NFL Free Agency Speculation: Latest Matt Hasselbeck Rumors and Speculation
One of the biggest offseason topics of conversation, aside from when the offseason will finally be over, is speculation on where the Seattle Seahawks' starting quarterback will land in free agency.
After the draft, the 49ers are off the table, as they drafted Colin Kaepernick and are bringing Alex Smith back.
Some question him landing with the Vikings or Titans, as they both spent early picks on what they believe will be franchise QBs. I disagree with this assessment, as neither player looks ready to start in the NFL. Hasselbeck would be a solid role-model and bridge for both of them.
The Cardinals are the most common rumor. While they have a strong interest in Mark Bulger, he has stated he wants to stay on the east coast as a backup QB. In addition, I don't see Hasselbeck being interested in playing for the Cardinals, explained in a later slide.
The Bills are very unlikely, as Hasselbeck wants to be a starter on a good team. Also, they have a QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick; they need to give him another year to see if he can still grow into their long-term plans.
And for the record, I won't be talking about how Carson Palmer's future plays into what happens with Hasselbeck.
January 19: The Speculation Starts
Pete Carroll spent 40 minutes talking about the 2010 season following his team's road loss to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. He started to walk off stage, but was called back with a question regarding the team's plans at quarterback.
Carroll responded: "It's the top priority in the program. You have to deal with this or you don't understand the game and I think we understand it really well. That's why the very first meeting after our team meeting was John (Schneider, GM) and I and Matt. I guess you gauge what you think of that in terms of sense of urgency. We couldn't have done it more quickly."
Carroll continued: "We have a good starting point. I love what Matt has brought to this program, well before I got here, what he did this year and what he did for me to help in getting this program started. And I'm not forgetting about any of that. We'll deal with it hopefully with all of the due respect and regard and come up with a really good plan."
Carroll concluded "I don't think there's any other way to look at it. Yeah, he's our starting quarterback. But he won't be under contract for awhile so we have to figure that part out.''
Many articles concluded that "signing Hasselbeck" was the top priority in the program. However, that isn't quite what Carroll said. The overall position need was, and still remains, the team's top priority.
Yes, Carroll did say Hasselbeck is "our starting quarterback," and "won't be under contract for awhile." One can conclude Carroll wanted him back into the fold, but that doesn't mean the team hasn't already moved on to Plan B.
March 1: Hasselbeck/Seahawks "Far Apart"
In about the only thing that has panned out to be true so far in the myriad of rumors surrounding Hasselebck, ESPN's John Clayton told ESPN 710 Seattle that Hasselbeck wouldn't be signed prior to the NFL's CBA deadline.
“They’re far apart right now to a point right now where there’s not going to be common ground that they will get a deal done by the start of free agency, whenever that may be,” Clayton said.
April 30: "We Still Have Our Plan"
In post-draft conversations, several analysts were very critical of the Seahawks' efforts, particularly their decision to not draft a QB.
Going into the draft, I projected Seattle would ignore the position, opting instead to draft the building blocks for a more solid team. They needed to focus on the OL, secondary, DL and LB positions in '11 and then draft their QB of the future in '12.
This would mean either bringing Hasselbeck back or maneuvering for a short-term option at the position.
Relative to the QB position, GM John Schneider said in the post-draft press conference, "when we were getting ready to pick, they weren't there. They weren't in our area, and we're one of those teams that sits and follows our board."
He later added regarding the QB position, "we had a plan going in and we still have our plan. We just can't execute that plan right now."
April 30: Dilfer Says Hasselbeck Won't Be Back
Trent Dilfer has close ties to Matt Hasselbeck. The two are considered friends after sharing time as starting quarterbacks for the Seahawks 10 years ago. Dilfer also works with Matt's brother, Tim, as an analyst for ESPN.
Dilfer was extremely critical of the Seahawks' draft, particularly their decision to not draft Andy Dalton in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In his tirade, he also added that Hasselbeck won't be returning to Seattle for the 2011 season.
Perhaps Dilfer harbors some ill-will after he parted ways with Seattle. After all, he wan't treated kindly by the Seahawks, as he was in San Francisco. Seattle outscored his team 47-3 that season, and Dilfer was 12-33 for 128 yards and 2 INTs in his home start.
Dilfer was sacked 6 times in that game. If Hasselbeck returns to Seattle and their draft picks work out well, Dilfer should be sacked again.
May 11: Better Than a 50-50 Chance Hasselbeck Returns to Seattle
Just days after being rumored to be headed to the other Washington to play for the Redskins, John Clayton appeared on the Brock and Salk Show (ESPN 710 Seattle): "I think there's now a better than a 50-50 chance that Matt comes back. And you know he wants to come back."
Clayton also confirmed that the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, touched base with Hasselbeck during the brief interruption to the NFL's lockout. Brock Huard stated that two other Seahawks coaches also spoke to him.
