Seattle Seahawks Free Agency: 8 Post-Lockout Priorities

Charlie TodaroAnalyst IIIJuly 26, 2011

Seattle Seahawks Free Agency: 8 Post-Lockout Priorities

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    The lockout is over and the Seahawks have no time to waste in getting down to business; they need to hit the ground running and decisively answer some major questions that have been looming this offseason.

    While free agency won’t officially begin until later in the week, undrafted free agents have already begun to sign; teams can begin to re-order their rosters, make trades, re-negotiate contracts and inform others of their release. Teams can also negotiate with their own free agents and have conversations with others.

    These tasks are the final preparation for the free agency mad dash; if the Seahawks are to contend for the division in 2011, they need to make a splash in free agency with a combination of key acquisitions and solid depth signings.

    With 23 free agents, in the neighborhood of $40 million in projected cap space and a bevy of decisions to make, the organization must hit the ground running.

Get on the Phone and Leave No Stone Unturned

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    When the lockout was lifted for the Friday of draft weekend, Pete Carroll noted that the staff competed like crazy in communicating and working with players.

    While teams were technically not supposed to speak to players during the lockout, it’s unknown how closely Seattle followed the “rules.”

    Either way, the organization needs to fill in the grey; ask tough questions, easy questions, everything in between. The quicker the game of offseason-catchup happens the better off the Seahawks will be going into free agency.

    How are players such as Lofa Tatupu, Roy Lewis, Colin Cole and Deon Butler recovering from surgeries? What about free agent Ray Willis and Max Unger? Is Marcus Trufant ready to come to camp and battle for his no. 1 corner position? What’s the status of Red Bryant health? What’s Lawyer Milloy’s interest in coming back? How have some of the younger players, especially Charlie Whitehurst, been progressing during the lockout?

    Now is not the time to be misinformed about the happenings of the offseason; Seattle needs to step on the throttle and get everyone, including themselves, up to speed. 

Who Is on the Bubble…who Will Be Cut…who Needs to Restructure…any Trades?

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    While the Seahawks have around $40 million in projected cap space, they could try and increase that number by the time free agency rolls around.

    The first major news from Seattle is that Stacy Andrews is going to be cut, his $5.25 million salary and $500,000 workout bonus off the books and opening up space for Seattle. This is a move I have talked about as a possibility all offseason and I think it was warranted.

    Kentwan Balmer is another bubble player in my opinion, but his low salary at one of the team’s thinnest positions helps his stock, until further notice. What about John Carlson; he was especially close with Matt Hasselbeck. Could Hasselbeck’s potential departure have an effect there?

    Under the new rules, which deems rookie deals can first be re-negotiated after three seasons, Aaron Curry’s deal can’t be restructured until after next season; which leaves Tatupu, Trufant and Cole as the three main candidates for such a move; each due $4.35, $5.9 and $3.75 million respectively in 2011.

    Cole’s recent history we’ve talked about. For the other two guys, neither player has played to the value of their deal; Seattle needs to decide what the next step is--restructure, trade, cut, nothing?

    Both players are stalwarts—Tatupu is the defensive general-- in Seattle and haven’t been fully healthy in a couple seasons. Given the organization’s attitude about the “right price,” It’d be surprising to see one or both players’ contracts remain as is; especially with an abundant free agent period on the horizon.

    For the organization to get as much as possible out of this free agency period, they need to efficiently trim the fat before the fun begins.

Implement One of the Quarterback Plans in Place Since the Draft, ASAP

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    When the Seahawks decided to pass on a quarterback in the 2011 draft, John Schneider revealed the Seahawks had plans in place to address the position once the lockout was lifted; speculation began to build. 

    Once the clock strikes go, speculation needs to become a reality; Seattle needs to decide whether or not Hasselbeck will be back next season.

    We know Hasselbeck is rumored to go Tennessee, but is Seattle really going to let him walk without an offer? If so, the backup plan needs to be in motion simultaneously—such as signing two new quarterbacks ready to compete for the starting job, and an undrafted free agent.

    With so many holes to fill across the board, the Seahawks need to be clear in the direction they want to go at arguably the team’s most important position.

