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.