Back on Sept. 6, NFL linebacker Mychal Kendricks pleaded guilty to insider trading after netting nearly $1.2 million in shady deals. It was a plea that led to his immediate release from the Cleveland Browns — but only a week later, he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks.
It seemed like his season ended in October when the NFL handed down an indefinite suspension, but that eventually became an eight-game ban. Now he’s eligible to play again for the Seahawks starting in Week 14 against the Vikings and he will play in place for K.J. Wright, who is still battling a knee injury.
Seahawks inactives vs. the Vikings pic.twitter.com/KYK7Kz1etR— Seahawks PR (@seahawksPR) December 10, 2018
With Kendricks facing up to 25 years in prison — but more likely to serve 30 to 37 months — when he’s sentenced in January, the last month of the 2018 season may be the last time we see the former Eagle take the field.
Wait, the league let a player who pleaded guilty to a felony take the field one week later?
It did! Partially because the NFL’s average criminal isn’t so enterprising. Kendricks’ insider trading bust was a groundbreaking development in the world of football scandals, so it took the league’s discipline czars a little while to figure out exactly what to do.
From @NFLprguy on soon-to-be #Seahawks LB Mychal Kendricks, who is awaiting federal sentencing: “The matter is under review. He is currently permitted to sign and participate in activities including games.”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 14, 2018
Kendrick’s arrest and plea happened at the very outset of the season, and the league’s gears of justice move slowly even when it’s dealing with an off-field issue with which it’s familiar. Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t formally charged with domestic abuse for a series of incidents that stemmed back to 2016, but NFL investigators still took 10 months after meeting with the Cowboys’ tailback before handing him a six-game suspension in August 2017. Jameis Winston was accused of groping an Uber driver in March 2016 and was officially investigated by the league beginning in November 2017. He wasn’t suspended until June 2018.
The league’s disciplinary process is an arduous one, and players are allowed to take the field while under investigation. The question is whether teams are willing to sign or play them. Seattle knew it was taking a risk by signing a player guaranteed to draw the league’s wrath, and his guilty plea only served to speed up the gap between offense and league sanctions. The Seahawks gambled anyway.
What does this mean for the Seahawks?
Seattle’s linebacking corps was so thin to start the season it signed a player who’d recently confessed to committing a felony. That should be all you need to know.
But if you’re digging for details or just generally trying to figure out what happened to the Legion of Boom let’s dig through the cliffs notes version of the great Seahawk dismantling of 2018.
This offseason, the Seahawks dealt defensive end Michael Bennett to the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles for a pair of draft picks. Ominous tweets from Jeremy Lane and Kam Chancellor foreshadowed Richard Sherman’s release; he’d later land with division rival San Francisco. Jeremy Lane was released. DeShawn Shead joined the Lions. Kam Chancellor was forced into retirement by a neck injury. Same with Cliff Avril, who is now a sports radio host.
That left Earl Thomas — who was “holding in” in an effort to be either traded or extended — Bobby Wagner, and Frank Clark as the only major holdovers from Seattle’s last NFC West title. They were the glue that holds together a patchwork frame of older veterans (Kendricks, Barkevious Mingo) and exciting young talent (Jarran Reed, the brothers Griffin) for what’s been a better-than-expected unit so far. Then the Seahawks lost Thomas to a broken leg Sunday.
Losing Kendricks for eight games was another blow, and getting him back will be a help. The veteran linebacker has two sacks, nine tackles, and a pass defended in two games (one start) since joining the team. He played 71 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in that span. Despite his late arrival, he was an important addition to the roster. His suspension put pressure on 2018 fifth-round pick Shaquem Griffin and veteran K.J. Wright to step up in his absence, and while they played well, getting Kendricks back will be a help.
The Seahawks knew the suspension was coming when they signed Kendricks, they just didn’t know when. They just probably didn’t realize they’d eventually get Kendricks back after his punishment. It may just be four games’ worth of help, but the shrewd move to add Kendricks seems to have been a good one for a team that now has its sights set on a playoff berth.