When discussing the draft, and the Vikings and Titans both drafting QBs early, Clayton noted "their urgency is not there" relative to them signing a free agent like Hasselbeck. He also added that "Matt lost a valuable two teams...for upping his numbers."
Clayton concluded "what that does, it puts Seattle in a position to try to bring him back. And remember, they've got a lot of money that they can spend if they want to, and I think they want to."
May 18: I Didn't Get a Playbook...or Did I?
When the NFL lockout was briefly lifted, the Seattle Seahawks' staff was busy getting information out to their players. Mike Williams said in an interview, “You gotta understand…as soon as that thing was lifted, Coach Carroll and that group were 90 miles-an-hour. E-mails, text messages. Position coach (Kippy Brown) calling me. Coordinator calling me. Hey Mike. How are you doing? Just a quick intro to the offense. Having watched the game, you kind of pick up how Sydney Rice was able to do so well after you get the playbook.”
Williams confirmed he received a playbook from the Seahawks during the lockout's recess, as did most of his teammates. But what about the players, Like Hasselbeck, who aren't signed for 2011?
"I didn't get one," said Hasselbeck. "It definitely hurt my feelings, but it's alright because all my teammates gave me theirs. So it worked out. It worked out fine."
May 21: Hasselbeck to the Vikings
I reluctantly add this slide, as the story seems to be little more than a few guys sharing thoughts at their favorite watering hole.
Odd prose aside, the story falls flat a few sentences later when it states "the Vikings would like Ponder to start."
There is very little that is clear about where Matt will end up. But Matt has been clear that starting and winning are more important than money. Regardless of where he signs, he will have earned enough to make his future, and that of his children, quite secure. It is now more about getting back to the playoffs as a starting QB.
Sorry, Pioneer Press. While it makes sense for the Vikings to bring Matt in to start for a year or two, he won't go into a situation to bring along a rookie to take over for him as the starter during the 2011 season.
May 23: Re-Signing Hasselbeck Is NFL's Third-Biggest Deal That Needs to Happen
John Clayton lists the Seahawks re-signing Hasselbeck third in his Top-10 biggest deals that need to be done when the 2011 season starts again:
“Hasselbeck is aging but managed to get Pete Carroll a playoff win last season, and the Seahawks are more than a quarterback away from 10 wins. Giving up draft picks in a trade for a signal-caller would rob Carroll of the chance to draft key players for the long term, so bringing Hasselbeck back is the best option for Seattle.”
Clayton was right about the two sides being far apart back in March. Perhaps he still has a strong pulse on where the two sides stand.
May 24th: "Bring Him Back"
Hasselbeck's top receiving option in 2010, Mike Williams, conducted an interview on the Brock and Salk Show on ESPN 710 in Seattle. When asked about Hasselbeck, Williams had a lot to say, and a full article on that interview is available.
Perhaps the most telling comment was simple and straight-forward: "Bring him back."
He also provided some keen insight surrounding Hasselbeck and taking over the plans of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. While specifically stating it wasn't a comparison of talent, he talked about an aging Favre being able to run the offense because the overall “talent took the burden off him.”
Seattle could finally be in a similar situation with a rounded out offensive line and some workable talent at the skill positions.
On Hasselbeck being able to come back and run this offense, Williams offered: “I’m a firm believer. I respect the guy and the body of work and what he means to a city and an organization. If physically he can do it, I think as a teammate and as an organization you help him. You build around him, and you make his job easier.”
May 24th: Carroll Leaning Towards Whitehurst
Eric Williams of The News Tribune offers some thoughts on Hasselbeck vs. Whitehurst:
I think Carroll could be leaning toward handing over the reins to Whitehurst for a couple reasons.
First, Whitehurst will not take as many risks, can move a little better outside the pocket, and still possesses a strong enough arm to keep defenses honest with the deep ball. He’s basically the game manager that Carroll is looking for, allowing the Seahawks to become more run-oriented offensively and to play from a defensive mindset by limiting turnovers and controlling field position – something all defensive-minded head coaches want to do.
Second, the team is set to pay Whitehurst $4 million next season if he’s on the opening day roster, meaning one of the highest paid guys on the team would be sitting the bench.
The Seahawks did a nice job of creating some cap space in 2010 so they could spend in free agency this year, and I think they would like to use that money elsewhere, like bringing in offensive guard Robert Gallery from Oakland.
So really, it makes no sense to pay a quality quarterback like Hasselbeck at least $7 million in guaranteed money to come back and play for a team that could be even worse than last season.
While much of Williams' logic is sound, it doesn't take Carroll's mantra into consideration. "Always Compete" means making the most of every situation and every position at every point in every season. Settling on Whitehurst because he is a better fit on paper falls short for Carroll.
Further, if Hasselbeck isn't a good option because the Seahawks don't appear to be contenders for two more years, why would they be looking to save money on the QB to spend on a LG (Robert Gallery) that won't be part of the long-term plan for the team? Would they not be better served looking at Mike Gibson, Tyler Polumbus, Stacey Andrews and John Moffitt?
