Seattle Seahawks' 2011 Free Agency Preview

Charlie TodaroAnalyst IIIJuly 8, 2011

Seattle Seahawks' 2011 Free Agency Preview

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    The Seahawks should be one of the NFL’s most active teams when free agency begins. 

    Seattle has an array of holes across the board with 23 free agents including "restricted" players. They are also a team well equipped from a financial perspective to handle a free-agency pool with approximately 500 players—the pool of players with four-plus years of experience

    With nearly 300 transactions in year one of the new regime, potentially expanded training camp rosters shouldn’t be an issue for Seattle, either.

    The Seahawks were heavily criticized by some national pundits for their draft, while those inside the building are excited about who they got, the “niches” they have built, but optimism is nothing new.

    Seattle used a complementary approach to their draft process, finding players with meshing skill sets that fit into the scheme; also creating more potential for other key players, such as Earl Thomas. I’ll admit I’m optimistic about this draft class as well.

    Does their approach continue in free agency, potentially with the criticism? Are more players brought back due to a lengthy lockout and short offseason, or does the blistering roster turnover continue? Will Seattle continue to surprise with off the radar acquisitions or dole out an unexpectedly large contract?

    The list has a range of prospects, from top starters to depth players—a glimpse of what the copious free-agent pool has to offer.

    Note:

    Most of the previously highlighted players that went undrafted or were highlighted post draft are part of this list. New players will be marked.

    All roster information was taken from the Seahawks website.

    Potential trades were not taken into consideration for this list.

    This marking denotes a priority for re-sign. This marking designates a maybe. No marking means Seattle should look elsewhere. 

Quarterbacks: Plenty of Choices...but Not Many Right Answers

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    The Seahawks need two quarterbacks; a starting-caliber veteran to compete with Charlie Whitehurst, and a veteran backup with the knowledge and experience to be valuable depth.

    Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks have mutual interest—can they strike a deal or is he on his way out?

    There is a chance the Seahawks go with Whitehurst and truly enter rebuilding mode, or there are a variety of alternative plans the team could pursue—a trade is possible.

    The crop is slim for sure starters, and the Seahawks may look to undrafted free agents for a fourth quarterback to compete. There’s likely a Plan A, B, C, D and possibly an E or F. I mean, they traded for Charlie Whitehurst…anything is possible.

    Under contract: Charlie Whitehurst

    Potential free agents: Matt Hasselbeck, J.P. Losman

    Free Agents

    Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland Raiders: A journeyman with toughness and marginal production in his career—a Tom Cable-type guy and very solid third or solid backup option.

    Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota Vikings: Spent career in Minnesota with Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator—mobility and a strong arm, but not the answer.

    Drew Stanton, Detroit Lions: 2-1 as a starter in 2010, only four NFL starts. Experienced and efficient three-year collegiate starter—ran for over 1,400 yards but injury-prone and numbers dropped his senior season. I’d be curious to see Seattle take a shot on him as a third or fourth quarterback in camp.

    Matt Leinart, Houston Texans: Coached by Carroll and worked with quarterback coach Carl Smith at USC, is strong lineage and unrealized potential enough to overlook the lackluster career? He’s a third stringer with possible upside.

    Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers: Went 4-1 to finish 2009 but looked the opposite in 2010. Injury to throwing shoulder is a red flag. Pursue with caution but an option if the rest here aren’t.

    Undrafted free agents: Scott Tolzien, Adam Froman, Pat Devlin, Mike Coughlin (new)  

Skill Positions: Already a Competitive Group, with Minor Upgrades Needed

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    Running back is deep and not a primary need. An undrafted free agent is a sensible signing or potentially a low-price specialist. Seattle does need a strong backfield blocking presence.

    Wide receiver is a raw group in transition, with definite upside. Will Golden Tate be able to make the progress expected of him and will Isaiah Stanback be able to come to camp healthy, ready to compete...what about Deon Butler? Any signees will likely fill a specific role.

