Seattle Seahawks Free Agency: Tracking 2012 Signings, Targets and Rumors

Darin PikeContributor IMarch 2, 2012

Seattle Seahawks Free Agency: Tracking 2012 Signings, Targets and Rumors

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    The Seattle Seahawks had a bizarre season in 2011. They seemed to be a much better team than their 2010 playoff squad, but missed the playoffs and ended with the same 7-9 record.

    Then there was the dichotomy of a 2-6 start against a 5-3 finish...the latter part spoiling their shot at an elite quarterback but providing hope that the team's transformation is taking shape.

    Seattle fans also take a moral victory from being competitive in all but one contest. Their 2010 season saw them basically get blown out in all nine regular season losses.

    The Seahawks have a bit of work left to be done, and keeping track of the process can be difficult. However, the following pages can serve as a one-stop-shop for the latest offseason moves.

    Included will be slides on the Seahawks salary cap status and glaring roster holes. That will be followed by a listing of free agents, followed by contract expectations and which of those free agents will be returning.

    After establishing how much money the Seahawks expect to have in free agency, a list of open market free agent targets will be built. That will lead to potential draft strategies and names Seahawks fans might expect to hear called at the end of April.

    Pages will be updated as signings and any potential trades are made. 

Tracking Free-Agent Signings, Re-Signings and Roster Moves

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    April 12, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Seahawks have re-signed LBs Leroy Hill and Matt McCoy.

    April 9, 2012: Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com is reporting that the Seahawks have re-signed CB Marcus Trufant.

    April 6, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Seahawks have agreed to terms with CB Roy Lewis, G Deuce Lutui and LB Barrett Ruud.

    March 21, 2012: Evan Silva of Pro Football Talk is reporting via their Twitter that the Seahawks have signed offensive lineman Frank Omiyale.

    March 19, 2012: ProFootballTalk is reporting the Seahawks have released reserve OL Jarriel King following an arrest.

    March 18, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports via his Twitter that the Seahawks have agreed to terms on three-year contract with former Packers' backup quarterback Matt Flynn. The deal is reportedly worth $26 million with $10 million guaranteed.

    March 17, 2012 of ESPN is reporting that former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle/defensive end Jason Jones agreed to a one-year deal with the Seahawks, according to his agent Mike McCartney.

    March 15, 2012: Michael Robinson stated on his Twitter account that he is re-signing with Seattle. 

    March 14, 2012: ProFootballTalk is reporting the Seahawks have re-signed OL Paul McQuistan.

    March 14, 2012: The Seahawks released LG Robert Gallery. Gallery struggled through health issue in 2011; this move is likely a cost-cutting measure and to make room for Steve Hutchinson.

    March 13, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the Seahawks have re-signed Red Bryant. The contract is for 5 years, $35 million dollars with $14.5 million dollars guaranteed.

    March 13, 2012: The Seahawks re-signed Heath Farwell to a three year contract. 

    March 7, 2012: The Seahawks website is reporting that the team has released veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. He is now an unrestricted free agent.

    March 4, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting Marshawn Lynch has signed to a 4 year, 31 million dollar contract with 18 million guaranteed.

    This is a major signing for the Seahawks. It not only ensures the nucleus of the team is together for at least three more seasons, it frees up the franchise tag should the Seahawks wish to use it on another player.

    There are few players that are worth the tag amount...perhaps just one. John Carlson is the top free agent left at his position and would bring value to the team, either as a player or trade bait.

    February 10, 2012: The Seahawks re-signed Breno Giacomini, right tackle, to a two-year contract worth $6 million. Giacomini was instrumental filling in for James Carpenter following a season-ending knee injury.

    Carpenter may not be ready for the start of the 2012 season. Retaining Giacomini fills what could have been a troublesome void. It also opens up opportunities for Carpenter to possibly work in at guard, as the Seahawks will likely look to move on from Robert Gallery in 2013.

    January 11, 2012: The Seahawks signed RB Vai Taua to a 2012 future contract.

    January 10, 2012: The Seahawks signed RB Tyrell Sutton to a 2012 future contract.

    January 5, 2012: The Seahawks signed WR Charly Martin and DT Adrian Taylor to 2012 future contracts.

    January 3, 2012: The Seahawks signed DE Pierre Allen, LB Allen Bradford, CB Coye Francies, DE John Graves, CB Jesse Hoffman, TE John Nalbone and G Brent Osborne to 2012 future contracts.

Salary Cap Status

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    Seahawks 2012 Cap Room

    GoHawks.info has compiled information from Spotrac, ESPN and Pro Football Focus. Their data shows that the Seahawks currently have $85,089,766 in contractual obligations that will count against their 2012 salary cap. They also list the 2011 salaries for Seattle's 20 free agents.

    Projections on increased NFL revenues, from which the salary cap is derived, peg an expected 2012 NFL salary cap of around $124 million (a 3.3% increase from $120 million in 2011).

    This figure would leave the Seahawks roughly $38.9 million under the cap.

    While this is good news, there is more to the story. Pro Football Talk released information on teams' remaining 2011 salary cap that can be carried forward to 2012. The Seahawks are fifth in the NFL, with a $21.3 million surplus; Seattle must request to have these funds applied to their 2012 cap by February 28th.

    In total, the Seahawks could have $64.8 million to replace around $22.9 million of 2011 salaries. 

    There are other accounts that state the Seahawks will only have a total of around $38 million to spend in free agency. These comments do not detail if the expected cap carry-over is included or not.

    It is difficult to find how Seattle's cap figure could already be $12 million above the 2011 cap with over $23 million coming off the books...and that doesn't include cap hits from prorated signing bonuses.  

    Problematic Cap Hits

    Seattle has one contract that will need to be dealt with in 2012. Marcus Trufant was signed to a huge contract following his Pro Bowl season, but health issues have kept him from living up to expectations. He took a major reduction in 2011 prior to landing on the injured reserve list, and will need to do the same if he plans to stay in Seattle.

    He has a base salary of $7.2 million in 2012 to go along with a $1.67 million cap hit from his $10 million signing bonus. If traded or released prior to June 1, the Seahawks will need to absorb the entire $3.33 million in remaining cap expenses in 2012. That shouldn't be an issue, and the move would still add $5.5 million in cap room.

    Update: Trufant was released on March 7.

    Mike Williams poses a lesser issue, as he is scheduled to make $3,000,000 in 2012 with an additional $400,000 in bonus money. The Seahawks aren't likely to give up on their big receiver, but his contributions in 2011 don't validate his upcoming contract. Look for the Seahawks to respond at quarterback to get Williams back on track.

