After everything that’s happened in the last week, it seemed like a good idea to start off this one with a quick recap of how things stand (as of this moment, anyway) with the Seahawks and their own free agents. A few of these signings technically occurred just prior to the official start of free agency, but I’m going to go ahead and include them here for the sake of completeness. One other relatively small but vitally important group that deserves a quick mention here are the players who would be free agents right now had John Schneider not been so proactive during the 2014 season in extending their contracts (note: ages shown in parentheses will be the player’s age at the start of the 2015 season):
DE Cliff Avril (29) – 4 years, $28 million
CB Richard Sherman (27) – 4 years, $57.4 million
FS Earl Thomas (26) – 4 years, $40 million
LB KJ Wright (26) – 4 years, $27 million
None of those figures are terribly cheap, but for these three guys the money paid is commensurate to their talent and production. Thomas is the linchpin of the entire defensive backfield, Sherman is one of the top corners in the game, Wright is one of the best cover linebackers around, and Avril generated more combined sacks and QB hits (25.5) than anyone else on the team. Just think about how much bigger these contract figures would have to be if the Hawks had to compete for their services with teams like the Raiders or Jaguars who have tons of cap space and desperation to burn.
DL Greg Scruggs (25) – 1 year, $755k
2012 seventh-rounder Scruggs flashed some potential as a rotational pass rusher from both the DE & DT positions in his first season, but he missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL and didn’t show up much after he was signed partway through last season. He’s still young though and now a year removed from knee surgery, so if nothing else he’s worth bringing in for competion in training camp.
TE Anthony McCoy (27) – 1 year, undisclosed amount (likely veteran minimum)
McCoy has been serviceable as a blocker and receiver, but it’s now been two years since he played a down in the NFL after tearing his ACLs in back-to-back offseasons. If he doesn’t show the coaches something early in training camp, I doubt he’ll stick around for long.
CB Cary Williams (30) – 3 years, $18 million
CB Will Blackmon (30) – 1 year, $950k
I’m lumping these two together not because they’re on the same level necessarily, but because both signings are indicative of a sudden absence of talent at the CB position for Seattle. Sherman has the starting left corner position locked down, but beyond him things get dicey. Starting right corner Byron Maxwell signed with the Eagles, primary backup Jeremy Lane will almost certainly start the year on PUP after breaking his arm and tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl, and Tharold Simon is contemplating shoulder surgery and looked shaky in his limited snaps last year. The only other healthy corner on the team besides Sherman was Indianapolis castoff Marcus Burley, a guy who played his heart out last year and did a few great things but is not a guy I’d feel comfortable seeing on the field for more than a few snaps a game.
Watching a couple of Philadelphia’s games from last year, Williams appeared to struggle a bit early on, but solidified his play down the stretch. I’d say his performance is on par with Maxwell’s, if not better, and he’s got the size (6’1″, 190 lbs) to play press man in Carroll’s defense.
I’m not sure what the Hawks are getting in Blackmon, though. He looked game enough when he played some preseason games for them two years ago, but last season with the Jaguars he started just four of the eight games he played in before sitting out the rest of the year with a broken finger, and in the game tape I’ve looked at he was largely ineffectual. He’ll only count $80k against the cap in dead money if he ends up being cut, so he’s a low-risk signing.
LB Mike Morgan (27) – 1 year, undisclosed amount (likely veteran minimum)
According to Rotoworld, Morgan only played 27 defensive snaps last season, but he’s a solid depth player. He can fill in at both linebacker and rush defensive end, and he’s a decent special teamer.
WR Ricardo Lockette (29) – 1 year, $660k
The Seahawks opted not to offer an RFA tender to Lockette, the lowest level of which would have guaranteed him a base salary of at least $1.5 million. That decision ultimately allowed them to bring back one of the best special team gunners in the NFL (and a serviceable backup receiving option, regardless of what anyone might think about his last route in the Super Bowl) at a $840k discount. Not bad, Schneider.
CB Byron Maxwell (27) – Philadelphia, 6 years, $63 million
Playing reasonably well as a starter for a Super Bowl team is a great way to maximize your earnings, and Maxwell cashed in big-time. Newcomer Cary Williams is three years older than Maxwell, but his skill level is roughly equal and his $6 million/year contract average is much more palatable than Maxwell’s $10.5 million/year.
LB Malcolm Smith (26) – Oakland, 2 years, $7 million
After splitting time with Bruce Irvin at outside linebacker in 2013, Smith was edged out by Irvin this year and saw his playing time drop as a result. With K.J. Wright holding down the other outside position, Smith was never going to be more than a veteran-minimum backup in Seattle. In Oakland, he gets a paycheck bump and a legitimate chance to start next to Kahlil Mack and Sio Moore. So yeah, not a bad move for him at all.
DE O’Brien Schofield (28) – Atlanta, 1 year, $1.7 million
Schofield was a rotational guy who occasionally flashed, but in most of his defensive snaps was just sort of there. That doesn’t mean he did anything wrong — he was mostly assignment-correct and held his own — but he didn’t do anything that made him irreplaceable, either. He gives Dan Quinn a guy in Atlanta who knows his system and can help teach it to the rest of the defensive line.
G James Carpenter (26) – NY Jets, 4 years, $19.1 million
Carpenter ends his career with the Seahawks as a somewhat out of shape, injury-prone guard who couldn’t manage to outplay Paul McQuistan for sole control of the starting left guard position. Not exactly what you want to see from a first round pick, but so it goes.
