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The 2011 offseason strategy has shown to have a similar agenda as the first year of the new regime. The four players the Seahawks re-signed before the CBA expired are all special teams’ contributors and hard working depth players.
Defense: Special Teams captain CB Roy Lewis (No. 9 on my offseason priority list) and CB Kennard Cox (#16) were both signed to one year, $550,000 deals.
Lewis is a team leader on and off the field, a sub package corner with solid coverage and tackling skills, but poor closing speed. Cox had the teams’ only punt block in 2010 and showed playmaking potential at times, but is still extremely raw.
Lawyer Milloy, Jordan Babineaux and Kelly Jennings remain free agents. Milloy’s play dropped off significantly in the second half of the season and Babineaux is likely looking for more than the $1.4 million he played for in 2010. Both were off field leaders in 2010, but their performance in the secondary certainly didn’t turn heads in the positive direction. Kelly Jennings proved to be among the weakest links for the 2010 ‘Hawks secondary and doesn't fit the big, physical and able to run prototype for this scheme. Defensive Backs Josh Pinkard and Brandon Browner are expected to push for playing time in 2011, leaving room for one, or none, remaining Secondary free agents to be re-signed.
In analyzing personnel changes on defense, it’s critical to remember the changes on the defensive coaching staff were significant as well. Todd Wash comes in at Defensive Line coach and the promotion of Kris Richard to Secondary Coach equals new head position coaches at two of the three defensive positions. As highlighted previously, these changes all follow the “fit” hallmark of this organization.
A talented, yet unheralded defensive staff will have doubters as to whether or not continuity and improvement can be created for a defense that struggled with injuries and discipline in 2010.
Offense: Leon Washington’s (No. 2) four year, $12.5 million dollar deal was expected by many; the free agent to be led the team out in the locker room after the Chicago loss, declaring “the best is yet to come, believe that.” He wasn’t going anywhere.
The deal guarantees Washington only $3.5 million, but can reach $16 million total with incentives. John Schneider deserves credit for creating a deal that is highly favorable for both sides; Washington received the type of deal he wanted with the Jets in 2009, while the Seahawks held on to the valuable returner, three return touchdowns and second team All Pro in 2010, and versatile offensive weapon for a fractional price.
He will be more involved in the offense in 2011, playing a Reggie Bush USC type role. Another year healthier from a severe leg injury, Washington is primed to have a breakout season as an all-around weapon in 2011. His 2010 acquisition costing fifth and seventh round picks and the subsequent 2011 signing is the new regime’s savviest two year personnel move to this point.
The final re signing to note is former Washington Huskies Quarterback, now WR Isaiah Stanback. Schneider was very high on him going into the 2007 draft, taken in the fourth round by Dallas. He spent 2009 with New England before injuring his ACL during an impressive preseason with Seattle in 2010. Stanback has consistently played with winning organizations as a pro.
At the 2011 combine, Schneider described Stanback as a run after the catch player that snatches the ball from the air; at 6’2, 208 pounds he has the size to overmatch defensive backs. His size, skill set and ability as a special teams player make him a possible replacement for Ruvell Martin (No. 13) at the No. 4 or No. 5 WR position.
RFA Tenders: Both Brandon Mebane (No. 7) and Will Herring (No. 3) received original round tenders as restricted free agents, third and fifth rounders, respectively. While not set in stone with a new CBA, the Seahawks will receive picks in those rounds if either player signs with a different team in eventual free agency; that is if the Seahawks do not match the offer.
I believe both evaluations are accurate, though losing Herring would have a larger effect than largely perceived. The ‘Hawks commit to paying him roughly $1 million (Update: Herring's tender price is listed at $1.275 million in 2011 as of 3/10/11), while he could command more on the market as a great depth/adequate outside linebacker and ace special teamer. I believe he is very valuable in that capacity to the ‘Hawks in 2011 and they will match any offer worth less than an average of $2-2.5 million a season.
Mebane’s tender price of just under $1.3 million is much more notable, as Schneider proved Mebane’s value to the ‘Hawks may be lower than expected. The Seahawks are making the correct move in retaining Mebane at their price, as Schneider referred to Mebane as a “solid pro” at the combine.