Will Paul Richardson be too expensive for the Seahawks to re-sign?

When the Seattle Seahawks acquired speedy wide receiver Marcus Johnson from the Philadelphia Eagles last week, it's a safe bet that they had Paul Richardson in mind.

Richardson is one of the Seahawks' top unrestricted free agents, and though they'd undoubtedly love to have him back, consider a few things:

  • Richardson is to hit the market in a year when the NFL draft is considered particularly thin with first-round receiver prospects, which could make veteran free agents at that position more coveted.

  • As only a one-year starter, he doesn't fit the profile of the type of player the Seahawks have made a priority to keep. They've tended to extend those players a year before free agency.

  • The Seahawks are already paying big money to top receiver Doug Baldwin and have a few promising young players behind him on the depth chart, most notably Tyler Lockett.

All of which makes it easier to see Richardson signing elsewhere than getting a multiyear deal from Seattle worth any substantial amount of money. It's an outcome the Seahawks seemed to be protecting themselves against when they supplemented their receiver corps by adding Johnson in the Michael Bennett trade.

The NFL's pre-free agency negotiating window opened Monday without word of any movement regarding Richardson, but he figures to have at least a decent market.

As Seattle's No. 2 receiver behind Baldwin last season, he caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns -- career highs by a wide margin. He has elite speed and a knack for making contested catches in midair. Those traits helped him become Seattle's best big-play threat in 2017, with his yards-per-catch average of just under 16 leading all Seahawks receivers who had at least 10 receptions.

Richardson is only 25 (he turns 26 in April), and for all his injury issues early in his career, the fact that he's only missed one game over the past two seasons should assuage some of the concerns about his durability.

So what's that all worth?

Former NFL agent Joel Corry, who now writes about contract and salary-cap matters for CBSSports.com, noted that recent deals for good No. 2 receivers have averaged between $6 million and $8 million per season.

Corry puts Richardson in that category and thinks he'll be looking for the same kind of money that Kenny Stills got last year when he signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Miami Dolphins that includes just under $20 million in total guarantees. A relevant deal on the lower end of that range is one that Richardson's high school teammate, Robert Woods, got last year from the Los Angeles Rams. It's worth $34 million over five years with $15 million in total guarantees.

A deal similar to Woods' wouldn't necessarily be prohibitive for the Seahawks. They entered Monday with about $31 million in available cap space, and the three-year deal they just gave safety Bradley McDougald shouldn't take up too much of that total.

But would the Seahawks want to spend that kind of money given the landscape of their receiver corps?

Baldwin, who barely missed out on his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, has three years remaining on a contract that averages $11.5 million. Seattle spent a 2017 third-round pick on Amara Darboh before drafting David Moore in the seventh round. The Seahawks liked Moore enough to promote him to the active roster last season and thereby avoid another team snagging him from their practice squad. That was a factor in Seattle's decision to waive Dwight Freeney.

And then there's Lockett. He wasn't completely right last season after suffering a gruesome leg fracture in December 2016, but it's reasonable to think that he'll be better in 2018 being another year removed from that injury. He also has something that Richardson doesn't -- All-Pro ability as a return man.

"If you sign him," Corry said of Richardson, "kiss Lockett goodbye because you can't keep all three with Doug Baldwin still there."

An ideal scenario for the Seahawks would be this: Richardson's market doesn't develop and he comes back on a one-year deal at a reasonable rate in order to reset his value. That would keep a playmaker in the fold while giving the team another year to evaluate Richardson and Lockett before making a decision on which of them to keep long-term.

But if another team gives Richardson what he's looking for, the Seahawks seem prepared to turn to Lockett and their other young receivers to fill the void.