The "Pedestrians" will be back at full strength in 2016.
The Seahawks and receiver Jermaine Kearse, an unrestricted free agent, agreed to a three-year contract Thursday, meaning Russell Wilson's top three targets from last season—Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Kearse—will all be back next season, which is very good news for a passing game that was on fire in the second half of the season.
Kearse, who signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent out of Washington in 2012, began his career on the Seahawks practice squad, earned a mid-season call-up to the 53-man roster as a rookie, then eventually became a starter in 2014. Kearse is coming off of the best season of his career, catching 49 passes for 685 yards and five touchdowns.
According to the analytic website Pro Football Focus, Wilson had a 126.1 passer rating when targeting Kearse last season, the fourth best number in the league, but only the third best on Seattle's roster, trailing No. 1 and 2 on the list Baldwin (142.8) and Lockett (130.4). Not bad for a position group that in the past has been described as "pedestrian" or as "appetizers."
And perhaps more significant than Kearse's numbers is the way he has been able to come up with so many big plays in his career. From the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown catch against San Francisco in one NFC championship game to his overtime game-winner against Green Bay the following year to big plays in Super Bowls and big numbers in other playoff games, few Seahawks, if any, have ever come up with more clutch catches in their careers than Kearse. In eight postseason games in which he has seen significant playing time, Kearse has 28 catches for 471 yards and six touchdowns.
"In the big game settings, he just seems to make big plays happen," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Kearse caught 11 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle's playoff loss to Carolina. "He can do it all throughout the year, but he seems to have a knack for being in the right place to make a special play… He's a terrific player. He really is. I don't know if other people appreciate him like we do. We love him in our system and we'd love him to stay with us."
Two months later, the Seahawks were able to work things out so Kearse would indeed stay with them, making him the third starter, along with cornerback Jeremy Lane and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, to stay in Seattle after hitting free agency.