NFL Free Agency: Tarvaris Jackson Replaces Matt Hasselbeck for Seattle Seahawks
If the Seahawks are to move on from Hasselbeck, it’s important they build depth and competition at the quarterback spot; construct a floor for the position to stand on instead of throwing Whitehurst alone into the fire, unless Seattle felt he was truly ready.
I’ve talked about Jackson throughout the offseason as a potential target for Seattle, if Hasselbeck were to move on; the fact that Jackson is on his way to Seattle makes the quarterback battle more intriguing.
The Seahawks signed undrafted free agent quarterbacks Josh Portis and Zach Lee on Tuesday, and the third spot in the depth chart still needs to be filled behind Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst.
On the other hand, Seattle presumably has other options; are they making the right move at the quarterback spot?
Reflection on the Departure of Matt Hasselbeck
In searching the twitter-waves yesterday afternoon, “We want the ball, and we’re going to score” was tossed around by many as a parting tribute to the former face of the franchise.
He will be missed because fans know when Hasselebck stepped on the field, had the intention of winning; he was a gamer, almost too much for his own good.
Over the course of the offseason I’ve looked at the quarterback position through two perspectives:
One perspective said Hasselbeck is important to the chemistry of the locker room and organization; the combination presented by the upside of improved health and leadership was worth holding on to; the quarterback competition wasn’t broken in 2010.
The other view suggested the hardships and injuries of the past three seasons presented enough evidence to move on; if Seattle can create depth and potential competition at the position--ideally create a situation where someone takes charge of the offense-- moving on could be an option.
Ultimately, if Seattle did re-extend their offer after the lockout it would come down to the two sides' ability to find common terms; and if not, the team may rightfully decide the time to move on is indeed now—the two playoff games proving to be too little, too late.
That is what appears to have happened. Seattle didn’t re-extend their offer because one year, seven million was their firm price. They reportedly called Hasselbeck to let him know they were moving on, a necessary gesture.
The Seahawks remained disciplined in pursuing Hasselbeck; Schneider has said during the offseason, and in regards to not drafting Andy Dalton, they would remain disciplined in pursuit of the position. Furthermore, they were decisive in putting the backup plan simultaneously in motion.
Finding the replacement for a player of Hasselbeck’s stature isn’t going to just happen over night; it may take a failure or two before the right guy is found, and chances must be taken in that process.
We learned Seattle will continue to be bold and potentially unconventional as they rebuild the roster. The departure of Matt Hasselbeck isn’t the first we’ve seen of this method, but it’s the most significant tie the new regime has cut in moving towards the future; a move that will surely be scrutinized, for better or worse, when the Carroll and Schneider regime eventually ends.
Does Tarvaris Jackson Make Sense?
As noted previously; while Tarvaris Jackson may not be the ideal long term answer or the ideal stop gap, he is a satisfactory competition mate for Whitehurst.
Jackson is a bit more experienced, but they could be on a level playing field; which I believe is apparent by Jackson’s rumored two year, eight million dollar deal to be signed with the team.
An equal playing field was not the situation with Hasselbeck and Whitehurst; the “competition” mantra should be more present at quarterback in coming weeks, and perhaps months.
Again, Jackson’s key numbers: 76.6 career rating, 58.7 career completion percentage, 10-10 as a regular season starter and 0-1 in the playoffs. One number to note; a career average of 4.5 yards per carry on 119 carries suggests his mobility could take pressure off a young offensive line.
The other major factor in this decision was the potential for mutual benefit; Jackson said earlier in the week his familiarity with Bevell’s system made Seattle a good opportunity for him, the Seahawks in need of at least two quarterbacks.
Over the course of the extended offseason, Seattle must have seen something they liked in Jackson; enough to pursue him as what appears to be plan A—or B depending on if they pursued Carson Palmer—over Matt Hasselbeck.
So Jackson fits the system, but does he fit the locker room? Hasselbeck’s leadership was respected by the players and fans; expectations placed directly on Jackson because of the shoes he has to “fill” aren’t necessarily appropriate.
He may not have been the preferred option of pundits, but Seattle found an option that has an appropriate cost for the risk involved; they got a player apparently on equal ground with Whitehurst, without losing a draft pick.
Seattle theoretically has two highly paid backups or one well paid starter; there is room for another player to be involved in the competition.
The Value in Creating a Competition
If Whitehurst had the offseason to command the offense, make mistakes with his players, learn the system and get comfortable with the duties of being a starter under the supervision of the coaching staff, then it may be detrimental to throw him into a competition where he doesn’t have the confidence of being labeled the starter.
However, the lockout produced an uncommon situation. Whitehurst sounds confident he can compete and prepare to be the starter, but it’s obvious he was somewhat behind the eight-ball with Hasselbeck’s involvement.
We know the familiarity with the system was a factor for Jackson.
Is bringing Jackson in the right move? All things considered, I believe so. Two guys with the same goal; competition doesn’t bring wins, it breeds upside.
In previously addressing the importance of creating depth at the position:
The point here is there may not be many options (in free agency); but that doesn’t excuse Seattle from crafting a plan that doesn’t put the entire team in jeopardy. Yes, easier said than done. But competition is a basic principle of the program; deviating from core principles when rebuilding a crucial position is not a recipe for creating upside.
Seattle appears to be both implementing the competitive philosophy and not crafting a plan that put the future in jeopardy; such as trading more draft picks.
We know John Schneider didn’t like not having a third round pick in 2011, and acquiring a starting quarterback likely would cost a considerable amount; there was no need to further “mortgage the future” before the 2011 season.
Seattle appears to be operating in a similar fashion to how they treated the first two days of the draft; not the flashiest choices, but a sound plan that addresses building the bottom, up.
Can Seattle Complete the First Step in the Post Hasselbeck Puzzle?
Seattle appears to be constructing an open competition at quarterback; the danger they must negotiate is the potential to fall into a flip flop scenario when given too many options. Given the fact they signed two undrafted quarterbacks, it’s no given all three veterans would remain on the roster.
This regime appears focused on giving themselves two opportunities to capitalize on the major decision to let Hasselbeck walk; most pundits won’t be calling for the answer to be decided at quarterback until after the 2012 draft.
It’s possible Seattle feels they aren't in the position to acquire a franchise quarterback at the moment. They need to finish building the offensive line, begin rebuilding the defensive line and fortify the defensive back seven before this season.
If this is a case of the front office simply being honest in their assessment of the organization, at this point choosing to fortify depth instead of prematurely chasing a franchise quarterback, one could say they are merely remaining disciplined in their approach.
Now, they must remained disciplined in finishing the quarterback overhaul of the present. The possibility of Jackson and Whitehurst had fans booing in the twitter-waves.
Heading into day two of post lockout business the football world is wondering; does Pete Carroll’s only national championship quarterback find his way to Seattle as a potentially important piece to the post Matt Hasselbeck puzzle?