    Their plan at quarterback is likely to alter the rest of the free agency agenda. How much they invest, and what type of player they invest in, will certainly have a trickle-down effect through the entire process. Pundits are expecting a sound solution; no matter Seattle's plan, they must act decisively.

Decide Much Money Is the Final Offensive Line Spot Worth

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    We’ve been operating under the presumption Seattle is looking for a left guard since Tom Cable revealed after the draft the left guard spot would need to be filled via free agency.

    Heading into free agency, Seattle must decide on a couple questions pertaining to the final offensive line spot.

    How firm they are on their initial lineup assessment; there are many options in free agency, such as players who play multiple positions on the right side, traditional left guards and everything in between.

    Mike Gibson played both guard spots last year and finished the year as starter on the right side; Carroll has talked about the depth of unknown players within the program. Hence the question, how much does Seattle want to spend filling the last spot; especially with potential high cost needs on the defensive side of the ball?

    Last season, Seattle went the route of pursuing older guards, the high priced Andrews and traded for Tyler Polumbus in hopes they could bring stability to a young line; Polumbus is the only one of the four who finished the season healthy and making an impact; starter at left guard. 

    They have many options here, but how they finish the offensive line will affect the rest of the spending; do they look for a low priced player to throw in the competition, a mid level starter who is adequate for 2011, or do they look for a premier player that can be the veteran anchor for years to come?

    The mad dash of free agency could speed up the player acquisition process; how does the front office handle the frenzy; do they stick to the plan with discipline, or welcome the opportunity to pursue their guy, regardless of a potential bidding war?

    They’d be wise to have a couple of plans in place for this position; playing off the possibilities on the defensive line, secondary and at quarterback.

    Does Seattle let competition choose the final offensive lineman or do they build their free agency plan around finding the final piece for the offensive trenches?

Where Do Priorities Lie Along the Defensive Line, and Are Changes in Store

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    The decision of whether or not to re-sign Brandon Mebane is arguably as important as what to do at the quarterback spot.

    Mebane’s value to Seattle has been hard to trace this offseason; though not an ideal fit for the Seahawks’ 3-tech tackle spot, the team failed to heavily address the position in the draft and has five other free agents to replace along the line.

    The feeling has been Seattle will want him for the right price, but Mebane feels he may not be in the teams plans; we don’t know what the right price is.

    Mebane’s best year came as a nose tackle in 2008; with Colin Cole coming off ankle surgery at age 31—and potentially not available for training camp-- where Mebane fits in the defense remains to be seen.

    If Seattle sees him as more than just a 3-tech, perhaps a replacement at the nose and/or is willing to create a scheme wrinkle to take advantage of the bulk up front, Mebane’s value could rise.

    Or, do they decide to let Mebane walk and sign another big time tackle; perhaps pursue lesser known tackles and make splash at the defensive end spot? As the team continues to build athleticism and size into the defensive back seven, is who they sign up front an indicator of changes coming?

    Regardless, I’m watching this potential transition closely. The Seahawks surprised with the seven defensive back Bandit package in 2010; with the freedom in rebuilding the defensive line and the defense as a whole, does the versatility of Seattle’s defensive scheme take another step forward in 2011?

    How strongly they pursue Mebane, and the resulting signings up front, will begin to give clarity towards if new wrinkles or changes will be implemented on defense next season.

Do the Seahawks Need Leadership in the Secondary?

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    There is the potential for major transition in the secondary, especially at safety. Does Lawyer Milloy want to return; if he wants to win a super bowl, Seattle may not be the best place for that at the moment. Jordan Babineaux appears to be on the way out with the stocking of talent at the tweener defensive back position; and we don’t know where Trufant’s health truly stands.

    Do they sign a veteran, top flight safety or go after a top level cornerback? How much does Seattle want to invest here in free agency, depending on Trufant’s contract?

    Seattle wouldn’t be harmed by adding veteran leadership in the secondary. A veteran could help Earl Thomas and Mark LeGree, or groom the group of young cornerbacks Seattle is acquiring.