    Value Contracts

    The turnover in the Seahawks roster over the last two years has been complimented with great draft finds and signing undrafted free agents and first-year players. Most of these players are making little more than the league minimum, which is around $400,000 for players early in their careers.

    Seattle has 31 players making less than $1 million a year, 21 of which have a cap figure under $550,000.

    Other Major Cap Questions

    The Seahawks took advantage of the uncapped year to absorb unfriendly contracts. They enter 2012 in great shape relative to available dollars and dead cap hits. The only possible exception is how Aaron Curry's restructured deal dealt with the prorated signing bonus. It appears that was all absorbed in 2011, but I've been unable to find definitive word on this issue. 

Holes from the 2011 Team

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    When Pete Carroll took over the Seattle Seahawks, about the only position that was adequately staffed was quarterback. Two years later, it is one of their main weaknesses. The holes are few, though, and the Seahawks have options in free agency and the draft. 

    Offense

    Seattle has significantly improved the talent on their offense, even if it didn't quite show in the stat lines. They've added young talent on the offensive line, at wide receiver and at tight end. 

    Quarterback

    Tarvaris Jackson performed better in 2011 than he gets credit for. There is still room for improvement, but he played most of the season with a slightly torn pectoral muscle. A healthy Jackson with a full offseason with his teammates should lead to improved play at the quarterback position in 2012.

    However, don't expect the Seahawks to stand pat.

    "I think Tarvaris knows the theme of Pete's (Carroll) program is competition at every position, and so I think he recognizes that we are probably going to try to bring in somebody to compete with him.

    We always study guys that are possible cap casualty guys (Peyton Manning), unrestricted free agents (Matt Flynn), [restricted] free agents (Brian Hoyer), and then obviously the draft class, so that is the world we live in, or the different categories that we are scouting."

    -Seahawks GM John Schneider in an interview with John Clayton

    The Seahawks are likely to search for a free agent signing to compete with Jackson, along with turning their sites on a draft prospect.

    Offensive Line

    Seattle continued their ongoing tradition of major injury issues on the offensive line. While the impact was disastrous during the prior regime, Carroll and Schneider have added some solid depth on the line...thanks in no small part to Tom Cable.

    All five of their starting linemen missed at least one start in 2011 with three of them ending the season on injured reserve. 

    The Seahawks had four new starters in 2011, making for a rough start to the season. The lack of offseason workouts meant the unit had to start from scratch in training camp. The unit showed a fair amount of improvement over the season.

    The still gave up too many sacks, though. Some place the blame on Tarvaris Jackson for holding the ball too long or not making proper adjustments prior to the snap. While there were a few instances of this, it is hard to ignore the pressure that was often bearing down on him.

    Tight End

    Seattle added Zach Miller in free agency. This was a huge addition, even if he wasn't properly used in the passing scheme. His value was magnified by the loss of John Carlson in training camp.

    Defense

    Few teams saw the level of improvement the Seahawks demonstrated on defense in 2011. They went from 27th in yards and points allowed in 2010 to ninth and seventh, respectively, in 2011.

    Seattle showed marked improvement in most areas, including interceptions and forced turnovers. They landed three members of their secondary in the Pro Bowl.

    Defensive End

    The glaring hole in the Seahawks defense was an inconsistent pass rush. Chris Clemons continued to be the perfect match for Carroll's Leo end position, compiling 11.0 sacks on the season.

    Raheem Brock didn't match up to his 2010 form, though, leaving a hole in their edge rushing plans. Injuries to Dexter Davis and Pep Levingston undermined the Seahawks transition plans at the position.

    Defensive Tackle

    While being stout against the run, the defensive tackles in Seattle were fairly non-present in the pass rush. Part of that is by design, but quarterbacks were able to step up in, (and escape out of the front of), the pocket when pressure came off the edges. Seattle needs to generate more consistent edge pressure, but the tackle positions could have picked up some of the slack.

    Linebacker

    The linebackers worked through a few minor injuries and the transition from Aaron Curry...and responded quite well. They were active in rush defense and added several sacks.

    However, Seattle had a speed concern. David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill were liabilities in pass coverage, allowing too many big receptions by tight ends and running backs.

Listing the Seahawks 2012 Free Agents

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    The following players are set to become free agents in March:

           
    PLAYER POS. Free Agent Status   2011 Salary
    Michael Robinson RB Re-Signed, 2 Years 1,400,000
    Clinton McDonald DE RFA 405,000
    Atari Bigby S Signed with San Diego, 2 Years 685,000
    Red Bryant DE Re-Signed, 5 Years 441,000
    Heath Farwell LB Re-Signed, 3 Years 685,000
    Roy Lewis CB RFA 480,000
    Marshawn Lynch RB Re-signed, 4 Years 2,500,000
    Justin Forsett RB UFA 427,000
    Raheem Brock DT UFA 1,100,000
    Kennard Cox CB UFA 555,000
    Matt McCoy LB UFA 710,000
    Mike Gibson G UFA 525,000
    John Carlson TE Signed with Vikings, 5 Years 910,000
    Anthony Hargrove DE UFA 685,000
    Charlie Whitehurst QB Signed with Chargers, 2 Years 6,800,000
    Jimmy Wilkerson DE UFA 1,100,000
    David Hawthorne LB UFA 1,400,000
    Leroy Hill LB UFA 835,000
    Steven Hauschka K UFA 555,000
    David Vobora LB UFA 410,000
    Paul McQuistan OG

    Re-Signed

    685,000
    2011 Free Agent Salaries   23,293,000
         

    Update: The Seahawks signed Marcus Trufant to a one-year contract to return to Seattle.

    Update: The Seahawks have released LG Robert Gallery after just one season in Seattle.

    Update: The Seattle Seahawks released veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. The team will save $7.2 million in salary. After absorbing $1.67 million in dead-weight, they'll free up $5.5 million in salary cap room in 2012. 

    Update: ProFootballTalk is reporting the Seahawks have released reserve OL Jarriel King following an arrest.

Determining Contract Value and Worth for Every Seahawk Free Agent

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    Pete Carroll and John Schneider have diligently re-tooled the Seahawks roster over their first two years. They have taken a roster with few players that were worthy of a starting spot on most teams and transformed it to a talented unit with five Pro Bowl players.

    Seattle has another chance to improve their roster in 2012, as they have 20 players facing free agency. 

    Projections for the following contracts will vary widely depending on whom is placing the value. Players and their agents, for example, tend to over-estimate worth. Eventually it will be free agency and the open market that decides players' value. For now, you can lean on my estimations or share your own. 

     

    Marshawn Lynch, RB: $7.6 million 

    This is the one salary projection that is not an estimation. It is his value under the franchise tag, a distinction he's sure to receive if the two sides are not able to come to terms by March 5.

