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Seahawks DK Metcalf 'hungrier' after offseason work again with Russell Wilson in San Diego

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 8/3/2021 Gregg Bell, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Aug. 3—RENTON — DK Metcalf wants more.

He's a soaring star at 23 years old. He's coming off a season in which he set a Seahawks record with 1,303 yards receiving. He made his first Pro Bowl team in 2020. He spent this past offseason impressing professional track sprinters by zooming shoulder to shoulder with them in a 100-meter race before the U.S. Olympic Trials. He hung with the famous from a third sport while taking swings (and misses) in a fourth, during a celebrity softball game at Major League Baseball's All-Star Game last month.

That's plenty.

So to say Metcalf wants more is saying something.

DK, what has changed for you entering this season, your third of four in your rookie contract with Seattle?

"Hungrier."

I mean, scheme-wise, with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron installing his new system?

"Scheme-wise. My bad," Metcalf said following the fifth practice of training camp Monday.

"Still hungrier."

Good thing Metcalf wants more. Because he's about to get more in 2021:

— More varied routes, including one- and two-step quick-hitters in Waldron's offense. That's a change from Metcalf's first two seasons. Previous play caller Brian Schottenheimer sought to maximize the times the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Metcalf used his speed and size advantage down the field for big plays. Many times, it worked. Other times, quarterback Russell Wilson got harrassed, hit or both, holding onto the ball waiting for Metcalf to run 40-yard routes. Waldron seeks to maximize the ways to get the ball out of Wilson's hands sooner this season to help Seattle's porous pass protection through scheme — and into Metcalf's hands more quickly, so he can make plays after the (quicker) catch.

— More positions for him from more places across diverse formations. Metcalf spent much of his rookie and second seasons as Seattle's "X" wide receiver, on the line of scrimmage away from the tight end (when there was one). This season Waldron is likely to have Metcalf in the slot and at flanker ("Z") more often. Those new looks could include versatile new tight end Gerald Everett and even running back Chris Carson lined up outside with Metcalf, in cameo roles as wide receivers.

— More pre-snap motion. Quick motion, too, to get defenses confused and moving after Metcalf before Waldron has Wilson attacking where the moving defenders came from, or should be.

Metcalf vows his appetite is ready to handle all that and more.

"We are still trying to put the ball in the end zone," he said, "and Shane is getting the ball to his play makers."

Metcalf set that Seahawks record for yards receiving in 2020 while improving over his rookie season from 58 to 83 catches, and from seven touchdowns to 10. He and Tyler Lockett (with a Seahawks-record 100 receptions) combined for 183 catches, 2,357 yards and 20 of Wilson's team-record 40 touchdown passes last season.

Yet all the Seahawks got was a flat-lining offense that didn't counter defenses late in the year — and another early exit from the playoffs, a first-round loss at home to the Los Angeles Rams.

Seattle hasn't advanced past the divisional round of the NFC playoffs since it last went to the Super Bowl. That was at the end of the 2014 season.

That's what had Metcalf back at Wilson's offseason home in San Diego this spring into summer, training extra with him. Fellow wide receiver Freddie Swain (a rookie last year), Everett and tight end Will Dissly were among those also training in California with Wilson.

"It's showing more than just on the field," Metcalf said. "Everyone just gets to see Russ in the locker room or in the facility. But we got to spend some time at his house and out at dinner. It just showed a different side to the other players and the younger players that people really hadn't gotten to see yet."

Metcalf said Wilson, ever the leader, even let his hair down. A little. Maybe.

"It's not just that he is an on-the-field leader," Metcalf said. "He can joke around a little bit, from time to time."

The moves

Metcalf had done the same thing with Wilson before the 2020 season, both at the QB's home in San Diego plus at a resort in Mexico.

That's where Wilson taught Metcalf to swim, too.

Metcalf made a catch in practice Monday that looked like a backstroke.

On one of the first snaps of 11-of-11 work, Metcalf ran a quick — everything has been quick so far in Waldron's new offense — out route to the left sideline. Cornerback Tre Flowers was on Metcalf's shoulder, in stride with him to the boundary. Wilson's throw was behind Metcalf, as if by design to get it away from Flowers' tight coverage. Metcalf leaped and twisted his hulking torso back inside to his left, in midair. He snared the ball for a reception and first down before Flowers seemed to know where the ball was.

That's what spring workouts in San Diego and swimming in Mexico with Wilson can do.

"Be better than last year. That's always the goal," Metcalf said, a gold cross hanging from his neck and another hanging from his right ear.

If he is better this season, there may be more gold in his future.

Contract on the horizon

Don't look now but Metcalf's contract ends following the 2022 season. He is earning $911,914 in salary this year and is scheduled for a base pay of $1.12 million next year. Those are slotted contract terms for a second-round pick from 2019, per the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

At those prices, with his productivity and unique skill, you don't need a Ph.D. in applied mathematics to see Metcalf is massively underpaid — and that is an incredible bargain for the Seahawks.

In the past with their similarly rising stars, Carroll and general manager John Schneider have rewarded such Pro Bowl performance well above the values of rookie contracts by finalizing rich, second deals on the eve of the final contract years beginning. Kam Chancellor in 2013, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman in 2014, Wilson in 2015 and All-Pro punter Michael Dickson this June have been examples of that.

If he stays on the track he's on — the football one, not the one on which he ran 10.36 seconds at the Golden Games in California in June — Metcalf stands to get paid among at least the top 10 among NFL wide receivers, if not higher, given he's way younger than the rest of the top 10.

The league's 10th-highest paid wide receiver entering this season is Lockett, at $17.25 million per year. That's from the four-year contract the 28-year-old Lockett signed with Seattle in March, with $37 million guaranteed.

Metcalf finished seventh in the NFL in yards last season and tied with Lockett for eighth in touchdowns. His average of 15.7 yards per reception was second to Minnesota's Justin Jefferson's 15.9 for highest in the league among receivers with at least 67 catches in 2020.

The ninth-, eighth- and seventh-highest-paid wide receivers are Chicago's Allen Robinson ($17.98 million for this year), Cleveland's Odell Beckham Jr. ($18 million per season) and the New York Giants' Kenny Golladay (also $18 million per year). They are 29, 28 and 29 years old.

The Seahawks are thrilled to have the first opportunity to re-sign Metcalf, whom they traded up into the end of the second round to draft two years ago when some NFL teams thought he was a risk after a broken bone in his neck. He turns 24 in December.

Put it this way: the Seahawks are thrilled to have Metcalf over Robinson, Beckham Jr. and Golladay.

First things first: a 2021 season in which Metcalf says he is "hungrier" and has goals to get better.

Any statistical goals?

"You know I don't throw out numbers," he said.

With a smile.

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