SEATTLE, WA - Preparing for his seventh NFL season, Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett understands he's already beaten the odds. With the average career spanning just 3.3 seasons, the vast majority of his peers won't make it to a second contract. An even smaller percentage will earn a third contract.
But coming off arguably the best season of his career, at least from a statistical standpoint, a "blessed" Lockett joined that exclusive club by recently signing a four-year, $69.2 million extension. The deal ties the 28-year old wideout to Seattle through 2025 and features $37 million in guarantees.
"To me it's a phenomenal accomplishment, something that I never really thought about," Lockett told reporters on Tuesday. "Maybe until after you get a second contract it crosses your mind, but you're not really even thinking too much about it until it starts to sneak up on you."
The Seahawks originally drafted Lockett out of Kansas State in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Initially, he made his greatest impact on special teams, earning First-Team All-Pro accolades as a return specialist in his rookie season. He added 55 receptions for 664 yards and six touchdowns that season, emerging as a quality complementary weapon alongside Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.
Putting his athletic longevity into question, Lockett suffered a gnarly broken leg in a Week 16 matchup against the Cardinals the following season. Though he admitted he lost "half a step" as a result of the injury and at times wishes he still had that extra gear, he didn't have time to feel sorry for himself and knew he need to figure out how to reinvent himself.
"That sucked. But I had to learn how to make it work," Lockett reflected. "I had to learn how to walk. I had to learn how to crutch around... I had to come back and figure out how to be able to play my best ball maybe not feeling the way I used to feel. I had to learn how to still get open, I had to learn how to still beat people man-to-man, I had learn how to strengthen my leg to get that stuff back and to be stronger."
While rehabilitation following surgery tested Lockett in ways he had never been tested before - at times, he endured anxiety and panic attacks along the way - he persevered. Despite dealing with some lingering issues from the injury, he didn't miss a single game in his comeback season in 2017, producing 45 receptions for 555 yards and two touchdowns.
Taking the torch passed on by Baldwin, who retired after the 2018 season, Lockett has posted three straight seasons with at least 965 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Last year, he set a new Seahawks single-season franchise record with 100 receptions for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns, continuing to prove himself as one of the league's most underrated weapons.
Looking back at the process, Lockett believes being challenged by the adversity presented by his lengthy recovery from a broken leg played a crucial role in his ascendance as one of the NFL's best all-around receivers. Without it, a third contract in Seattle may not have happened.
"I understand that was part of my story that needed to happen because I needed all of these things to take place in order for me to get to this place mentally and physically," Lockett said. "To continue to grow, to continue to develop, to continue to evolve as I continue to become the best person I can for myself today."
Evolution seemed to be a central theme in Lockett's responses on Tuesday, whether reflecting on improvements in his own game, revisiting Seattle's offensive struggles in the second half, or delving into adapted offseason programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the Seahawks finished with a team record for points scored, the team sputtered down the stretch, scoring 20 or fewer points in five of the final nine games, including a wild card loss to the Rams. Lockett himself had four games with under 50 receiving yards and only scored three touchdowns during that span as defenses seemed to catch on to the team's once high-octane aerial attack.
If anything is to be learned from those struggles, Lockett suggested Seattle has to do a better job taking what defenses give them and not stubbornly forcing the issue trying to do what they want to do offensively. He also says the team can't dwell on how last season ended and start with a fresh slate in 2021.
“When you look at the first half of our season and you see the way that we played, I mean, why would we ever stop playing like that, right?” Lockett remarked. “Like, everything is clicking. Whatever we choose to do, it works, so to where we really didn’t have to worry about adjusting. We made everybody adjust to us. So it wasn’t until the second half of the season where we were truly faced with having to learn how to adjust. And that’s the thing that sometimes it’s hard for people in general.
“Like, even for us is, we’ve done so many things that was like out of this world where people was like, this offense is crazy, to where we didn’t have to adjust. And then when teams started doing some of the things that we hadn’t seen on film, and they were starting to just do certain things to prepare for us, now we had to learn how to be able to see what they’re doing before we attack. And that’s why I said it’s different.”
Lockett and the Seahawks will be looking to make these aforementioned adjustments with a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron set to implement his own scheme. They will be doing so amid another altered offseason program, as players released a statement through the NFL Players Association indicating they will not attend voluntary on-field workouts for safety-related reasons.
Serving as Seattle's union representative for the NFLPA, Lockett believes last year proved that teams don't have to have in-person offseason workouts. The Seahawks were able to make it through the entire 2020 season without a single player testing positive for the coronavirus and even with a new offense to install, he has faith the team can make the most of another virtual-centric program working remotely.
“Last year we did a virtual offseason. Nobody expected it to happen and it worked out perfectly fine,” Lockett said. “We also want to do a virtual this year.”
Heading into a new season, Lockett doesn't know exactly how Waldron's offense will look at this point. He only has spoken to him briefly when he was at the team facility to sign his contract and until the Seahawks launch their offseason program, few details about the scheme will be known.
Nonetheless, Lockett remains eager to begin learning the system and expects Waldron to position him for continued success across from fellow star DK Metcalf. Thankful for the rare opportunity to sign a second lucrative extension, he now has his sights set on achieving another impressive feat: playing his entire career with the same organization.
"To be able to see how they feel about me, understand how they feel about me, hear about them, hear those words and excitement and all those different types of things, it brings that type of feeling to me that they want me just as much as I want to be here. Who wouldn't want to finish their career with a team that loves you as much as you love them?"