Welcome to the wild and wacky world of free agency. Will the Seattle Seahawks be active or will they let other teams throw out the big contracts to the top talent?
The tough part of free agency is that there is proven talent on the market, but the big names are never cheap. Contrast that with the draft, where the money paid to rookies is much more tolerable, but the probability of success is much less certain.
If the Seahawks follow their pattern of the last couple of years, they will not necessarily be overly active in the free-agent market. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have worked hard to rebuild this team through the draft. They have had some definitive success, as well as some picks that have not panned out as hoped. There is certainly the possibility that they will stick with smaller free-agent deals and continue building through the draft.
Then again, Seattle is arguably close to making a serious Super Bowl run. Might Carroll and Schneider commit more money to proven veterans in order to balance out the young talent? Time will tell.
Here is a guide to the free-agent market and how the Seattle Seahawks may be involved.
The Seahawks do have some money to spend in 2013. However, there is a big difference between the ability to spend and the need to spend.
Seattle currently has a cap number (via Spotrac.com) of $106,360,410 for 2013, with an NFL salary cap that is set at $123 million. That includes $13.2 million rolled over from 2012, as part of the new carryover provision that was part of the latest collective bargaining agreement.
Total amount available to spend: $16,639,590.
Should the Seahawks take their vacation time now and live in the moment, or save up for a big trip next year?
The team can approach the cap from a couple of angles. You either spend the money and make a run at a title, or you leave a cushion so that you have the cash to commit to large contracts that will be coming up in 2014 and 2015.
There is also the issue of individual players, as there are a few salaries that stand out. Specifically, Zach Miller will represent a cap hit of $11 million. Sidney Rice is at $9.7 million, Chris Clemons at $8.2 million and backup quarterback Matt Flynn will cost the team $7.25 million in 2013.
The team is not necessarily going to take action on these contracts, but they do represent barriers to making moves, both now and in the future.
The Seahawks do have a list of free agents, but they do not necessarily represent key parts of the team. In other words, there is not necessarily anyone on the list whom fans are clamoring to have back.
The full list of unrestricted and restricted free agents includes 12 players (via NFL.com), but many have not been widely discussed because they are not key contributors and would probably not be back under any circumstances. Arguably, the more important names include:
Alan Branch (Defensive tackle)
Jason Jones (Defensive tackle)
Leroy Hill (Linebacker)
Steven Hauschka (Kicker)
Marcus Trufant (Cornerback)
All of these names listed are unrestricted free agents, which means that the Seahawks could be competing with any other team in the league for their services. That is assuming that there is much competition.
The reality is that none of these players may return in 2013. If any do return, they will not come back with particularly lengthy or lucrative deals.
The franchise tag situation for the Seahawks is pretty simple. There will be no franchise tag this year...again.
As noted by The Seattle Times, Seattle has chosen to skip this particular NFL protection scheme, simply because there is not a player who fits the profile. Most often a team will franchise a valuable player because it wants to retain him but is not ready to work out a long-term deal.
Seattle has many valuable players, but none are currently in a contract situation where the team has to worry about them walking away during this offseason. This may change in 2014 or 2015.
There was some brief talk about using the franchise tag on kicker Steven Hauschka (via NBC Sports), but that did not happen. If the Seahawks would have tagged Hauschka, they would have been forced to pay him almost $3 million.
Realistically, Hauschka can probably be re-signed or replaced for a cheaper price.
The latest news is that the Seahawks have re-signed...nobody!
This news is fairly dull, but hardly a shock. Technically, the free-agent period hasn’t officially started anyway, even though a couple of deals have already been announced, such as Dwayne Bowe re-signing with the Kansas City Chiefs (via Fox Sports). This is a way for teams to make sure their stars do not hit the open market.
Whether any of the in-house free agents will be re-signed is yet to be determined, but as mentioned, it would not be surprising if none of the existing list returned. There are players who can still have a positive impact on this team, but the price will have to be right.
Alan Branch is solid, but not a superstar. The same could be said about Steven Hauschka. Jason Jones may be too injury-prone. Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant are getting old. These players may come back, but the team is not going to be offering expensive, multiyear deals.
All of these needs may be addressed through the draft or with veteran players who have been cut by other teams.