    Tight end is a deep, young group. They could explore a veteran with solid receiving skills and adequate at worst as a blocker.

    Keep your eye on H-Back/TE Jameson Konz, a 2010 seventh-round pick. His dream is to play in the NFL. An athletic freak put on IR during 2010 camp, he's working out in Seattle this offseason. This is the Seahawks’ Marcel Reece type player on the roster.  Also, does former Trojan Dominque Byrd make enough of an impact to make John Carlson expendable via trade?

    Runningback and Fullback

    Under contract: Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, Chris Henry

    Potential free agent: Michael Robinson

    Free Agents

    Marcel Reece, FB, Oakland Raiders: An undrafted free agent—former University of Washington receiver—developed into a Fullback/H-Back by Tom Cable. Still progressing but he's already an effective blocker. With the need in the backfield, this makes sense.

    Leron McClain, FB, Baltimore Ravens: He was less involved in 2010 and wants to be a major player in an offense. McClain can be a force in the running game and out of the backfield. Very versatile but also won’t be cheap. 

    Vonta Leach, FB, Houston Texans: A must re-sign for Houston but a great add for any team...a blocker and receiver, not often used as a runner. He won’t be cheap, a long shot for Seattle.

    Mewelde Moore, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Moore caught 46 balls in Bevell's first year as coordinator in Minnesota. If he leaves Pittsburgh Moore could be veteran insurance for an injury to Justin Forsett and/or Leon Washington, but the position is a lower priority.   

    Undrafted free agents: Darren Evans (RB), Nic Grigsby (RB), Matongi Tonga (DT/FB), Henry Hynoski (FB), Trea Burgess (RB-new)

    Wide Receivers

    Under contract: Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Isaiah Stanback, Deon Butler, Kris Durham (2011 fourth round), Patrick Williams, Dominique Edison, Chris Carter

    Potential free agents: Brandon Stokley, Ruvell Martin

    Free Agents

    James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers: A strong run-after-catch receiver that can block. His hands can be inconsistent. Ties to John Schneider and well-rounded skill set make him an intriguing option. 

    Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: “Moon Walker” broke out in 2009 but came back to earth in 2010. Has straight line speed and burst but is still raw as a receiver.   

    Legadu Naanee, WR, San Diego Chargers: Hamstring problems in 2010 and a February arrest are red flags, intriguing as a backup, downfield threat. He could be cheap and worth a flier if Seattle thinks his red flags are negotiable.

    Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans: One of the more underrated receivers in the NFL, a key safety valve in the slot for Drew Brees. Brees would miss him, and Seattle would welcome a legitimate replacement for Brandon Stokley. I’ll admit, likely a long shot.

    Undrafted free agents: Tori Gurley (WR), Jeff Maehl (WR- new), Ricardo Lockette (WR- new)

    Tight Ends/H-Back

    Under contract: John Carlson, Cameron Morrah, Anthony Mccoy, Dominique Byrd, Jameson Konz, Caz Piurowski (moving to tackle)

    Free Agents

    David Thomas, TE, New Orleans: Thomas has played with the Patriots and Saints in his five-year career, 30-plus catches the past two seasons as a secondary tight end for Drew Brees. Can play an H-back role and provide depth at tight end.  

    Bo Scaife, TE, Tennesee Titans: He had an uncharacteristic down year in 2010, historically a solid all-around tight end. His time in Tennesee may be up, and he’d be a solid, veteran acquisition.

    Undrafted free agents: Josh Baker, Schuylar Oordt (new)

Offensive Line: Looking for Solidarity in the Trenches

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    If all goes as planned, the Seahawks will have to fill the left guard spot in free agency with James Carpenter at tackle and John Moffitt at guard on the right side, center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung sandwiching player X at left guard.

    Last offseason, Seattle brought in four veteran linemen that started in 2010, Tyler Polumbus being the unknown and most consistent of the four. Ben Hamilton went on IR, Chester Pitts never seemed fully healthy and Stacy Andrews' season left something to be desired, demoted in Week 15.

