In four of the Seahawks' six games thus far, defensive end and former first-round pick L.J. Collier has surprisingly been inactive. It's becoming a perplexing saga that not even the biggest "draft busts" in NFL history have endured this early on in their career. Just a little over halfway through his rookie contract, Collier's team has seemingly given up on him—or, rather, it has no idea what to do with him. Either option is not good.
Collier has played a total of 39 snaps in two games, last appearing in Week 5 against the Rams. He put forth a solid effort in that game, recording two pressures with a quarterback hit in just nine pass rushing attempts. Nevertheless, Seattle omitted him from its active roster a week later in its trip to Pittsburgh.
Perhaps Collier's usage—or lack thereof—is matchup-based. But even then, this rollercoaster the Seahawks have put him on is befuddling for a player of his status, especially when their defensive line has struggled to consistently produce in 2021. His place in the rotation has seemingly been supplanted by another former first-round selection: Robert Nkemdiche, who's flashed at times but hasn't necessarily "wowed" at any given moment.
After the Seahawks' Week 1 win over the Colts, in which Collier saw his first of four inactive designations, head coach Pete Carroll admitted the TCU alum was frustrated and assured reporters he would be more involved as the season went along. But so far, this proclamation has yet to manifest consistent playing time for Collier. Instead, it's brought two sporadic activations amid a slew of healthy scratches.
So what gives? It would be irresponsible to speculate what exactly is happening, but it's hard to ignore the clear signs of a rift between the two sides. It's gotten to a point where it cannot simply be a matter of Seattle picking its spots with Collier. One could argue his two activations have merely been a product of injuries to key linemen rather than a pure desire to play him, with Bryan Mone missing Week 2 and Nkemdiche missing Week 5.
The Seahawks are not going to cut Collier outright; if so, they would have done it by now. But it does feel like a split of some kind will—or should—come sometime soon, especially if he's inactive again in Monday night's matchup with the Saints. The trade deadline is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. PT on November 2, just as Seattle enters its bye week. The problem is: what the team is doing with Collier is severely capping his trade value.
Of course, Collier wasn't going to have much trade value anyway. But the Seahawks may have taken themselves out of the running for mid-round compensation or a player they'd prefer to take a chance on over him. Now, it's likely that the best they can get for Collier is a conditional sixth- or seventh-round draft selection in either 2022 or 2023. And at that point, is it even worth it? But also: how is keeping a young, frustrated player you're not planning to play any more beneficial?
Really, this reeks of bad process—something Seattle's vaunted front office continues to exhibit concerning signs of.
The best solution here is not to sell Collier for pennies on the dollar, nor let him sit on the sidelines in street clothes for most of the season. Even if they want to move on eventually, the Seahawks need to play him for the sake of his development and potential trade value. Nothing will be gained by doing what they're doing now.