FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jermaine Kearse has gone from a Seahawks team with legitimate Super Bowl hopes to a Jets team in rebuilding mode, but the 27-year-old receiver has no reservations — and no hesitation — about embracing his new team.
“I’m not here to compare Seattle to the Jets,” Kearse said Monday after his first practice with the Jets since being traded for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on Friday. “I’m here to work and do whatever I can to help this team win football games. That’s all I’m focused on. I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”
Kearse had heard rumblings that he might be on the outs in Seattle, so the trade “wasn’t like a complete blindside,” he said. “I just stayed prepared.”
He joins a team desperate for help at receiver after the offseason release of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as well as the season-ending neck injury to Quincy Enunwa. Kearse is expected to become a starter, possibly in time for Sunday’s regular-season opener in Buffalo.
“I got a chip on my shoulder, and I’m still hungry out there and I got a lot of things that I want to prove,” he said. “We’ve got a young receiving corps and a lot of guys that want to do the same.”
Kearse had modest numbers in six seasons with the Seahawks, catching 153 passes for 2,109 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he put in some of his best work in playoff situations, including an acrobatic catch in the Seahawks’ 28-24 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. The catch put the Seahawks in position to go ahead, but Russell Wilson’s ill-fated interception near the goal line sealed the win for the Patriots. The Seahawks were roundly criticized for not running Marshawn Lynch on the play.
In 12 playoff games, Kearse has 31 catches for 493 yards and six touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came in the Seahawks’ win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, so he has fond memories of his new home field.
The Seahawks visited the Jets last season and Kearse caught three passes for 23 yards in Seattle’s 27-17 Week 4 win.
Coach Todd Bowles said Kearse offers “veteran leadership and obviously, he can catch the ball. He’s got to get up to speed on the offense some. He’s made big catches in big games. Very intelligent, good blocker, good team guy. Just have to see what his favorite routes are and things we can do with him.”
In the Richardson-Kearse trade, the Jets also received a 2018 second-round pick and the teams agreed to swap seventh-round choices. Bowles expressed support for the trade, even though it meant giving up on the 26-year-old Richardson.
“It was a good move for both parties,” said Bowles, who added he has “a very close relationship off the field [with Richardson] that goes beyond football.”
“Good move for us short-term and long-term. We get another wideout. We got an extra pick, and [the Seahawks] got a good player. We understand it’s a business.”
Richardson’s former teammates expressed disappointment to see him go but optimism that the team can move forward without him.
“We’re just going to keep pushing forward and keep working hard,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “Every person should feel like the pressure’s on their back to make a play, any play.”
“It’s a business, but [Richardson] is still my brother. That’s still my friend,” defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. “I know he’s going to do great things in Seattle. Of course, I would like to have him here, but like I said, it’s a business. There’s nothing else anybody can say or do about it. Everybody has to step up and do more, do their job. Everybody has to be on the same page — one team, one goal.”
Will the trade work out in the end?
“You have to ask the people upstairs,” Wilkerson said. “I just play football.”
Richardson, speaking with reporters after his first practice with the Seahawks on Monday, said he enjoyed his time with the Jets and remains close with several former teammates.
“That locker room’s still my brothers,” he said. “Keep in touch with them. I might ride with them for the rest of my life, because they looked out for me in tough times in my tribulations and trials and stuff like that. I’m going to miss them, but on to new endeavors.”
Richardson didn’t get along last season with wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who now plays for the Giants. Asked Monday about how the relationship deteriorated, Richardson said, “No comments on BMarsh. Leave that in New York. Let that lie.”