    On a longer-term basis, Lynch should garner a four-year, $28 million contract. This blends well with Frank Gore's three-year, $21 million extension signed prior to the 2011 season and is a respectable increase over Maurice Jones-Drew's five-year, $31 million contract.

    Update: Marshawn Lynch signed a four-year, $31 million contract. It includes $18 million in guaranteed money and will likely bring a cap number of less than $7.6 million. That figure could be as low as $5 million, assuming an $8 million signing bonus and $3 million in year-one base-salary.

     

    Red Bryant, DE: $5 million

    In the NFL, sacks equal dollars for defensive ends. So while this figure is low for an elite defensive end, Bryant's inability to be a three-down player keeps him from meeting that test.

    For a little perspective, Atari Bigby had as many sacks as "Big Red" in 2011. 

    Bryant's camp should recognize his production is more along the line of a good defensive tackle. Brandon Mebane's 2011 contract (five years, $25 million) provides a reasonable target. At 28-years-old, duration could be the tipping-point. Seattle may be leaning towards four years, while Brant's camp might want more guaranteed money over five seasons.

    He will receive a significant increase over his 2011 salary of $441,000. It shouldn't be so much as to keep him from returning, though.

    March 12, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the Seahawks have re-signed Red Bryant. The contract is for 5 years, $35 million dollars with $14.5 million dollars guaranteed. This is $10 million more than projected, but the first-year cap hit could still be in the $5 million range.


    David Hawthorne, MLB: $4,500,000

    Some projections for Hawthorne have been well above this range. However, Stephen Tulloch was only able to garner $3.25 million on a one-year deal in 2011 and will again be a free agent. I thought that contract would help set Hawthorne's value, but there is a new game in town.

    D'Qwell Jackson Re-signed with the Cleveland Browns for $42.5 million over five seasons. His guaranteed money in $19 million.

    With the bar the Browns set, there will likely be a team willing to pony up over $4 million a year for "Heater," but don't expect the Seahawks to be the club to do it. His pass defense skills are already pointing to needing an upgrade at the position.

     

    John Carlson, TE: $4,000,000

    I'm not convinced Carlson has earned this size of a payday, but tight ends will be at a premium during free agency. There are few options available, and the draft class is looking less than impressive.
    Teams are likely to attempt to mimic the success the New England Patriots had with dual tight ends in 2011.

    Carlson may not have the talent level of Rob Gronkowski, but he is one of the best options on the market in 2012. With the likes of Craig Stevens getting $15 million over four seasons, it is hard to imagine Carlson getting any less. 

    UPDATE: With Fred Davis of the Washington Redskins being franchise tagged, Carlson will be the best tight end to reach free agency. That could add another $1 million to his price tag. If the Seahawks can get a deal done with Lynch they might consider tagging Carlson and then work on a trade-and-sign arrangement. Otherwise, expect four-years and $20 million.

    UPDATE: As predicted, the elimination of Davis made Carlson the best free agent option at tight end. He signed with the Minnesota Vikings right at the projected $5 million per year, at five years for $25 million per Adam Schefter

     

    Michael Robinson, FB: $1.75 million

    Following a Pro Bowl season in 2011, Robinson certainly earned himself a raise over his one-year contract that paid him $1.4 million last season. He improved as a blocker over the course of last season, but still isn't in the class of "elite." He hasn't shown to be effective as a rusher or receiver, either.

    There are few free agent options at fullback in 2011, which could elevate Robinson's value on the open market. 

    UPDATE: Robinson reported via Twitter that he'll be returning to the Seahawks. " Please to announce I will be coming back next season! Time to win. ." The contract is a reported two-year deal worth $5 million.

     

    Steven Hauschka (RFA), K: $1,500,000

    Hauschka hasn't established himself as a top kicker in the NFL, but he has the potential. He has ample strength to find the end zone on kickoffs, and was a fairly consistent field goal kicker, converting on 25-30 attempts (83.3 percent).

    The free agent pool is ripe in 2012. The Seahawks will have options, but the affordability of a restricted free agent will be too much to pass up. Seattle would be wise to spend a little more on Hauschka to ink a multi-year contract, but this one-year deal will at least keep another team from taking him without a fight from the Seahawks.

     

    Anthony Hargrove, DE: $1,250,000

    Hargrove was a solid contributor in 2011 even though he was a late addition after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles. He can play several positions on the defensive front and could be useful as an interior pass rusher in 2012.

    Update: Hargrove's involvement, and subsequent comments, about the "Bounty Program" in New Orleans could hinder his odds of returning to Seattle. A more likely move would be re-joining Gregg Williams who is currently the defensive coordinator in St. Louis. Williams' status is uncertain at this point, though.

     

    Paul McQuistan, OG: $1,000,000

    While primarily expected to be a reserve in 2012, McQuistan was respectable when pressed into starting duty last season. He provides quality depth and the offense won't miss much when he is plugged into the lineup.

    March 14, 2012: ProFootballTalk is reporting the Seahawks have re-signed OL Paul McQuistan.

     

    Roy Lewis, CB (RFA): $1,250,000

    It is unlikely that another team will be willing to part with a draft pick to steal a backup cornerback away from the Seahawks. Expect the Seahawks to protect him with a minimum qualifying contract.

     

    Jimmy Wilkerson, DE: $1,000,000

    Pete Carroll speaks very highly of Wilkerson's spark and competitive nature.

    "Jimmy was just coming on and we were hoping that Jimmy would be an addition to the inside of our pass rush on third down and also give us backup play at end on early downs," Carroll stated at the year-end press conference. "Hopefully we'll have him back." 

    If Wilkerson can bring some pressure from the inside of the line he will definitely fill a void in Seattle. He's not a starting defensive end, but he could help with some pressure if he returns.

     

    Raheem Brock, DE: $1,000,000

    In reality, Raheem Brock may be headed to retirement. It will be difficult for him to find a team willing to part with the league minimum for a 10-year veteran. He was a late re-signing for the Seahawks in 2011, which could intimate he was having difficulties finding a contract offer elsewhere.

     

    Leroy Hill, OLB: $900,000

    Hill's 2012 salary will likely be reduced by 25 percent after Roger Goodell announces his suspension following another arrest for marijuana possession. That pales, though, to the hit he'll take in base salary.

    Following a solid 2012 campaign and facing a thin free-agent class at outside linebacker, Hill was posed to hit a big payday this offseason. But he's facing a suspension to start the year and there are concerns he could face an even larger absence should he make another mistake. Teams won't be able to trust he'll be there as a starting linebacker, relegating him to backup money.

