcalf and Lockett will both be back for the 2021 season and the team has other positions of need to address, including the offensive line charged with protecting Wilson, upgrading at the receiver position behind those two stars should also be a point of emphasis in free agency and/or the draft.
If general manager John Schneider chooses to go the free agent route, a saturated market coupled with a declining salary cap league-wide could create plenty of opportunities to go bargain shopping. Here's a look at five receivers who could be on Seattle's radar heading into the start of the new league year.
One of the NFL's best hybrid playmakers, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Samuel can inflict damage on opposing defenses both as a receiver and a runner. Last season, the ex-Ohio State standout established new career-highs with 77 receptions for 851 yards and three touchdowns while also adding 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground for the Panthers. Thriving in his fourth season, he received quality grades from Pro Football Focus for his receiving (76.4) and rushing (75.9) efforts. Last season, he produced 334 yards after the catch and forced seven missed tackles while running the vast majority of his routes from the slot. Only 24 years old and likely set to get paid big bucks, he may be out of Seattle's budget, but his unique array of tools and formational flexibility would bring an exciting component to Waldron's offense.
Coming off back-to-back seasons with less than 800 receiving yards, Hilton's days of being a Pro Bowl receiver seem to be behind him. After the failed Greg Olsen experiment in 2020, Seattle fans might not be keen on signing an aging receiver with dwindling production. However, as a No. 3 target behind Lockett and Metcalf, he would be a massive upgrade over David Moore and proved he has plenty of juice left in the tank in 2020. Despite playing with Philip Rivers, who exhibited further diminished arm strength in his final NFL season, he reeled in three receptions of 40-plus yards, showcasing his still-elite speed as a vertical threat. Adding 208 yards after the catch, he remains capable of making defenders miss and creating in the short-to-intermediate passing game as well. At the right price, the 31-year old would be a solid complementary weapon to add to the arsenal.
Though he doesn't offer the name appeal of Hilton or the positional versatility of Samuel, Reynolds enjoyed a breakout season as the Rams third target behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in 2020. He finished with a career-best 52 receptions for 618 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 222 yards after the catch and forcing 10 missed tackles, earning a respectable 65.7 grade from Pro Football Focus. The 6-foot-3 receiver ran more than 30 percent of his routes out of the slot and also had eight carries over the past three years, so he could be utilized frequently in pre-snap motion and the jet sweep run game Waldron will likely incorporate more heavily into Seattle's offensive attack. Turning 26 in February, his best years may still be in front of him and reuniting with his former pass game coordinator in the Pacific Northwest could be the key to him fully unlocking his potential.
Given Seattle's current salary cap constraints, even a mid-level receiver like Reynolds may not be affordable. But if the team wants to go the cheap route seeking a young receiver with untapped potential and special teams value, the 26-year old McKenzie would be a top alternative. Though undersized at 5-foot-8, 173 pounds, the former Georgia Bulldog has been a reliable secondary target for Josh Allen in Buffalo each of the past two seasons. In 2020, he caught 30 passes for 282 yards and a career-high five touchdowns, including scoring a 25-yard touchdown against the Seahawks in Week 9. Though he wasn't a featured receiver with just 34 targets, more than half of his yardage came after the catch (190) and he ran north of 70 percent of his routes out of the slot. Adding to the intrigue, the miniature sparkplug took a punt 84 yards for a touchdown and could become Seattle's new primary return specialist.
Despite entering the NFL amid great fanfare following a historic performance at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, the 25-year old Ross never found his groove with the Bengals. In four seasons with the team, he only played in 27 games and produced a grand total of 51 receptions for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns during that span. After averaging 18.1 yards per reception in 2019, injuries and poor performance led to him playing in just three games in 2020 and he caught two passes for 17 yards. But if there's a landing spot where the former first round pick could rejuvenate his stalled career, it may be back in his college stomping grounds with the Seahawks, who never turn down the opportunity to add sub-4.30 speed at the receiver position. As long as he could stay healthy, joining Metcalf and Lockett would provide the ex-Washington Husky an opportunity to thrive as another viable deep threat for Wilson.