There are several areas on the Seahawks that could be improved. The team does not have any truly glaring positional needs, but there are certainly some spots that could use some help. Defensive tackle, defensive end, wide receiver, outside linebacker and offensive line come to mind.
Ultimately, this all depends on whether Carroll and Schneider want to fill them through the draft or bring in proven help. In addition, there are questions that only these men can answer. Specifically:
How much faith do they have in the current defensive tackles, and do they see a future for Alan Branch and Jason Jones?
Do Carroll and Schneider believe that Chris Clemons will be effective in 2013 after he returns from injury, and are they happy with the role of Bruce Irvin? Or, is defensive end perceived to be a major need?
Are the Seahawks content with their receiving corps, or do they see a need to go out and get a “big play” receiver through free agency or the draft?
Does Seattle believe that Malcolm Smith is ready to be a starter, and if so, is the team just looking for depth?
Is the coaching staff happy with its current offensive line options, or is it time to move on from certain players and accept that certain solutions are not viable?
The Seahawks need some help at defensive tackle, but will they go after anyone in the free-agent market? Reportedly, Cullen Jenkins will visit Seattle (via ProFootballTalk.com), and he may represent the type of player that the Seahawks could pursue.
In other words, veteran, short-term and inexpensive.
Now that Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears and Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins have been franchise tagged (via Yahoo! Sports), the list of available free agents at defensive tackle looks a lot different.
If Seattle wants to go after a veteran, there are players like Richard Seymour or Desmond Bryant of the Oakland Raiders, or Sammie Lee Hill of the Detroit Lions. Seymour would be more of a short-term stopgap if Seattle wanted to pair a veteran with a draft pick.
Realistically, any free-agent signing at defensive tackle is probably going to be a smaller move to add depth. The big names are off the board, which means that the Seahawks no longer have an opportunity to make a big offer to a marquee defensive tackle.
If Seattle believes that it needs help at wide receiver, it seems unlikely that the team will go shopping in the free-agent market. Think about the names that are available.
Victor Cruz: Restricted. The Giants aren’t going to let him go.
Dwayne Bowe: Re-signed with the Kansas City Chiefs (via NFL.com).
Mike Wallace: Talented athlete, but drops a lot of balls.
Greg Jennings: Also talented, but has trouble staying healthy of late.
Brian Hartline: The Miami Dolphins are working on a deal (via Fox Sports).
Wes Welker: Ditto...just change the team to the New England Patriots (via NESN.com).
Are you sensing a theme? After these marquee names, the talent starts to drop off, and Seattle would arguably be better off drafting a wideout. Maybe the Seahawks make a smaller deal to add depth, but the list of available free agents is not particularly exciting.
For the Seahawks, defensive end is a bit of a quandary. Chris Clemons went down with a tough injury in the playoffs, and at his age, he may or may not be the same. Bruce Irvin had his moments in 2012, but the general consensus seems to be that he is not an every-down solution.
Does Seattle go get another defensive end in the draft? Or, do they draw from the list of available free agents?
Many of the veteran names (via ESPN) are familiar: Dwight Freeney, John Abraham, Osi Umenyiora; former greats that may or may not be effective anymore.
The questions are just as familiar: Are any of these guys a good fit for the defense? Would he create a logjam when Clemons returns? Do they have enough left to make it worth bringing one of them in?
If the Seahawks are confident that Clemons will return, they may not look at free agents. Otherwise, do not be surprised if free agents start scheduling visits.
To use an overused phrase, Seattle may need to go big or go home when it comes to the offensive line. In other words, spend some big money, bring in a major talent and accept that some of the guys on the roster are not going to develop.
Or, work with what you have and perhaps add another project through the draft.
There are certainly some good players out there. Andre Smith of the Cincinnati Bengals and Sebastian Vollmer of the New England Patriots are a couple of examples.
Again, you don't bring this brand of player in just to compete with what you have right now. These types of players are going to be expensive, and Seattle may not be in the position to spend big cash on another offensive lineman. As much as some of the linemen have been critiqued, they did play better down the stretch, and Russell Wilson's feet allowed him to avoid some sacks.
Do not expect Seattle to bring in a veteran offensive lineman.