    Do they keep Stacy Andrews and his $5.25 million cap number after a poor 2010? Does Seattle look for younger players to mold, or again look for a veteran to anchor the line?

    Carroll has talked about the depth in the program on the interior line continuously this offseason, a group of unheralded players. Someone could emerge via always compete, but the team appears to have a few holes remaining. 

    Under contract: Russell Okung, Mike Gibson, Max Unger, Stacy Andrews, William Robinson, Breno Giacomini, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Chris White, Paul Fanaika, Paul Mcquistan, James Carpenter (2011 first round), John Moffitt (2011 third round)

    Potential free agents: Chris Spencer, Sean Locklear, Tyler Polumbus, Ray Willis, Chester Pitts

    Free Agents

    Justin Blalock, LG, Atlanta Falcons: Not the biggest name available but perhaps the most solid. Harvey Dahl gets the attention on the right side, but Blalock took a big step forward in 2010. Big, durable, mean, still progressing and only 27 years old.

    Daryn Colledge, LG, Green Bay: A great 2008 followed by declining play but was the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the Packers. Starter at left guard but has filled in at both tackle spots—solid starter with strong off field character and potentially an attractive price tag.

    Evan Mathis, LG, Cincinnati Bengals: A journeyman and not regular starter, he has flashed potential in spot play. He doesn’t have much wear and could be a cheap steal if he can stay healthy—strong depth, at worst.

    Scott Mruczkowski, OL, San Diego Chargers: He started 13 games at center in place of Nick Hardwick in 2009 before getting injured. His versatility, toughness and understanding of multiple positions could be a plus. 

    Samson Satele, C, Oakland Raiders: Not the Raiders lineman most commonly associated with Seattle, Satele has started adequately in Oakland for Tom Cable. Maybe Seattle pursues him, but they may also look in the undrafted pool.

    Undrafted free agents: Kris O’Dowd (C), Richard Henry (OG- new), Derek Hall (OT/OG), Zane Taylor (C), David Mims (OT)

Defensive Line: Out with the Old, in with the New?

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    The Seahawks face an exodus along the defensive line as well, with potentially six free agents.  

    The Seahawks may not break the bank for Brandon Mebane, but they must prove to have a viable alternative if they let him walk, which Mebane believes the team is prepared to do. Can they find parts greater than the whole of Mebane?

    Raheem Brock’s early season arrest spurned a career year, but off-the-field troubles followed this offseason; John Clayton thinks he’s gone. There are a lot of options out there, and the Seahawks have four more spots to fill inside. 

    The Seahawks will have many ways to spend their money on the defensive line. The key will be creating a group of complementary players, similar to their approach on day three of the draft, especially if they are to take an approach that is focused on depth instead of a big contract and fillers.

    Under contract: Red Bryant, Colin Cole, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Kentawn Balmer, Barret Moen, Jay Alford, A.J. Schable, Lazarius Levingston (2011 seventh round)

    Potential free agents: Raheem Brock, Junior Siavii, Amon Gordon, Jay Richardson, Craig Terrill, Brandon Mebane (restricted)

    Free Agents 

    Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota Vikings: Edwards' all-around play has been improving, and 2010 was another strong campaign. He'll require a large contract, one that's probably only available if the Seahawks don't sign a premium contract player at defensive tackle or re-sign their veteran end. 

    Vernon Gholston, DE, released: The former Jet didn’t come close to fulfilling his status as the sixth overall pick but could bring scheme versatility due to his college and NFL experience. He has talent and unrealized potential—could be worth a flier and likely for cheap.

    Stylez G. White, DE, Tampa Bay Bucaneers: White didn’t quite produce as some hoped when moved to starter in 2010, but he’s a solid rotational pass-rusher who worked closely with new defensive line coach Todd Wash in Tampa. May have played his way into a smaller contract with his 2010 performance.