     

    Atari Bigby, SS: $900,000

    Atari Bigby had a solid season in 2011 as a backup to Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor. He brought a needed veteran presence to the secondary and provided depth with knowledge of how to win. He can do the same for another team in 2012 and may challenge for a starting role.

    Update: Bigby signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Chargers.

     

    Heath Farwell, LB: $750,000

    It is likely Heath Farwell will sign for above the veteran minimum. He's a quality special teams contributor and could return to Seattle for that reason alone. However, a 30-year-old backup won't command a big salary on the open market.

    Update: Farwell was signed to a three-year contract by the Seahawks.

     

    Matt McCoy, LB: $750,000

    McCoy will fill a similar role to Farwell. He may have a little more value, as he's a year younger and was Seattle's leading special teams tackler when he was lost to injury last October.

     

    Mike Gibson, OG: $500,000

    Gibson has shown to be a decent backup and has the versatility to play guard or tackle. He'll likely continue to work for the league minimum.

     

    Justin Forsett, RB: $500,000

    Forsett flashed speed and was an exciting back and return man for the Seahawks early in his career. Leon Washington has taken over that role, though, 

     

    David Vobora, LB: $500,000

    After being released by the St. Louis Rams, Vobora held a revolving door policy with the Seahawks roster.

     

    Charlie Whitehurst, QB: $500,000

    It is possible that a team will be willing to sign Whitehurst to a bigger contract and expect him to take over as a backup option. It doesn't seem likely, though, after he struggled in his two starts in 2012.

    UPDATE: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports via his Twitter that the Chargers have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst


    Clinton McDonald, DE (RFA): $450,000

    McDonald was a solid addition in a trade that sent Kelly Jennings to the Cincinnati Bengals. He could continue to develop in Seattle.

     

    Kennard Cox, CB (ERFA): $400,000

    Cox is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent in 2012 and will be brought back at the league minimum. He offers solid depth in the secondary and is a good special teams contributor.

     

    Update: Add Marcus Trufant to the list of free agents. He was officially released by the Seahawks on March 7.

    Update: And Trufant now comes off the free agent list. With concerns that Walter Thurmond will be starting the season on the PUP list, the Seahawks have signed Trufant to a one-year contract. He'll like start the season as their nickel back, a role he should be great at. It will allow less wear and tear on his back and match him up with slot receivers. He will also likely provide depth as free safety.

Projecting Which Free Agents the Seahawks Will Re-Sign, Which Will Walk

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    The Seahawks will have some difficult decisions over the next few weeks. They have some players they simply can't afford to lose...well, perhaps just one they simply can't lose, and he's a prime candidate for the franchise tag.

    Then there are several key signings, and a few positions that would be difficult to replace. However, the Seahawks could continue to upgrade their roster while parting ways with most of their free agents.

    General manager John Schneider has stated keeping their own players is a priority, but only six of the following 21 players are starters. It is hard to imagine the team building by keeping backups as opposed to attempting to acquire players that can challenge current starters for playing time.

    As for the projected contract decisions facing the Seahawks:

    Marshawn Lynch, RB: Franchise Tag

    Seattle simply can't lose Lynch. He was the catalyst of their offense last season and the Seahawks aren't going to find a replacement this offseason. They are likely to find a complimentary back in the draft, and could even look to find Lynch's eventual replacement. 

    Update: Lynch has signed to a 4 year, 31 million dollar contract with 18 million guaranteed. The average of the contract is on-par with the allocated $7.6 million. However, with a signing bonus his first-year salary cap hit will likely be around $2 million less.

     

    Red Bryant, DE: Re-Sign

    Bryant simply has a bigger impact for the Seahawks than he'd have on another team. Seattle carved out a role for the former defensive tackle, and Bryant would love to stay and play for the franchise that has his father-in-law's name in their Ring of Honor.

    March 13, 2012: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the Seahawks have re-signed Red Bryant. The contract is for 5 years, $35 million dollars with $14.5 million dollars guaranteed. This is $10 million more than projected, but the first-year cap hit could still be in the $5 million range.

     

    John Carlson, TE: Free Agent Loss

    Contracts for tight ends became a bit nuts last season. The market is favorable for Carlson, and the Seahawks won't likely be able to match the offers he's going to receive.

    March 14: Carlson signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings.

     

    David Hawthorne, MLB: Free Agent Loss

    The Seahawks will likely be busy in the draft chasing linebackers. They have five free agents at the positions, and their two free-agent starters don't fit the team's needs in pass protection.

    Seattle would keep Hawthorne for the right contract, but a team like the Eagles may be ready to pounce on him. 

    April 7: Hawthorne opted to sign with the New Orleans Saints. While his choice of team seems odd, the Seahawks didn't value him enough to offer the length or dollar amounts the Saints offered.

    Seattle countered by signing Barrett Ruud to a one-year contract. He won't be a material change from Hawthorne.

     

    Steven Hauschka, K: Re-Sign

    Whether it is Haushka or one of the dozen free agents, the Seahawks will spend $2 million on a kicker this offseason. Hauschka showed enough to earn another contract...unless they can lure Josh Scobee or Matt Prater to town on a reasonable contract.

    March 13: The Seahawks tendered an offer to Hauschka, virtually assuring his return in 2012.

     

    Michael Robinson, FB: Re-Sign

    The Seahawks could be a factor in the Le'Ron McClain sweepstakes, but he is one of the few free agent options. The Seahawks are likely to stick to a known commodity. 

    March 15: Stated on Twitter that " Please to announce I will be coming back next season! Time to win. ."

     

    Anthony Hargrove, DE: Re-Sign

    Hargrove will need to compete to earn a roster spot, but he brings hustle and a great burst to the Seahawks defensive front.

     

    Paul McQuistan, OG: Free Agent Loss

    The Seahawks will likely find themselves headed in a different direction at guard. James Carpenter will likely start the season on the sidelines continuing his rehab. When he returns he will likely find himself looking at left guard instead of right tackle...depending on how Breno Giacomini performs.

    Seattle may end up choosing between McQuistan and Mike Gibson. Gibson could get the nod as a cheaper option even though McQuistan proved more valuable in 2011.

    March 14, 2012: ProFootballTalk is reporting the Seahawks have re-signed OL Paul McQuistan. The release of Robert Gallery facilitated the move and McQuistan offers solid depth for several line positions.

     

    Jimmy Wilkerson, DE: Free Agent Loss

    As much as Carroll likes Wilkerson, his age will make him expendable...not to mention the Seahawks needing to sigh a high-profile defensive end and the potential of drafting another end.

     

    Raheem Brock, DE: Retire/Free Agent Loss

    Brock barely made the team in 2011, and his severe drop in production will keep him from returning.

