The Seattle Seahawks have some needs, and the free-agent period will open soon.
When free agency opens on March 12 (via NFL.com), will the ‘Hawks hit the market with gusto like a Black Friday shopper that has been camped out all night? Or, will the Seattle leadership let other teams rush the market while they patiently and methodically look for well-researched deals that make fewer headlines?
There is nothing that beats the excitement of the regular season and the playoffs, but there is something captivating about offseason rumors and speculation. Will the team sign a compelling new player? Will a free-agent signing move a franchise one step closer to a championship?
Amidst the hype, there are some obvious pitfalls. This is not a time for rash decisions. Teams like the Seahawks can certainly be bold.
However, the NFL free-agency period has a long history of franchises overpaying for certain players in order to ensure that they land the biggest fish.
The Seahawks are arguably in a great position right now to build on the success of 2012 and make a serious run at the Super Bowl in 2013. Seattle has needs, but not all of those needs have to addressed on March 12 with over-sized checks.
With that in mind, here are seven moves that Seattle must avoid in free agency.
Every team needs a good quarterback. The free-agent class of quarterbacks is basically Joe Flacco and, well, Joe Flacco. In addition, the draft class of future QBs is regarded as rather weak, particularly compared to last year’s group that produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s own Russell Wilson.
Enter Matt Flynn, who may be heading to another team via trade in the near future as franchises assess their needs and realize that options may be limited. The rumblings continue that Seattle will listen to offers (via NFL.com). Whether that means Seattle will sit back and wait for the phone to ring or be a little more proactive in shopping its backup quarterback is anyone’s guess.
It is fair to suggest that the value of Matt Flynn is a bit contested. Some fans see him as a marquee talent who could theoretically be flipped for another big-name player. Some see multiple draft picks. Other fans suggest that he might land a fourth-round pick.
Only the GMs known the value, and at this point that value may be undetermined. At the risk of stating the obvious, Flynn’s value is whatever a team with a QB need is desperate enough to offer.
The bottom line is that Seattle should carefully weigh offers and avoid trading Matt Flynn and getting too little in return.
There seems to be an ongoing belief that the defensive line is the top priority for the Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll made it clear in January (via NBC Sports) that Seattle needs to improve on its pass rush.
Will they go shopping in the free-agent market? Could Seattle go after someone like Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears or Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins?
There is obviously some concern about spending money on free agents. The free agent is a tempting commodity because they are arguably more proven than the draft pick that has “upside.” However, free agents can be quite expensive, and in some cases teams must overpay in order to outbid other franchises.
Seattle has done very well through the draft in recent years, but they should not put absolute and total faith in the draft process. This may be the time to grab a veteran or two and provide balance to the team.
So, what should the Seahawks avoid? They should avoid being too conservative in the marketplace, at least in relation to the defensive line. There is nothing wrong with making some serious inquiries.
The word “need” can mean so many things. For example, do the Seahawks need another wide receiver? Is that different than “it would be nice” to have another wide receiver?
To be sure, there will be some intriguing wideouts on the free-agent market. As noted by Field Gulls, the talent pool is pretty deep this year. The names are quite familiar.
Dwayne Bowe. Mike Wallace. Greg Jennings. Wes Welker. Danny Amendola. That's just a few.
All the big names have questions. Will Bowe be worth the requested money? Will Wallace catch enough balls? Is Jennings too old for a long-term deal? Will Welker prove to be a “system” receiver? Is Amendola too injury-prone?
This is an area where the Seahawks could use another athletic playmaker, but it may be prudent to proceed with caution. Obviously football is not the same as Major League Baseball or the NBA where a franchise can be saddled with a guaranteed contract that becomes a distraction after the player declines.
However, Seattle may want to avoid the top of the list, or at least only pursue them if they can be had at a reasonable price. The Seahawks seem to have a solid locker room right now. Receivers can add an interesting dynamic.
The Seahawks have a few of their own free agents, but the list (via MyNorthwest.com) is not terribly long and the players involved do not solicit the same urgency as last year.
Alan Branch. Steven Hauschka. Leroy Hill. Marcus Trufant. Jason Jones.
There is certainly reason to look at bringing back Branch, Hauschka and Jones. Hill and Trufant may be gone simply from an age standpoint.
The key here is to be realistic about the future. Branch has been a solid player and he will be a relatively known quantity, but you could see the Seahawks going in another direction. Hauschka is a good kicker, but does not necessarily have fantastic range and may not be worth the franchise tag. Jones may be a health concern after going down with a knee injury.
Seattle can certainly bring back its in-house free agents. However, the team should avoid overpaying. Somehow it seems reasonable to assume that Carroll and Schneider will make logical decisions.
Football is not a sport that can afford to pay for sentimentality.
There is nothing wrong with going after players that have a history of behavioral problems or in recent seasons have experienced a decline in productivity.
However, the Seahawks have built a very solid team at this point. The days of taking bigger chances may be over.
No one expects the entire team to be perfect citizens, but there is still reason to avoid players with obvious problems. To label a player a “head case” may be a bit harsh even though this is seemingly common vernacular in the sports world.
Let’s say “repeated run-ins with the law and off-field issues” (via NFL.com). Aqib Talib of the New England Patriots is just an example.
Obviously Seattle has done reasonably well with projects. Mike Williams worked well for a couple of seasons. Marshawn Lynch has turned into one of the NFL’s most productive backs despite some ongoing personal issues that have continued to crop up (via ESPN) on occasion.
Braylon Edwards did not exactly work out. Neither did Terrell Owens.
There is faith that Pete Carroll can work with a variety of challenges. This is not necessarily a theory that should be tested on an ongoing basis. The Seahawks should avoid the reclamation projects this year. Seattle is good enough that it does not need to reach for talent.
The offensive line is another area where Seattle may or may not need an upgrade depending on the perspective (via NFL.com).
There may be a temptation to upgrade the line through free agency, and there will be some talented players on market this year. The big stars will obviously be expensive.
At this point of the process, the Seahawks have multiple options for the offensive line. The problem is that injuries and inconsistent play have caused some to wonder whether this line needs some new personnel.
Consistent offensive line play is often about continuity, which means that swapping out pieces does not necessarily speed up the process even if certain players are more talented.
If Seattle is going to shop for a guard or right tackle in the free-agent market, it needs to be a top-tier player (such as Andy Levitre of the Buffalo Bills) that is going to step in and solidify a position.
The Seahawks should avoid confusion. Position battles can be healthy, but this offensive line needs to build on the success on the second half of the season and continue growing.
This may seem contradictory to the prior point, but the Seattle Seahawks should not spend just because there is an expectation that a marquee team will be “active” in the free-agent market.
Despite the talent on the market, there is such a thing as investing poorly. Who are the players to avoid? There are multiple lists, including Chris Roling’s article on overrated free agents.
Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers seems to be a semi-common theme.
The good thing is that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have demonstrated solid judgment over the last couple of seasons. In addition, the Seahawks are not in a situation where they may feel compelled to make a “splash” in the free-agent market.
Seattle has methodically built this team through the NFL draft. Perhaps this will continue to be the strategy. Then again, maybe Carroll and Schneider will decide that it is now time to build a champion with some key free agents.
Spend wisely, gentlemen. Spend generously, but do not spend just to spend.