Seattle Seahawks Free Agency: What They've Got and What They Still Need

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIMarch 25, 2012

Seattle Seahawks Free Agency: What They've Got and What They Still Need

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    Just like last year, free agency has been a reunion tour for the Seattle Seahawks, filled with former Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders.

    Of the four players they have signed, three had connections to the Seahawks: Matt Flynn and Kregg Lumpkin, with John Schneider in Green Bay and Frank Omiyale with Tom Cable in Atlanta.

    Of the four other guys who reportedly have been in for visits, three had hooks with the Hawks: Steve Hutchinson (an ex-Hawk who played under Darrell Bevell in Minnesota), Visanthe Shiancoe (Vikings) and Dave Tollefson (drafted by Schneider's Packers in 2006). The Hawks also reportedly were interested in former Raiders Kamerion Wimbley and Michael Bush.

    As Schneider told John Clayton at the Combine: "There are guys obviously in free agency that you just feel more comfortable with because you have seen them play. You've seen their line of work."

    Seattle hasn't gotten every guy it has wanted—in fact, other than re-signing Red Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, Breno Giacomini, Michael Robinson and Heath Farwell, the Hawks have struck out on most of their top free-agent targets.

    No Peyton Manning, no Mario Williams, no Wimbley.

    Of course, that also means they didn't have to fork over a ton of money to those guys.

    Before free agency started, they said they wanted to focus on keeping their own guys.

    "We'd like to reward our own players," Schneider told Clayton. "Once you get to a point where you…get the group you think you can win with, and you're comfortable with, you try to keep that group together and try to keep that cohesion, and try to supplement with free agency if you need to for specific needs and specific holes."

    They filled a couple of big holes with Flynn and Jason Jones. Flynn should be the next Matt Hasselbeck, and Jones should fill the inside pass-rusher role Jimmy Wilkerson was expected to last season before he got hurt in the preseason. 

    The Hawks also need to address the linebacker position, where they need two starters. Pete Carroll hinted recently that the draft could provide some good options, and he didn't seem overly optimistic that David Hawthorne would return.

    Beyond that, they are just looking for depth on the lines, at tight end and at running back.

    Here's a closer look at the positions the Seahawks have addressed and still need to focus on, either in free agency or the draft.

Linebacker

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    Even if second-year linebacker K.J. Wright, who had a great December, slides into the middle, the Hawks need two more starters.

    There weren't any great players available in free agency and the draft is stocked with good linebackers, so the market for linebackers has been very slow, and most are re-signing with their old teams. Stephen Tulloch re-upped with Detroit on Monday as Hawthorne was on the way there for a visit.

    Hawthorne also has been pursued by New Orleans and Chicago, but the Saints have signed two starting linebackers (Chris Chamberlain and Curtis Lofton) in the last few days. So, as he runs out of options, the chances of Hawthorne returning to Seattle increase. Leroy Hill also is a free agent and could return at a bargain rate.

    Carroll said the Hawks have kept in contact with Hawthorne and Hill.

    "We’re hoping to get both those guys back. They played good football for us," Carroll told 710 ESPN Radio on Tuesday. "We'd like to keep as much continuity as possible. We're pleased with the direction we're going. Having said that, it's still a big challenge."

    That seems to indicate Hawthorne is still hoping to get at least $5 million a year (the amount Tulloch received). If he comes down to $3 million, the Hawks might be more interested in bringing him back.

    The Seahawks re-signed Farwell, but he is a special-teamer/backup. They also apparently like second-year linebacker Malcolm Smith, an undersized linebacker (6 feet, 226 pounds) who was limited by hamstring and concussion problems as a rookie. But they need at least one veteran starter before the draft.

    They could look at Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly with the No. 12 pick. The tackling machine's stock has skyrocketed since he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the Combine.

    "The draft is linebacker-heavy this year," Carroll said, "…so that does affect the mindsets of some of the teams and how they’re going to operate, knowing they're going to be able to get a very good player."

    Prediction: The Hawks eventually re-sign Hawthorne and/or Hill and go with a young guy at the other spot.

Pass-Rusher

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    Carroll lamented the lack of an inside rush in his first two years, and the Seahawks might have solved that issue, at least for 2012, by adding Jones, a 6'5", 276-pounder who figures to play inside on passing downs and spell Bryant as well.

    Jones, a 2008 second-round pick, apparently settled for a one-year deal because he played out of position at end last year in Tennessee,  and wants to rebuild his value in 2012 and hit the market again in 2013.

    He might have preferred St. Louis, but the Rams signed Kendall Langford. And Jones apparently is intrigued by having the Seahawks' 12th man behind him in 2012.

    Schneider told KIRO 710 ESPN: "He saw what Chris Clemons has done and what Raheem (Brock) has done and Dexter (Davis) in his first year. So to be able to come in here and be a situational interior pass rusher, which we've really been lacking over the last several years, to come in here and be able to jump off the ball, really that noise factor was a big deal for him.

    "We think he's got a big upside, and he thinks he's got a big upside as well, so he's looking at this as a proving ground. And again, I think it's a credit to the 12th man, because he saw this is a stadium he could come into and be incredibly effective."

    It will be interesting to see how Carroll and Gus Bradley use Jones and Alan Branch, an excellent addition last year who helped the Hawks shut down the run. 

    The Hawks still need an outside complement to Clemons.

    They were said to be interested in Williams, but he shuffled off to Buffalo pretty quickly and, as in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, Seattle never had a shot.

    The Hawks also reportedly were among the teams interested in Wimbley, the pass-rusher cut by Oakland last weekend. But the Tennessee Titans quickly scooped him up for $35 million over five years.

