At 4 PM ET today, the 2012-2013 NFL season will officially begin, and all free agents will be officially "free" to negotiate with any team. According to ProFootballTalk.com, the Seattle Seahawks are currently $29.8 million under the salary cap. Only six teams have more cap space (the Redskins did until they were cap-slapped by the NFL yesterday), so the Seahawks should prove to be decent spenders over the next few weeks and months.
In 2011, Seattle rode to a 7-9 record on the backs of Tarvaris Jackson and his torn pec and biceps, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Chris Clemons and Earl Thomas, despite massive roster turnover, no offseason, losing three of four starting linemen and two starting wide receivers to injury and surviving the rookie growing pains of fielding the third youngest team in the NFL. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done an excellent job overhauling the roster, and the Seahawks could figure to be at least a .500 team, as they move forward with a roster full of familiar, more experienced players.
Carroll and Schneider have proven very capable of finding starting-caliber players through the draft, as evidenced by Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Walter Thurmond III and Baldwin. However, with only six draft picks to their name and nearly $30 million to spend, Seattle will look to free agency to fill some of those holes.
In evaluating players I think the Seahawks will pursue, I consider age, scheme fit and cost. Carroll and Schneider have really emphasized their desire to "go young" and their transactions have supported that emphasis. Apart from Robert Gallery and Paul McQuistan, who were signed because of their connection to offensive line coach and assistant head coach Tom Cable, nearly every player brought into Seattle in the past two season has been under the age of 27. I think age is an important factor because Carroll and Schneider aren't just building to win now, they are building a dynasty that can win this year, next year and five years from now.
Schneider came to Seattle from Green Bay, where he learned at the feet of the legendary executives Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson, neither of whom were known for their activity in free agency. Both general managers built heavily through the draft, only going outside their organization in the first few years for key building blocks, then later for once-in-a-generation talents (Reggie White, Charles Woodson, etc.). Otherwise, they focused their money on re-signing homegrown players who had proven themselves within their system.
Since Schneider took over in Seattle, he has employed a similar strategy. In fact, in a recent interview on Sirius radio, quoted here by Davis Hsu (a local Seattle guy who has studied the Green Bay model extensively), Schneider said, "If we put together a nice draft this year, [add] a couple nice free agents, redo some of our guys together, then, yeah, we'll be on our way. [Next year, we'll] add another draft to that and we'll be on our way to the motto we had at Green Bay, where we don't have to go outside the house."
So, Seattle is planning on adding a couple nice free agents this season, but it may be the last time they do so.
With that in mind, let's look at some solid young options the Seahawks could build around.