     

    Leroy Hill, OLB: Free Agent Loss

    Just a few days ago Hill was a front-runner to return to Seattle and fill a need as a run-stopper and pass-rushing outside linebacker. Another arrest for marijuana possession erased most thoughts of him being given yet another second-chance in Seattle.

     

    Atari Bigby, SS: Free Agent Loss

    I liked the signing of Bigby by the Seahawks last season. They needed a veteran presence and the perspective of a winner. Look for them to get that from their starters in 2012, while Bigby's departure opens up room for Jeron Johnson.

    Update: Bigby signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Chargers.

     

    Heath Farwell, LB: Re-Sign

    The return of Matt McCoy could mean the departure of Farwell...or vice versa.

    Update: Farwell re-signed with the Seahawks on a three-year contract.

     

    Matt McCoy, LB: Re-Sign

    Please see the comment above.

     

    Mike Gibson, OG: Re-Sign

    Gibson may end up being just a camp body, but he'll be given a chance to keep the roster spot he lost for part of the 2011 season.

    Update: Mike Gibson signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles after the Seahawks opted to not extend a minimum tender offer.

     

    Justin Forsett, RB: Free Agent Loss

    Forsett simply doesn't offer anything to the roster that already includes Leon Washington. His days of helping balance Lynch are done. 

     

    Charlie Whitehurst, QB: Free Agent Loss

    The same fans that were demanding Whitehurst be made the starter at the start of the season were wanting him replaced by a rookie undrafted free agent. How quickly they can fall.

    UPDATE: Charlie Whitehurst signed a two-year contract that sends him back to the San Diego Chargers.

     

    David Vobora, LB: Re-Sign

    Seattle has too many free agents in the linebacker group to let them all walk. Vobora could make more of an impact in 2012 after a full offseason and spending training camp with the Seahawks.

     

    Clinton McDonald, DE (RFA): Re-Sign

    McDonald offers options in the interior and off the edge for the defensive line. He will at least be given a shot to earn a roster spot.

    March 13: The Seahawks opted against tendering an offer for McDonald. This allows the team to re-sign him for the veteran minimum, as opposed to a qualifying offer, but exposes him to other teams.

     

    Roy Lewis, CB (RFA): Re-Sign

    The Seahawks have quality starters and some depth in their secondary. Lewis can fill in at corner, nickel or even free safety in a pinch.

    March 13: The Seahawks opted against tendering an offer for Lewis. This allows the team to re-sign him for the veteran minimum, as opposed to a qualifying offer, but exposes him to other teams.

    April 7: Seattle has come to contract terms with Lewis. He will provide special teams help and secondary depth in 2012.

     

    Kennard Cox, CB (ERFA): Re-Sign

    Cox will add depth and contribute on special teams.

Available Cap Space After Re-Signings

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    Seahawks Projected Available Cap Space for Free Agency: $34.1 million

    The 2012 salary cap has not yet been set, but there is talk of a potential cap of $124 million. The Seahawks players under contract for 2012 project a cap figure of $85.1 million. They also have a $21.3 million carryover, which leaves them with, potentially, $60.2 million to spend in free agency and the draft.

    The Seahawks will need approximately $6 million for their draft picks, leaving them with $54.2 million in free agency.

    I'm predicting the Seahawks will dedicate $20.1 million to their own free agents. Combined with current roster players, draft picks and three of four free agents, the Seahawks would have a roster of 65 players. Those contracts leave ample room for injury replacements over the course of the season.

    The "51 rule" limits the contracts that count towards the cap in the offseason, but is irrelevant once the season begins.

    Caveats

    There is still some question as to how much cap space the Seahawks have to work with. Some services report they will only have around $34-$38 million to spend in free agency, which leaves them in somewhat dire circumstances. They'd only be able to chance one or two free agents, and elite talent would be off their radar.

    John Clayton is one of the sources, but he doesn't state if those figures include the rollover from 2011.

    The Seahawks can also free up over $5.5 million in cap space depending on how they deal with Trufant.

    UPDATE: Re-signing Lynch could save an addition $2 to $2.5 million in 2012 salary cap room. A franchise tag would have meant a $7.6 million cap figure, whereas a $8 million signing bonus and a $3 million first-year salary only adds $5 million to the 2012 cap.

    Trufant was released from the team on March 7. This move eliminates his $7.2 million salary. The team will absorb the final two years of his prorated signing bonus in 2012. He would have had a cap hit of $8.9 million, but instead will only account for $3.3 million. This $5.6 million net would be enough to chase a high-profile linebacker.

    Cap Space as of March 8: Clayton stated the Seahawks were $36.0 million under the cap prior to re-signing Lynch. He still doesn't specify if that figure includes the expected 2011 carry-over. Signing Lynch and releasing Trufant is likely a cap-neutral proposition, and could even save the team $500,000.

    The Seahawks figure to be $18.5 million under the cap after signing their free agents and draft picks. That is enough to land a high-profile free agent, and the team still likely has the carry-forward available.

Biggest Needs After Re-Signings

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    The Seahawks have several approaches they can take with their own free agents, whom GM Schneider says will be a priority.

    But he also said the team will look to add a few free agents...just not as many as they did last offseason.

    The team will look to free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft to fill several outstanding needs. 

     

    Offense:

    Quarterback

    The Seahawks should add a free agent to compete with Jackson for the starting job. Depending on the quality of the free agent acquisition, they will likely draft another quarterback.  

    Offensive Line

    The Seahawks have quality starters across the board, but need to plan a transition plan for Robert Gallery. That could mean moving Carpenter to that spot when he's able to return from his knee injury, but that would leave them needing to look at the future at right tackle.

    Update: With the release of Robert Gallery and Jarriel King, offensive line becomes a position group that will likely need at least one draft pick.

     

    Running Back

    Even with re-signing Lynch, the Seahawks need another option in the backfield. Expect them to at least spend a late-round pick on a fast back with a little size and power. If Lynch is still operating under the franchise tag when the draft arrives, they could be looking for a player in the second or third round.

    Update: With the Oakland Raiders using the franchise tag on Tyvon Branch, Michael Bush could be available. He'd be dynamic in a rotation with Lynch. Having Lynch under contract makes the running back position less of a priority in the draft, though they still need to find a compliment and a backup for Lynch.

    Wide Receiver

    Seattle certainly has some quality depth in the receiver positions, but they are lacking proven top-end talent. Sidney Rice is an elite wide receiver when he's on the field, but he's only managed one healthy season in five. If the Seahawks are able to snag another player with similar capabilities they most certainly will consider it.

    It is also possible a certain quarterback will go to Seattle, but with the exception that his favorite target joins the Seahawks as well.