    Mark Anderson, DE, Houston Texans: He was released by Chicago only to register four sacks in 11 games for the Texans to finish 2010. A 12-sack rookie season set the bar extremely high, but he’s now a veteran rotational pass-rusher—looks to still have gas in the tank and could come at a decent price.      

    Barry Cofield, DT, New York Giants: A solid all-around player that would be a bigger contract option if the team decided to not pursue Mebane. He is durable and productive from the three-tech position, a career-high four sacks in 2010.

    Tony McDaniel, DL, Miami Dolphins: A high effort, versatile lineman that is good against the run but showed ability to disrupt in 2010 with four pass breakups and a career-high 2.5 sacks. An up-and-coming lineman.

    Stephen Bowen, DL, Dallas Cowboys: Bowen came on strong in 2010, a force pressuring the quarterback in the second half of the season. His athleticism could help across the defensive line—his experience coming in Wade Phillips' versatile 3-4 defense.

    Marcus Thomas, DL, Denver Broncos: Has matured over the past few seasons and is effective against the run, but needs to develop a pass rush package. His versatility, youth and athleticism as a five-tech end or tackle could be intriguing.

    Shaun Smith, DL, Kansas City: Seahawks fans may remember Smith as the defensive lineman turned fullback who scored a short yardage touchdown in Week 12. A journeyman rotational, run stuffing lineman that can play five-tech or inside.

    Alan Branch, DL, Arizona Cardinals: Branch is a massive run stopper. He offers minimal pass rush but could be a valuable rotational run stuffer at multiple positions.

    Justin Bannan, DL, released: The Broncos released the career journeyman and his $3.5 million cap number after one season. A defensive tackle with the Ravens, Bannan played mostly end in Denver. Bannan brings versatility and experience, worth a look if he can be had for cheap.

    Undrafted free agents: Kiante Tripp (DL/OL), Marc Schiechl (DE/OLB), Anthony Gray (DT), Brandon Bair (DL), Ryan Winterswyk (DE), Martin Parker (DT)

Linebacker: Uncertainty, but Hopefully Competition, Lies Ahead

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    The position is facing a potential transition in 2011; how much of one depends partly on the health of Lofa Tatupu; the other big factor being the maturation of Aaron Curry and the resulting effect of those variables.

    Will Herring is a career Seahawk and reminds me of Ben Obomanu—his college teammate. In my opinion, his attitude and work ethic would be missed.  

    Pete Carroll seems very confident in his evaluation on Malcolm Smith, due to the USC ties; Carroll already had a spot in mind for his type of speed and athleticism on third down—Smith undersized and needing to prove his early down capabilities.

    K.J. Wright fits more of a strong-side profile with his size but is athletic, hard working and has the versatility to play multiple spots—maybe even the Leo role.

    Seattle would be wise to explore another option for the middle to bring into camp—again, Tatupu’s health a big variable. I expect them to explore a variety of options and tap into the undrafted free-agent pool. 

    Under contract: Lofa Tatupu, David Hawthorne, Aaron Curry, K.J. Wright (2011 fourth round), Malcolm Smith (2011 seventh round) Anthony Heygood, Jow Pawelek

    Potential free agents: Will Herring (restricted), Matt Mccoy, Leroy Hill

    Free Agents

    Brandon Johnson, OLB, Cincinnatti Bengals: A versatile reserve linebacker that has good size, a solid all-around skill set and good speed. He can play weakside but is also a capable blitzer.

    Paul Posluszny, ILB, Buffalo Bills: Traditionally a middle linebacker, he played everywhere in 2010. The major red flag is injuries. However, when healthy his motor, instincts and production are a major asset.

    Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Tennesee Titans: Tulloch is undersized but young and improved a major weakness in pass coverage in 2010. He is likely playing elsewhere in 2011 and pursuing his services would be an aggressive, unexpected move by Seattle—a sign major shakeup could follow.

