Settling debate over Pro Bowl receivers

Josh from Redding, Calif., could use some help settling an argument. His friends say the Seattle Seahawks haven't used free agency to bring in any Pro Bowl-caliber receivers. Josh points to Deion Branch and T.J. Houshmandzadeh as players with that kind of potential, but he wonders why neither produced for Seattle the way they did for their previous teams.



Mike Sando: None of the wide receivers Seattle has signed in free agency during the Hasselbeck era were coming off a Pro Bowl-caliber season when he signed with the Seahawks. Therefore, no one should be surprised that the free-agent receivers Seattle signed during this era failed to reach that level with the team. That is the most direct, succinct answer to your question.

Bobby Engram was coming off a torn ACL when Seattle signed him back in 2001. He enjoyed his best season playing with Hasselbeck. Engram put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers for the team in 2007 with 94 receptions for 1,147 yards and six touchdowns. Seattle got as much or more from Engram than the Chicago Bears had gotten from him. But there were no expectations of Pro Bowls when the Seahawks signed him. Engram was simply trying to get healthy.

Branch never put up Pro Bowl numbers before or after signing with Seattle (after the Seahawks acquired him by trade). He suffered a torn ACL in the final game of his second season with the Seahawks. Branch also joined the team at a time when the front office (Tim Ruskell) and head coach (Mike Holmgren) were falling out of sync. Holmgren could have done more to maximize what Branch offered, Ruskell could have done more to make sure Holmgren was getting what he wanted, or a combination of both. By the time Branch was back up to speed physically, Holmgren was gone, Hasselbeck was battling injuries and Branch, through his fat contract, had come to symbolize the unfulfilled expectations of a franchise in decline following its Super Bowl appearance.

Houshmandzadeh had been to one Pro Bowl in eight seasons before signing with Seattle. He was 32 years old and declining during his first season with Seattle. However, his numbers for receiving yards, yards per reception and touchdowns increased from 2008, his final season with Cincinnati, to 2009, his only season with Seattle. Houshmandzadeh, like Branch, came to the organization during a time of transition. He never seemed to mesh with Hasselbeck, either.



Nate Burleson's numbers with Minnesota had been in decline when Seattle signed him as a free agent in 2006. Burleson had one solid season with the Seahawks. He suffered a torn ACL in the season opener of his third season with the team. Burleson never put up Pro Bowl numbers before or after signing with Seattle.

Seattle simply has not signed Pro Bowl-caliber receivers in free agency during the Hasselbeck era. The team has done well finding solid role players on occasion, from Engram to Joe Jurevicius.

But only three wide receivers in Seahawks history have represented the team in a Pro Bowl. One of them, Alex Bannister, did so as a special-teams player. The others, Steve Largent and Brian Blades, never played with Hasselbeck. Blades was the last Seattle player to represent the team in a Pro Bowl as a wide receiver -- following the 1989 season.

Right off, then, we can say that Hasselbeck wasn't the only Seattle quarterback to spend his Seahawks career throwing to wideouts deemed unworthy of Pro Bowl acclaim.