For all the headlines and commercials starring Russell Wilson, Seattle has always only been as good as its defense. Back when their D was best in class, they made it all the way to the championship game twice in a row (winning once and coming within a single yard—and a single dubious offensive playcall—of repeating). When they didn’t, the team faded out in the playoffs. Ultimately, the most successful version of Seattle's team is a defense oriented one. That in mind, it isn't hard to see why the Seahawks decided to ship out Jermaine Kearse (and some picks) for Sheldon Richardson.
Kearse was well-liked in Seattle, and made some very big-time plays in some very big-time moments. At worst, he was their second best receiver once Golden Tate left town, and the offense won’t be quite as potent without him. So far, at least in our limited social media sampling, there don’t seem to be many hard feelings from the 12th Man, with the vast majority of Seattle posters wishing their former receiver well. There’s no question Kearse made the team better when he was on it.
But Richardson seems likely to make them even better than that. Pairing with fellow Pro Bowlers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on the front line (to say nothing of overqualified backup Frank Clark, who rang up 10 sacks last season himself), Richardson gives Seattle a thrice-deadly frontline pass rush. That's pretty much the absolute last thing quarterbacks throwing against Seattle’s legendary Legion of Boom secondary want to deal with… to say nothing of Pro-Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner leading the second wave.
It doesn’t hurt, either, that Richardson has the versatility to play basically anywhere on the line, from nose tackle to defensive end, as the need arises (heck, he even serves as a break-in-case-of-emergency offensive option, with two career rushing touchdowns to his name). Giving an already smothering defensive outfit like Seattle more options and dynamism is borderline unfair, but it’s exactly what the Jets just did. Given that the Jets are a conference away and unlikely to run into Seattle in the playoffs anytime soon, they’re probably fine with it. That puts them squarely in the minority among their NFL peers, though; most would much rather try to contain a Seattle offense with one more scoring threat than face a defense with yet another over-muscled cruise missile aimed at their quarterback.
Seattle was already a fringe contender before the trade. With it—and assuming health for at least most of their core defenders—they’re now arguably an NFC favorite; at the very least, they’re once again the kind of team that can win a playoff game 3-0 if they have to, and nobody likes seeing those teams come January.
Well, nobody except the 12th Man.