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'Hawk Talk' highlights: Pivotal year ahead for Rice, Tate

Rice
The Seahawks may not be able to afford to keep both Golden Tate and Sidney Rice after the 2013 season. (AP)

By Brady Henderson

The foursome of Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin give the Seahawks one of the NFL's deepest and most talented wide receiver corps in the NFL.

That may not be the case for long.

The small fortune Seattle gave to Harvin will force some tough decisions after the 2013 season. That's when Tate will become an unrestricted free agent and Rice's contract will combine with Harvin's to give the Seahawks two receivers counting more than $20 million against their salary cap. Baldwin will be a restricted free agent.

Danny O'Neil discussed the financial ramifications of Harvin's contract and the future of Seattle's receiver corps during the latest edition of "Hawk Talk". The full transcript can be found here. Highlights are below.

Grant asked whether the only way Seattle re-signs Tate is by cutting Rice and which receiver would be the better option if it came down to one or the other.

Danny O'Neil: It's a great question, and I'm not sure of the answer. It's hard for me to believe that Golden Tate will be re-signed and Sidney Rice will remain on his current contract in addition to having Percy Harvin's escalated salary-cap cost. That said, the similarities in size and skill set between Harvin and Tate make me wonder if you would choose to let the 6-4 Rice go to keep a pair of sub-6-footers. The final wild card: The flat-cap era. Remember, the salary cap is not expected to increase significantly this offseason. We don't know what the market will look like for sure.

Beast asked whether Rice or Tate is more replaceable given their different skill sets.

2012 stats and 2014 contract data for the top four receivers on Seattle's depth chart:
Percy Harvin (MIN)
Catches: 62
Yards: 677
Yards per catch: 10.9
Touchdowns: 3
2014 cap number: $13.4M
Sidney Rice
Catches: 50
Yards: 748
Yards per catch: 15
Touchdowns: 7
2014 cap number: $9.7M
Golden Tate
Catches: 45
Yards: 688
Yards per catch: 15.3
Touchdowns: 7
2014 status: UFA
Doug Baldwin
Catches: 29
Yards: 366
Yards per catch: 12.6
Touchdowns: 3
2014 status: RFA
Danny O'Neil: Well, considering that Harvin is going to still be in Seattle, it complicates that question. We have to see two things: 1) How does Rice hold up? Remember, he's stayed healthy for 16 games twice in his NFL career. 2) How does Tate produce in the same lineup as Harvin?

SeahawkInCali asked if the Seahawks could place the franchise tag on Tate if he has a strong season.

Danny O'Neil: Yes, Seattle can. Will it, though? That's an expensive number. It was $10.5 million this year, and you already have Percy Harvin counting almost $14 million against the cap in 2014.

KMorgan asked if Tate, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas would consider signing discounted contracts to stay with the Seahawks.

Danny O'Neil: I think that's unlikely. Each of those three players you mentioned must look at this next contract as the biggest they will sign in their respective careers. Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are two players who can point to 2012 as proof that they are among the very best at their respective positions, if not the best. That's not a recipe for accepting a discount. Where you see "discounts" is veterans seeking one last ride at a title or someone who is underwhelmed by the options in free agency (Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett) going somewhere they want to play on a short-term deal. They wouldn't want to leave per se, but put yourself in their positions: It's not like there's a shortage of cash under the cap and this team just went out and traded picks for the privilege of paying Percy Harvin a bunch of loot. And now you're going to plead poverty and ask me to take a discount to keep the team together?

Beast contended that Harvin is not an outside receiver.

Danny O'Neil: Let's wait and see on that declaration. He won't play outside on every down, that's for sure. But someone within the team – when I talked to them about Harvin and asked about where Harvin fit in – told me he could play everywhere. "Even the outside?" I said. "Even the outside. You know why? Because he's fast as (expletive)."

KMorgan asked how the Tate/Rice decision would be impacted if Chris Harper contributes significantly as a rookie?

Danny O'Neil: That "if" is so large given the way Harper looked over the offseason practices that I wouldn't go speculating about that just yet. Harper is going to need to earn a role in the receiving rotation before he gets any opportunities on the field let alone displace a starter.

Bird noted that Harper must beat out the likes of Phil Bates, Stephen Williams and Jermaine Kearse to secure a spot on the roster.

Danny O'Neil: Hard for me to see Harper not making the team, but yes, being a draft pick is no guarantee of making the team. The Seahawks have cut a fifth-round pick coming out of training camp each of the past two years, and they did let a fourth-rounder go midway through his rookie season in 2010 (E.J. Wilson).

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