     

    Defense:

    Linebacker

    Most fans will look at an edge pass rusher as the team's primary need in the offseason. However, losing two of their starting linebackers in free agency makes this a bigger concern.

    Options in free agency could be thin, and it doesn't seem likely the team is ready to move Mike Morgan into the starting lineup. There are a few good starters available if the Seahawks are ready to spend $7 million a year.

    Defensive End

    If the Seahawks are going to turn their top-10 defense into an elite unit, they have to find a way to get to opposing quarterbacks. They had just 33 sacks in 2011. Even though that left them in the middle of the NFL ranks (tied for 19th), it is well short of what is expected of a smash-mouth defense.

    UPDATE: The Seahawks have signed former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle/defensive end Jason Jones to a one-year contract. Jones was the best interior pass rusher on the free agent market and is also capable of stepping outside and working as an edge rusher. His versatility and pass rush skills were a high priority for Pete Carroll and is an important signing.

    Free Safety

    The Seahawks have one of the best free safeties in the business, but currently lack a true backup. They may look for an option in the draft, but draft and free agency are a bit thin. They may be looking at corners that can back-fill the position.

Identifying Potential Free Agents the Seahawks Could Sign

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    The Seahawks have the cap room and available free agents to make a serious playoff run in 2012. It will be interesting to see if Carroll and Schneider opt to buy a few high-priced free agents to try to push the team over the hump, or reserve cap dollars in future years to ensure they can keep their nucleus together.

    Considering most of their top talent is currently signed through 2015, 2012 is the time for Seattle to make their move.

     

    Quarterback

    The options at quarterback are tempting, but also carry a fair amount of risk.

    Matt Flynn could step in and continue the performances he flashed for the Green Bay Packers, and Schneider has a good feel for what he brings to the table.

    "Matt is a championship kid, he really is. We drafted real him late -- I think it was the sixth or seventh round -- in Green Bay and you know he's done a really nice job. Those guys have done a great job of developing him over there. He's one of those guys who steps in the locker room and has instant respect."

    -John Schneider on Matt Flynn

    Update: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports via his Twitter that the Seahawks have agreed to terms on three-year contract with former Packers' backup quarterback Matt Flynn.

    On the opposite end of the scale is Peyton Manning. He's neither young nor inexperienced, but he poses a different risk altogether. Many fans are worried with the salary implications, but the bigger issue is risking a roster spot on a player that may not be ready to lead the team. It would mean ignoring Flynn, or even a player like Jason Campbell or Kyle Orton, and could leave Jackson at the helm for another season.

    It is hard to argue that Manning isn't worth the risk. The Seahawks would instantly become a contender with him under center...if he is healthy. Even with 50/50 odds, it is Seattle'e best shot at winning a championship. The team could then use draft picks in 2012 and 2013 to build the future at the position.

    Jason Campbell hasn't established himself as an elite quarterback, and isn't likely to do so. However, he is a solid passer and can efficiently run an offense. He would at a minimum press Jackson for starting duties, and could be a solid upgrade at the position.

    There are a several other free agent options, but none figure to be an upgrade to Jackson. Some have mentioned Kyle Orton as a possible signing, but it seems as though the Seahawks would have filed a waiver claim on him last season if they had an interest in him for 2012.

     

    Wide Receiver

    This is a stretch, but some said the same about Sidney Rice last season. Vincent Jackson is likely on his way out of San Diego and will be looking for a team with the potential to compete. His salary demands may be too much for a second receiver, but he would bring an incredible balance to the Seahawks offense.

    Update: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter via his Twitter, the Indianapolis Colts have re-signed star wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a three-year deal.

    A more likely connection would be Reggie Wayne following Peyton Manning to Seattle. If the Seahawks are able to convince the MVP to head to the northwest, adding Wayne would lead to the Seahawks offense making a bigger rise than their defense did in 2011.

    Offensive Guard

    The Seahawks aren't likely to spend big free agent money at this position, but the class has plenty of options. Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs and Evan Mathis are all scheduled to be available. 

     

    Defensive End

    The Seahawks would make a huge splash in the free agent pool if they can sign the player that figures to be the most coveted free agent of 2012.

    There have been comments about Seattle not being a premier free agent destination. However, they have one of the best training facilities in the NFL nestled in one of the premier U.S. cities.

    Similar to what Reggie White did for the Green Bay Packers, signing the top free agent of 2012 would go a long way in making the Seahawks a destination of choice.

    Mario Williams has priced himself out of Texas, and will likely be looking to return to playing a 4-3 defensive end role. The Seahawks have plenty of uses for him.


    The most straight-forward choice would be replacing Red Bryant and Raheem Brock with Williams. He would be an instant upgrade, even with a marginal drop in run defense.

    A more likely role, though, would be using Williams as their new Leo end. Chris Clemons would transition into a rotation with Red Bryant on passing downs, giving the Seahawks great pass rushers on both ends. 

    Williams could eat up to half of the Seahawks free agent wad unless the Seahawks back-loaded his contract, but it is hard to argue that he isn't worth it. He would do the same for their defense that a healthy Manning would do to the offense.

    The balance of the free-agent defensive ends still holds a lot of promise. This is one of the most talented free-agent classes ever, particularly with edge rushers. 

    Robert Mathis' career may not have many years left, but he still has a lot of production left. He'd be an ideal candidate to rush off the left side of the Seahawks defense. John Abraham would be able to fill a similar role, but at 34 years of age, his window is smaller. Update: The Indianapolis Colts have franchised Mathis and subsequently reworked a long-term deal.

    Cliff Avril is another top prospect for the Seahawks to consider. He had 11.0 sacks in 2011 and 8.5 in 2010. There is a concern his production has been fueled from playing next to Ndamukong Suh. While the same was said of Jared Allen in Minnesota, his production stayed high as talent left the Vikings.

    In the first game Suh missed last season, Avril wasn't present. He had no tackles on the game.

    However, Avril had his best game of the season the following week, notching eight tackles (seven solo) and two sacks. He also added two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.

    March 15, 2012 Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via his Twitter that Mario Williams will be given a six-year deal from the Bills. He reports that the contract is worth up to $100 million dollars with $50 million guaranteed.

     

    Linebacker

    The Seahawks will at least need to add a few depth players at linebacker. There are plenty of options available on the inside and outside backer spots.

    Curtis Lofton is the gem of the 2012 NFL free-agent class. He's only 26-years-old and is one of the best in the game, notching 147 tackles, seven passes defensed, two INTs and a touchdown. He could carry a $10 million price-tag, though.

