On your mark...get set...make contract offers!
The Seattle Seahawks will join the rest of the NFL in the race for the free agents, as the period for signing veterans officially begins on March 12. Agents and teams can officially start talking March 9, and rumors have already started flying faster than Marquiss Goodwin’s time at the combine (via NFL.com).
Do the ‘Hawks have needs that could be met at least partially through free agency? Yes. Should they be active and possibly aggressive in the free agent market? Not necessarily.
This team has done very well by building through the draft, and that may continue to be the strategy in 2013. Still, there are some interesting players on the market that might look very good in a Seattle uniform. We will know very shortly whether Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be going shopping.
Here is a blueprint that the Seattle Seahawks can use for winning free agency.
This is not a time for rash decisions.
Certainly there are some intriguing names on the market, but the Seahawks are arguably in a position where they do not have to reach on free agents. Seattle can show up at the free agent store, but it should not rush the doors when they open. It is arguably more prudent to hang back.
There are team needs. The Seahawks could stand to upgrade the defensive line, address potential shortcomings at defensive end, add a big target at wide receiver and increase the depth at outside linebacker. In addition, you can never have enough depth on the offensive line or in the secondary.
Would it be nice to go get a proven offensive guard like Andy Levitre from the Buffalo Bills? Could it be intriguing to make a run at defensive end Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions? Sure.
However, this is not how this team has been built. The Seahawks have big in-house free agent contracts to think about in the future and they cannot necessarily break the bank this off-season.
This is a time for patience. Make some calls, but do not act impulsively or overpay.
Do the Seahawks need another receiver? If they do, do they need a “big play” receiver or just more depth? Regardless, there has been an ongoing suggestion that wide receiver is a need for this team.
When it comes to free agency, the Seahawks should skip most of this free agent class. Again, this is not a time for the team to overspend on a big name.
Mike Wallace is an intriguing athlete, but he drops too many balls. Greg Jennings is a proven receiver, but he has become an injury risk over the last couple of years. Wes Welker is arguably most productive with Tom Brady and he will probably end up with the Patriots anyway.
Should Seattle follow the recommendations put forth by Pete King of Sports Illustrated and go after someone like Brandon Gibson of the St. Louis Rams in order to add depth? Perhaps, but this seems like a need that could be filled through the draft.
Now, if one of the big names remains unsigned and can be had in a few weeks at a discount price, it may be appropriate to make the call. Otherwise, wait for the draft.
The defensive line is arguably the biggest need for the Seahawks. This is an area where Seattle may be interested in pursuing a free agent or two. Again, the Seahawks should not get into a bidding war for an aging former star.
At this point, the biggest names are already gone since Henry Melton has been franchised by the Bears and Randy Starks has received the same tag from the Dolphins. If the Seahawks were going to make a large offer, those would have been the players.
Some of the other names have already been mentioned. Desmond Bryant or Richard Seymour of the Raiders could fill a need on the line. The same could be said for Sammie Lee Hill from the Lions or Cullen Jenkins of the Eagles.
Or, there is always Jason Jones. He already has the uniform.
At the sake of sounding redundant, Seattle may not work terribly hard to sign any of these players. The plan may be to make some calls and see if someone wants to come in for a short contract. Otherwise, the Seahawks might look for a young defensive tackle in the draft and keep building via the youth movement.
What do the Seahawks do about defensive end? Chris Clemons went down with a tough injury, and at his age he may not rebound at full strength. Bruce Irvin is an exciting athlete, but he does not have the body to be an every-down defensive end.
Will the Seahawks draft another defensive end this year? Will they trust that Clemons can come back? Is there a belief that Irvin can develop into an effective pass rusher on a consistent basis?
Regardless, the Seahawks should probably make some phone calls and schedule some visits. John Abraham, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, will be visiting Seattle (via The Seattle Times). Seattle could also look at veteran defensive ends such as Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora.
If the Seahawks want a longer-term solution, they would have to pursue someone like Cliff Avril of the Lions, or theoretically they could try to re-acquire Michael Bennett. That seems less likely.
The veterans may provide some help to this defense, but Seattle has to target athletes that fit the unique defensive scheme of the Seahawks. In addition, Seattle should not break the bank on soon-to-be 35-year-old players like Abraham.
Seattle can look around the league for potential pieces, but there are also current players that must be addressed. The Seahawks do not necessarily have any players that “must” be signed, but decisions do need to be made.
Specifically, the Seahawks must make a decision on Alan Branch, Steven Hauschka, Leroy Hill and Marcus Trufant.
Branch may return, but it seems reasonable that Seattle will only want him if he is willing to take a 2-3 year deal at a reasonable market rate. It may be prudent to retain Hauschka on an affordable multi-year deal, simply because there are not a lot of free agent options that represent a vast improvement.
Due to their ages, Hill and Trufant may be gone, even if they were willing to come back for a low-end contract.
The Seahawks should contact their in-house free agents just as a matter of professional courtesy, but there is necessarily a high degree of urgency to offer deals on the first day.
For the Seahawks, the blueprint for free agent success may be to look for bargains after the dust clears. The NFL can be a tough league from a player perspective, simply because this is the time of year where teams jettison a lot of players that are just too expensive.
Good players will be looking for jobs, and they may be willing to work for a lot less. Just keep the veteran deals short. Manageable. Incentive-laden.
Charles Woodson on a short-term deal to play with his new pal Richard Sherman? Sure, why not?
In a short period of time, teams will start getting “graded” for their free agent signings. If the Seahawks are not terribly active, this may solicit some lower grades from particularly outlets.
Inactivity with this group of free agents is not necessarily a bad thing.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the Seahawks will make some calls and schedule some visits. They might bring in a veteran or two. However, if prior years are any indication, there will not be any lucrative six-year free-agent deals that turn out to be three years before the player is inevitably cut.
As Danny O’Neil of The Seattle Times wisely stated, “Just because you have money to spend doesn't mean you have to spend it.”
The blueprint for success is patience. Seattle can afford to let the market come to them.