    Justin Durant, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Durant has struggled to stay healthy but has been effective when on the field; he moved outside in 2010 and was one of the league’s best run stopping outside ‘backers. He has the versatility and athleticism to play all spots—a solid backup but proceed with caution.   

    Undrafted free agents: Jeff Tarpinian (LB-new), Mark Herzlich (LB), Scott Lutrus (LB), Cobrani Mixon (LB)

Defensive Back: Experience Needed

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    The Seahawks may have to replace three of their key secondary members from 2010, but it would likely be by choice.

    Richard Sherman is a potential replacement for Kelly Jennings. Do draftees Mark LeGree and Byron Maxwell make Jordan Babineaux expendable, unless he wants to remain a Seahawk for potentially less than market value.

    Lawyer Milloy’s leadership and experience may be invaluable for Earl Thomas and a very young secondary.

    Marcus trufant has a No. 1 corner size contract but hasn’t looked like one in recent seasons. Can Walter Thurmond prove in year two to be a solid No. 2 corner?  Roy Lewis and Kennard Cox were both re-signed on one-year deals but look to play sub-package and special teams roles.

    Does CFL All-Star Brandon Browner or other unknown depth make their way onto the roster? Seems like the entire defense is flux, eh—perhaps room for scheme wrinkles from 2010, an evolved "Bandit" package for Seattle.

    Unless Carroll and Schneider decide they absolutely need one of the top defensive backs on the market, I’d look for veteran depth signings and undrafted free agents to be the bulk of the new talent here.

    Under contract: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Roy Lewis, Kennard Cox, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, Josh Pinkard, Marcus Brown, James Brindley, Mark LeGree (2011 fifth round), Richard Sherman (2011 fifth round), Byron Maxwell (2011 sixth round)

    Potential free agents: Jordan Babineaux, Lawyer Milloy, Kelly Jennings

    Free Agents

    Johnathan Joseph, CB, Cincinnati Bengals: He has been linked to Seattle. When healthy, he is a top-tier corner. But does he have durability issues—four games missed in ’10, 12 the past three seasons.

    Frank Walker, CB, Minnesota Vikings: A career journeyman who has played for the Packers, Ravens and Vikings in the past four seasons. His signing wouldn't turn any heads but would provide experience and depth in training camp for an extremely unproven group. 

    Quintin Mikell, SS, Philadelphia Eagles: Mikell is a Pro-Bowl safety with experience in a complex defensive scheme, he can cover and is durable. If Lawyer Milloy doesn’t return and they don’t sign a high-profile corner, what about a Pro Bowler to pair with Earl Thomas? Not likely…but there has to be one surprise, right?

    Nedu Ndukwe, S, Cincinnati Bengals:  Good length, ball skills and blitzing abilities overshadow average athleticism; six interceptions and 7.5 sacks in his four-year career shows his ability to contribute. A heady player with experience as a starter.  

    Sabby Piscitelli, SS, Cleveland Browns: Piscatelli had a poor start to the 2010 season, released by Tampa and picked up by the Browns. A veteran with solid skills and athleticism, he would be a sound backup that can play on the line and is capable in zone coverage.

    Undrafted free agents: DeAndre McDaniel (SS-new), Ryan Jones (CB), Darrin Walls (CB), Jerrard Terrant (CB/FS), Mana Silva (SS), Michael O’Connell (SS/FS) 

Special Teams: Currently Hopping on One Foot

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    The Seahawks need a kicker. There are top veteran free agents options on the market, but there are age and injury concerns with most of them, including Olindo Mare.

    The Seahawks should pursue Mare due to his consistency and willingness to give a hometown discount; Seattle would be wise to build in the second or third year of his deal with incentives. 

    Under contract: Jon Ryan (P), Clint Gresham (LS)

    Free Agents

    Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers: Very strong leg but can be inconsistent. New kickoff rules may help, as he has struggled in that area.

    Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons: Bryant is one of the most consistent kickers in the league, but he's been in a dome and didn't do kickoffs in 2010 and struggled in 2008—the new rules could help.