    A more realistic approach would be grabbing Dan Connor from the Carolina Panthers. He took over for the injured Jon Beason last season. He started 11 games and notched 75 tackles and a pass defensed. He isn't elite, but he'd add depth to the roster and could be a decent starter.

    Many fans are intrigued by Larry Grant, who had a very good game against the Seahawks filling in for Patrick Willis. He is a restricted free agent, though, which could make it difficult for Seattle to see if he'd transfer well to a 4-3 scheme.

    Jonathan Goff will look to return from an injury that caused him to miss the Giants Super Bowl season. He had 80 tackles in 2010.

    Manny Lawson (Cincinnati Bengals) and Erin Henderson (Minnesota Vikings) are both outside options that would find a role with the Seahawks.

    Henderson is the best 4-3 outside linebacker of the class and has great speed. He also has some experience in the middle, adding to K.J. Wright's versatility.

    Seattle could even decide to continue to strip talent from the Vikings, signing him and his older brother, E.J. Henderson, who is the starting inside linebacker in Minnesota.

    The Seahawks may look to free agency to help fill in their roster in a few other areas, but high-profile signings aren't likely. If the Seahawks can manage a top QB and DE in free agency it will be a major statement for the NFL's most isolated team.

    Adding an elite linebacker to go along with them would make them serious contenders, and really open up their options during the draft.

    Update: The Raiders have released Kamerion Wimbley, creating an exciting prospect for the Seahawks. He would be a great OLB in their rushing sets, and could rotate in with Red Bryant on passing downs. His ability to drop into coverage or rush the passer would help keep opposing offenses off-guard and could lead to some exciting defensive plays.

    April 9: Seattle has signed Barrett Ruud to offer depth at Mike linebacker. David Hawthorne, Erin Henderon, Lawson, Lofton and Connor are all signed elsewhere. There is still a good chance Leroy Hill will return, and seeing Grant still unsigned is very promising for the Seahawks.

    Seattle is limited in offering Grant a contract, as they don't have their seventh-round draft pick in 2012. They would have to surrender their selection in Round 6, per Article 9 Section 3 (c) of the CBA. Two days prior to the draft the draft consideration moves to 2013, which means if Seattle will or has worked out a deal with Grant, it wouldn't be presented to the San Francisco 49ers until April 24th.

Projecting Contract Values for Seahawks Free-Agent Targets

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    There are still a few hurdles for the Seahawks to cross to chase the previous free agents. First, their final cap figure needs to be determined. Then they would need to determine how much of that should be spent in 2012. They have the option of back-loading contracts with large signing bonuses and higher salaries several years down the line.

    However, they could avoid the risk of entering cap hell in three or four seasons by using their available cap dollars now.

    If they can convince the following players that Seattle can be a contender, the following contracts could get them to a Super Bowl:

    DE Mario Williams: Six years, $1 billion

    Alright, Williams won't be asking for Austin Powers-type money, but he can demand almost whatever he wants. With incentives, Williams will be looking for a $100 million deal. The only question is if he will agree to spread that over five or six seasons and how much will be guaranteed.

    Provided a large chunk of the money is incentive-based, the field-tipping ability he would bring is exactly what GM John Schneider would like to see. An average of $15 million per season, with an additional $5 million per season in incentives, should be enough salary. Then it is just about convincing him Seattle is a great place to play.

    March 15, 2012 Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via his Twitter that Mario Williams will be given a six-year deal from the Bills. He reports that the contract is worth up to $100 million dollars with $50 million guaranteed.

     

    QB Peyton Manning: Thee years, $55 million

    Many fans are afraid of signing the best quarterback in the NFL, citing his age and health concerns. However, several players have had their best seasons after the age of 35. Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, Steve Young and Brett Favre all showed what an older quarterback can accomplish.

    Manning has always excelled because of his intelligence, and he's taken very few hits over the years. There is no reason to discount his production because he's in the later stages of his career.

    Manning's deal would likely be incentive-laden, and could even include a fourth season with no guaranteed money. If healthy and available, he would make Seattle an instant contender.

    The biggest risk with Manning is taking a roster spot from another free-agent quarterback and then not being ready for the season. But one of the Seahawks team physicians is Stan Herring. He is one of the country’s preeminent specialists for spine injuries; he should be able to give them valuable insight on Manning's prognosis, along with serving as an enticement to lure Manning to Seattle.

    3/19 Update: Chris Mortensen of ESPN is reporting that Peyton Manning will sign with the Broncos. Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Broncos will attempt to trade Tim Tebow.

     

    WR Reggie Wayne:

    Update: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter via his Twitter, the Indianapolis Colts have re-signed star wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a three-year deal.

    LB Dan Connor: Three years, $12 million

    Seattle certainly could do better than Connor, but there has to be some give-and-take on who they target. Connor at least has the potential to be a quality starter, but is still a bit of an unknown quantity.

    This may be an extreme wish-list, but Seattle has the money and front office savvy to make much of it happen.

    Update: Connor signed with the Dallas Cowboys for $6.8 million over two seasons. 

Analyzing the Seahawks Draft Strategy, Positions of Need

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    The Seahawks approach to the draft is very simple. John Schneider, in an interview on ESPN 710 Seattle, said the Seahawks won't panic. The team isn't willing to mortgage their future for any one player; instead, they will stick to their draft board and wait for the right player to come to them.

    Brock Huard asked if there was a fear that, after the top quarterbacks are spoken for, Seattle won't have their guy.

    "There’s not a fear. We’re not scared. We’re not fraidy cats or anything. We’re prepared and we’re still working through a lot of things. It’s a matter of what comes to you and what is appropriate. What type of player is appropriate to acquire at the appropriate time.

    We’re just not going to do the crazy or the panic thing. We’re just going to do what’s appropriate and see what comes to us. And if that player comes to us, great. If it’s 'Player A,' great. If it’s 'Player B' we’re going to build off his strengths. If it’s 'Player C' we’re going to build off of his strengths."

    -John Schneider

    When Huard asked if there was one guy that was worth selling the farm for, quarterback or otherwise, Schneider was clear and concise. “Not in my opinion.”

    Schneider later talked about how that approach worked in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. They had Flynn rated as a fourth-round talent, and despite having already used a second-round pick on Brian Brohm, they couldn't resist the value Flynn offered in the seventh-round.

    The front office has expressed interest in several quarterbacks. If they value one as a second-round talent and he is available, they will grab him in the second round. Otherwise, expect them to grab one in round three or even four where the player's value meshes with the pick.

    “If it was up to me we’d take a quarterback every year," Schneider said. "It just hasn’t fallen that way. We could go into (the 2012 NFL Draft) and take two.”

    The Seahawks are more likely to trade down than up early in the 2012 NFL Draft.