    Now the Hawks are talking to Tollefson, who had five sacks as a backup end on the Giants' deep line last season.  

    The Hawks' best chance to find a pass-rusher probably will be the draft, where they might look at Alabama's Courtney Upshaw or South Carolina's Melvin Ingram at No. 12, or find one in the second round.

Offensive Line

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    When the Seahawks cut Robert Gallery, it looked like they were poised to bring back Steve Hutchinson. But he reunited with Mike Reinfeldt and Matt Hasselbeck in Tennessee.

    The Seahawks instead re-signed Paul McQuistan, and it seems likely that he'll play left guard, where he started three times last season, until James Carpenter is healthy enough to challenge him.

    In talking about signing Flynn, Carroll mentioned "a young offensive line we're excited about with depth." That seems to indicate he is comfortable with the group that includes Russell Okung, McQuistan, James Carpenter, Max Unger, John Moffitt, Breno Giacomini and Lemuel Jeanpierre. 

    The Hawks also just signed Omiyale, who apparently knows the zone scheme because he played under Cable in Atlanta. If he has to play, they had better hope he is better than the guy who had 19 false starts over the last three seasons in Chicago.

    Of course, as we have mentioned before, it would never hurt to fortify that group even more in the draft. Stanford's David DeCastro, the best interior lineman in this class, could be a great pick at No. 12 and step right in at right guard.

    This line, if healthy, could be great for the rest of the decade: Okung, Carpenter, Unger, DeCastro, Giacomini.

Tight End

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    The Seahawks also are unfortunately looking for a tight end to replace John Carlson, who signed with Minnesota after receiving major interest despite missing last season with a shoulder injury.

    The Hawks need an upgrade over Cameron Morrah and Anthony McCoy, who were not dependable last season.

    Shiancoe, whom Carlson replaced in Minnesota, and Jacob Tamme were in last week. The Hawks reportedly were higher on Tamme, but he joined Manning in Denver on Friday, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Seattle sign Shiancoe soon. He knows the offense and is a good combo receiver/blocker.

    The Hawks also could look at Dallas Clark. The fact that the Broncos preferred Tamme to Clark in reuniting Manning with one of his Colts tight ends means Clark is still available.

    Seattle also could look at tight ends in the draft. Stanford's Coby Fleener is the top-rated guy and could go late in the first round. They could look at Clemson's Dwayne Allen in the second round.

    Or, they could hope Morrah and McCoy get better.  

Running Back

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    The Hawks have Leon Washington for third downs, but they apparently wanted a bigger back than Justin Forsett, who is a free agent, to spell Marshawn Lynch.

    They reportedly were interested in Michael Bush, who played for Cable in Oakland, but the 245-pound, four-year veteran signed with Chicago on Thursday.

    Although they could have checked out veterans like Ryan Grant (another Packer) and Cedric Benson, Cincinnati's former starter, the Hawks decided on Lumpkin.

    The 5'11", 228-pound back entered the league with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2008, so Schneider is familiar with him. He caught 41 passes for Tampa Bay last season.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see the Hawks draft a back (Washington's Chris Polk?).  

Will Hawks Get a Jump on Contract Extentions for Unger, Branch or Clemons?

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    The Hawks had about $21 million left after signing Flynn, so they definitely have the money to add linebackers, a tight end and a defensive end. But they also might want to use some of that to extend some players after the draft.

    Their key free agents in 2013 will be QB Tarvaris Jackson, Unger, Clemons, Branch, Jones, Morrah and WR Deon Butler.

    Among those, Unger is the top priority, but the Hawks also should look into extending Branch. Depending on what they get in the draft, they might also consider extending Clemons.

Other Hawk Talk

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    Former Seahawks execs Reinfeldt and Ruston Webster have taken it to their old team in free agency.

    While the Hawks were never in the Manning sweepstakes (thankfully), Tennessee apparently was a finalist for the hometown hero. The Titans didn't get Manning, but they did ace out the Hawks for Hutchinson.

    And then they procured Wimbley, the pass-rusher cut by Oakland and reportedly pursued by the Seahawks and several other teams. The Titans signed Wimbley, who had 42.5 sacks in six seasons for Cleveland and Oakland, for $35 million over five years.

    Add the fact that the Titans ended up with the better quarterback in 2011 after signing Hasselbeck, and they are 3-0-1 against the Hawks in free agency in the last two years.

    A lot was made of the fact that the Hawks didn't gamble too much money on Flynn. And that is true. Flynn will count $4 million against the cap in 2012, based on a reported $6 million signing bonus (pro-rated over three years) and a $2 million salary.

    He also has $2 million in incentives if he is the starter, but that money would hit the 2013 cap since it is unearned at this point. In 2013, Flynn's base cap hit will be $7.25 million (plus $2 million if he starts in 2012). His 2014 salary is $6.25 million, and he also has $5 million in additional incentives. Odds are the Hawks will give him a new deal after the 2013 season, assuming he earns one.

    Did the Chargers just want to rub it in Schneider's face by bringing back Charlie Whitehurst?

    "Hey, John, we suckered you out of a third-round pick. And then brought him back! Neener neener!" Why else would they bring back Whitehurst and let Billy Volek go? They obviously didn’t see Whitehurst's game against Cleveland last season.

    Peter King related a funny exchange between Schneider and receiver Doug Baldwin after Flynn asked for No. 15, which Baldwin wore last season. Schneider asked Baldwin if he would be OK giving up the number. Baldwin agreed but asked for No. 89 instead. With Carlson leaving, that number was open, so Schneider said yes.

    Baldwin was skeptical: "You sure I can have 89?'' Schneider: "Doug, I'm sort of the boss around here. Yeah, you can have it.''