    Some would say the Seahawks should have addressed the quarterback position years ago, but the new regime can’t be to blame for that. But, they are in control of aiding a defense that could become much younger than it was in 2010.

    Seattle needs to decide if it’s worth throwing the young secondary into the fire to experience the growing pains, opening cap room for the test of the team; or if investing in a secondary general, that brings experience and athleticism, is a proactive step that must be taken.   

Figure the Values of Free Agent Role Players

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    I’ll define the group as the following: Tyler Polumbus (restricted), Michael Robinson, Ray Willis, Kelly Jennings, Will Herring, Matt McCoy, Jay Richardson, Craig Terrill, Ruvell Martin, Raheem Brock, Jordan Babineaux, Olindo Mare, Junior Siavii, Brandon Stokley. You can even add Leroy Hill to the group.

    Each of the guys—sans Hill who went on IR after one game and Willis who was injured in training camp—listed above played a role on for the playoff team in 2010; the majority of the team’s free agents.

    Seattle needs to decide how valuable this group is to the team. If they decide to move on at quarterback and/or on the defensive line, how much of this group leaves as well?

    You could make a case either way for most of these players being on or off the 2011 roster; a conglomeration of old regime players and 2010 additions, so long term continuity wouldn’t necessarily be sacrificed with losing certain members.

    While this group will ultimately carry less attention than the big changes that are possible, a large turnover amongst these guys could lead to a major change in the team dynamic, on and off the field.   

Can They Find the Right Talent in the Undrafted Free Agent Scramble?

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    While teams can’t technically sign undrafted players until 10 a.m. eastern Tuesday, the rumor mill began swirling at a whirlwind pace Monday evening.

    Seattle signed 15 undrafted free agents in 2010, and the roster sizes have been expanded from 80 to 90 for 2011 training camp.

    As of about midnight pacific on Tuesday morning, the Seahawks are rumored to have “signed” the following players: Ricardo Lockette (WR, Fort Valley State), Ricky Thernarse (SS/ATH, Nebraska),  Jesse Hoffman (DB, Eastern Washington), Jeron Johnson (SS, Boise State), Michael Morgan (LB, USC), Doug Baldwin (WR, Stanford), Ron Parker (S, Newberry), Ladi Ajiboye (DT, South Carolina), Brent Osborne (OG, Harvard), Pierre Allen (DE, Nebraska).

    Ryan Travis, FB/H-back from D-II West Liberty rumored on Tuesday a.m; 126 catches and 140.2 receiving yards per game in 2010.

    UPDATE: Tolzien is not a Seahawk; infact, he's a Charger?

    Add Josh Portis and Zach Hurd--both listed below--to the signings. Also, Zac Lee (QB/ATH, Nebraska)

    Lockette stands out as raw size with deep speed; Morgan is a “4.45” strong side linebacker who was mostly a reserve in college; John Schneider hand wrote and faxed a letter, then Pete picked up the phone and called Baldwin to seal the deal; Parker is 6’ and has sub 4.4 speed; Allen carried a mid round grade, a versatile defensive end; Ajiboye is stout at the 3-tech spot.

    We’ll get more in-depth into these players once the signings actually begin and the group presumably grows in the near future.

    Seattle still has some holes to address; here are some guys who are rumored to still be available and some other questions pertaining to the rest of the undrafted free agent signing process:

    Quarterbacks Adam Froman, Josh Portis, Adam Weber all figure to be candidates to come Seattle if Tolzien doesn’t.

    Will any more help come at the fullback spot...such as defensive tackle Matangi Tonga, who went through fullback drills in the pre-draft process.

    Seattle still needs help at center and potentially more on the offensive line; Zach Hurd, Josh Davis, Michael Huey (linked to Seattle), Zane Taylor

    There are a lot of names still available on the defensive line, notably Martin Parker, Ollie Ogbu, John Graves, Brandon Bair. Kiante Tripp is little known, but 6’5, 302 and athletic.

    Does Seattle look for a middle linebacker?

    Does the onslaught of cornerbacks continue? Darrin Walls, Jerrard Tarrant, Ryan Jones