    In addition to quarterback, they have needs at linebacker, running back and defensive end. There are great players that will be available later in the first-round or in the second, and anything the Seahawks can do to acquire more picks will be considered.

    If the Seahawks do snag an elite defensive end in free agency, their first two picks could be used on linebackers. A late-first or early-second round pick could be used on a middle linebacker, with their scheduled second-round pick going to shore up the outside. 

Draft Names to Keep an Eye on

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    Linebacker

    The 2012 free-agent class has several players that would be a great fit in Seattle. I'm anticipating John Schneider and Pete Carroll will be busy finding a pass-rusher.

    As for taking Luke Kuechly in the top 12...I don't actually expect the Seahawks to keep their first pick. There figures to be a few teams wanting to move up to that spot, and Seattle will most certainly covet additional picks in 2012 or building a cache of early draft picks in 2013 to make a move on a franchise quarterback.

    Zach Brown is projected to be available late in the first round, even if some rate him is the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the draft. However, he could also drop a 4.4 time in the 40 at the NFL Combine this week, which could send his stock climbing. I'm not sold on his tackling abilities and would not draft him.

    Lavonte David is a second-round option that would offer a great mix of athleticism and tackling skills to boost the linebacker corps in Seattle. He's a bit undersized for NFL linemen, but Seattle didn't back away from Malcolm Smith in the draft, and signed another former USC linebacker, Mike Morgan. Both are listed at 226 lbs.

    Darius Fleming is a prospect that hasn't quite lived up to his potential, although it isn't from a lack of effort. He hasn't quite fit with the Notre Dame schemes, and a revolving door of coaching hasn't helped him hone his skills. 

    Fleming needs to improve on his technique, as he sometimes plays too high and doesn't always make tackles in the open. With some time working with the Seahawks defensive personnel, Fleming has the work ethic, size and speed to turn into an NFL linebacker.

    The Seahawks would likely be able to draft Fleming in Round 7.

    Running Back

    While Marshawn Lynch figures to be on the roster in 2012, the Seahawks need to replace the role Justin Forsett was expected to fill. 

    Defensive End

    If the Seahawks don't make adequate strides to obtain a pass rusher in free agency, Quinton Coples would be an intriguing target in the first round. He had a sub-par senior season, but has immense talent and physical tools. He will likely be off the board by the Seahawks first pick, though.

    Jared Crick could be a steal in the second round. He was a standout performer in 2010, but a torn pectoral muscle side-tracked his season in 2011. His value has slipped partly due to the injury, but also as a result of his weight. There is a concern he is undersized to be a defensive end in the NFL. The Seahawks have the scheme and coaching staff to make this selection work.

    Andre Branch is another possible Round 2 option. He would be a great fit for a Leo-type role, possibly spending 2012 platooning with Red Bryant to get accustomed to NFL tackles. He could then be the replacement for Chris Clemons moving forward.

    Olivier Vernon has a solid first-step as an edge rusher and would be an ideal candidate to platoon with Red Bryant on passing downs. He showed promise as a sophomore, but he wasn't overly present in 2011.

    The investigation of improper benefits being provided at the University of Miami could have been a distraction to Vernon. The scandal isn't likely to impact his draft status, but his poor showing as a junior certainly will.

    He could have used his senior season to turn things around, but the scrutiny could've made that difficult.

    Vernon is worth a gamble in the sixth round for Seattle, as he could spend a few years working against right tackles and learning the NFL.

    Overall, the Seahawks may be looking at their best combination of linebacker and defensive end from their first two picks. That could include discussion of Nick Perry, which would allow Seattle to move down in Round 1. Their best option very well could be moving down in Round 1, and then possibly to the start of the second round, and targeting Branch and David.

    Seattle could add three quality picks over the next two drafts with a few trades and still give them a feared pass-rusher and talented linebacker. Unless a player like Coples is coveted by the Seahawks' front office, expect them to be busy on draft day.

    Quarterback

    I've consistently listed Brandon Weeden as a quarterback I should be considering for the Seahawks, but discount him because he's five years older than most quarterbacks entering the NFL.

    Pete Carroll is interested in drafting players that can help the team win now. The quarterbacks that will be available to the Seahawks have red flags; most of them will need time to develop into an NFL starter.

    The biggest concern with Weeden is his age...although the way he plays "patty cake" with the ball before throwing bothers me a lot, too. His release point could be a bit higher, but at 6'4" his delivery is fairly solid.

    He is an accurate passer with a strong arm and offers something that is missing from Tarvaris Jackson's arsenal. Weeden anticipates when players will be open and throws to where they should be.

    Then again, throwing the ball to a talent like Justin Blackmon will give a quarterback that confidence.

    In Seattle, Weeden should be able to thrive with this approach. Mike Williams rarely looks open, but when the ball is sent his direction he usually catches it. 

    It shouldn't be that much of a surprise that his best catch on the season was a ball thrown not by Jackson, but Sidney Rice. Seattle's new wide receiver wasn't concerned about the coverage and didn't even seem to look for defenders near Williams. Instead, he threw a rainbow to the spot where Williams expected the ball.

    Speaking of Rice, he will appreciate Weeden's touch on deep passes, as will speedster Ricardo Lockette.

    Kris Durham is a big, fast precise route-runner that I believe could become a legitimate threat over the middle with Weeden. While he doesn't have Blackmon's athletic abilities after the catch, he can make a lot of similar receptions.

    My only reservation left on Weeden is if he'll be available in the third round. He has the talent to go earlier, but a team looking for a backup quarterback to develop into a starter will pass on him. The few teams looking for starting competition in 2012 figure to have already grabbed a quarterback in free agency and/or earlier in the draft.

    Many fans won't like the pick because of his age, but Weeden would be a solid pick in the third round. He could be a great rookie quarterback, and continue leading an NFL offense for 10 seasons.

    Offensive Guard

    Of the players I've rated as good prospects for the Seahawks in the middle rounds, there are a few that can possibly fall to the sixth round. Lucas Nix isn't one of them.

    Nix looks to be an ideal guard for a zone blocking team in the NFL. He is adept with cut blocks and will be a solid pass-blocker on the interior of the line.

    The biggest concerns with Nix are his speed and flexibility to handle edge rushers. He played guard and both tackle positions in college, While he was a good left tackle as a senior, he figures to move inside in the NFL to cover up these deficiencies.

    Nix isn't likely to excel with downfield blocking and shouldn't be asked to be a pulling guard too often. That will limit some teams from selecting him, but that shouldn't be an issue in Seattle. Having a year to sit behind Robert Gallery will serve him well.

    Update: There are conversations that James Carpenter could be moving to guard. With the addition of Deuce Lutui, the real depth issue could be at offensive tackle.