Williams' comments also ignore the aforementioned quote from Schneider. Seattle has a plan at QB that can't be finalized until the season commences. That means they have a signing or a trade in-hand, and that Whitehurst may be given a chance to compete, but he isn't the expected starter.
Unless Seattle is unable to entice another QB to compete with Whitehurst, I don't see Carroll just handing the job over to Whitehurst.
May 25th: Who's Behind the Seahawks' Planned Mini-Camp?
There has been some fun speculation this week regarding the pending mini-camp being organized by the Seahawks players. It has been spoken of by several players, but no player has taken credit as the guy that got the ball rolling.
Hasselbeck has confirmed that players have been working out together this spring, but until this planned two-day mini-camp, complete with running the Seahawk playbook, it has been with players from several teams. According to Hasselbeck, players from the Rams, Cardinals, Titans, Browns, Ravens and Lions have joined in at the practice sessions.
"We're not necessarily inviting the world to our workouts, but we're on track. I say we, but there aren't really a ton of guys in town. This is Seattle, it's not (one) of the warmer places to live in our country, but it's been good," Hasselbeck said. "We've been having a great offseason so far in terms of workouts. It was a challenge getting going, it started out a little slow but we've rectified that. We've gotten kicked out of a few places, but we're rolling now. We're ready to roll."
Hasselbeck has been at the center of the workouts being held in Seattle, and there is a lot of speculation that he is also the mastermind behind the mini-camp. Mike Williams said there would be some of the Seahawks free agents invited, and specifically mentioned Leroy Hill. He didn't mention Hasselbeck, however. It could be due, in part, to an earlier comment he made.
“I got a text message this week," Williams said. "I’m not going to reveal who it’s from, but we’ve got a guy up here trying to organize a two-day mini camp next week here in Seattle.”
It seems odd that Williams would mention Leroy Hill but not talk about Hasselbeck. It does give credence to Williams being coy, and that Hasselbeck, who is the team's leader, is also behind organizing the mini-camp.
Projections: Where Does Hasselbeck End Up?
Shortly before the draft, I began to get the feeling that the only way the Seahawks would re-sign Hasselbeck is if they drafted a young QB that needed a few years of tutelage.
The first slide detailed the other teams in the pre-draft hunt for Hasselbeck. It is suspected that neither the Vikings nor the Titans will want to add the additional $7 million or so it will take to land Hasselbeck on their rosters.
The 49ers also drafted a QB, but plan to bring Alex Smith back, at least for the short term.
This leaves the Arizona Cardinals as perhaps the most likely landing spot for Hasselbeck—outside of Seattle. While throwing to Larry Fitzgerald would be a great opportunity, one has to think Hasselbeck has had his fill of playing behind terrible offensive lines.
The Cardinals lack a single quality NFL starter on their current roster. They have two that are free agents that they will pursue, but playing behind their OL will make Arizona a less than enticing proposition for Hasselbeck. Most of his recent issues in Seattle tie back to weak OL play.
This leaves Washington and Miami as teams with an unsettled QB picture.
The Redskins still have McNabb in the fold, and that may or may not change. I'm not sure bringing in a different 35-year-old QB is the best option for the team, as he would need to learn a new offense and new players. They made their play for McNabb, and then offered him an extension. It seems they will need to ride that decision out, as there just aren't any better options in FA.
Miami would only make sense if they feel they are ready to win in 2011 with a solid starting QB. I'm not sure a team sharing a division with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets can feel too confident in their prospects for making a playoff run this year. While some analysts are less than impressed with the Patriots' draft, they likely have enough talent in-house to maintain their hold on the division.
If Hasselbeck isn't back in Seattle, I still see the Titans as the most logical landing spot, followed by the Vikings. Both teams have few issues beyond the QB position, and could be poised to make a playoff run in 2011 with an established veteran at the helm. More importantly, it would help them build their rookie QBs into NFL starters, setting them up to be successful for years to come.
Final Word Belongs to Hasselbeck
In an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle's Liz Mathews, Hasselbeck continually spoke as though he is still part of the Seahawks' organization. When talking about players from several teams working out together in Seattle, he said "it's too bad that we can't just have our team, but we just don't have the numbers for that."
When asked about getting a playbook, he said "I didn't get one. It definitely hurt my feelings, but it's alright because all my teammates gave me theirs. So it worked out. It worked out fine."
Hasselbeck also provided the most apt commentary available. When Mathews asked him about his contract status, Hasselbeck stated "Absolutely nothing has changed for me. I know that my name gets thrown out there for fun when someone has to talk, but absolutely nothing has changed for me. It's sort of boring."
For now all we can do is speculate...at least until the NFL and the players get an agreement in place or the courts order the lockout terminated, and actually mean it this time.
From the end of the 2010 season, all Hasselbeck has said is he wants to return and finish his career with the Seahawks. He just might get that opportunity.