S Jeron Johnson (27) – Washington, 2 years, $4 million
Johnson was a solid special teamer and backup safety, but that isn’t worth $2 million/year to the Hawks. In Washington he’ll get a legitimate chance to secure a starting role, too, something that wasn’t going to happen on a depth chart headlined by Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
WR Bryan Walters (27) – Jacksonville, unknown contract
Walters was no one’s favorite backup receiver last year, and he was uninspiring as a punt returner — his 7.7 yards/return average ranked 22nd in the league. Even so, he’ll be a slight upgrade for the Jaguars in that category — their punt returner last season, Ace Sanders, ranked 27th with 7.1 yards/return — and who knows, with their shaky depth chart he might even finally land that starting slot receiver job he’s always coveted.
DT Landon Cohen (29)
Cohen was a late-season injury replacement signed after DT Jeremy Hill went on IR just prior to the playoffs. He might return as a camp body, but if he does I wouldn’t expect him to make the final roster — he spent 2008 to 2013 playing for five different teams, and the Seahawks were the only team to let him play for them during the 2014 season.
DE Demarcus Dobbs (27)
Claimed off waivers from the 49ers, Dobbs was another late-season injury replacement for the Seahawks’ d-line. He was solid as a rotational end in the seven games he played (4 regular season, 3 postseason), and Dobbs would be a decent, cost-effective replacement for Schofield on the depth chart.
LB Heath Farwell (33)
I’ve never made a secret of my love for special teams play, and Farwell has been one of my favorite players to watch the past few seasons. The man was a returner-seeking missile, and even when he didn’t make the tackle himself he always seemed to have a positive influence on the play That said, after a nasty groin inury that landed him on IR last season, his playing days are done. I’d love to see him return as an assistant special teams coach, though — he’s got a great mind for it, as he demonstrated last year as a de facto ST assistant.
LS Clint Gresham (29)
Gresham is a generally solid long snapper, but he made a couple of wild snaps last year that were only saved by some quick athletic moves by Jon Ryan. The Seahawks could find better, but he’s solid enough to warrant another one to two year contract — anyone who remembers the 2008 season knows just how horribly wrong things can go when you try to find a replacement for your longtime long snapper.
QB Tarvaris Jackson (32)
Unless the Seahawks feel like perpetual practice squadder BJ Daniels is ready to step up, they’d be well advised to bring back Jackson to reprise his role as Russell Wilson’s backup. According what I’ve read, the team is currently talking to him about doing just that.
C Lemuel Jeanpierre (28)
I’ve always liked Jeanpierre, but I’ve also always thought he’d make a better guard than a center, plus his performance in 2014 was not his best work. With Max Unger now playing for the Saints, Jeanpierre will likely be brought in at least as competition in training camp.
WR Jermaine Kearse (25)
The Seahawks have given RFA Kearse a second-round tender, and the combo of a $2.36 million base salary and a second round pick is a price that other teams are highly unlikely to want to pay. I liked Kearse when he was the third or fourth receiving option on the depth chart, but last year as a starting receiver he unfortunately continued to produce as though he was still just a third or fourth stringer. That said, Kearse is young enough that he can still continue to develop and the arrival of Jimmy Graham should help loosen up coverages for the Seahawks’ wide receivers, so Kearse could very well end up producing a respectable stat line if he reprises the #2 WR role in 2015.
TE Zach Miller (29)
Miller has been one of my favorite players to watch the past few years, but after being released by Seattle after spending most of 2014 on IR he’s unlikely to return, especially now that they’ve added Jimmy Graham to the mix. Oh well, it was fun to watch him catch and block while he was here, and until another team picks him up he can always console himself with his 2013 Super Bowl ring and millions in the bank.
TE Tony Moeaki (28)
Yet another injury replacement signing, Moeaki played relatively well when called into action but was hampered by injuries of his own later in the season. He could be an interesting choice to bring in to compete in training camp, but even if he returns I wouldn’t hold out much hope for him to overcome his health issues and make the final roster.
OL Stephen Schilling (27)
A serviceable backup guard and center before he went on IR partway through the season, Schilling would be a decent choice to bring back to compete with Patrick Lewis for the starting center job.
DB DeShawn Shead (27)
Shead is a solid special teamer and backup defensive back who can play both corner and safety. Given the departure of Jeron Johnson to Washington and the team’s threadbare depth at CB, re-signing Shead for depth would be a smart move.
DT D’Anthony Smith (27)
Smith is an injury replacement who has spent most of his five years in the league on either practice squads or IR (he was on IR with Seattle all last year with a torn biceps). Don’t expect too much from him if he gets re-signed.
FB/DT Will Tukuafu (31)
Tukuafu was one of the better injury replacement signings this season, and he filled in ably for Derrick Coleman as Lynch’s lead blocker after Coleman went on IR with a broken foot. He also wasn’t half bad as a DT both as part of the rotation and as part of the goal line defense.
DT Jesse Williams (24)
It’s hard to believe now, but back in 2013 Williams was being touted as a potential first round pick. The Seahawks ended up drafting him in the fifth round, and he spent the last two seasons with the team on IR with chronic knee problems. The Seahawks released him earlier this month, and unless his knee problems miraculously clear up it’s highly doubtful he’ll be returning to the team.
UPDATE (7:31 PM): As noted in the comments below by alert reader Ross Lambert, reports are surfacing that Jesse Williams will indeed be re-signed by Seattle to a restructered contract. According to Williams, his knee problems the past two seasons were “taken a bit out of context by the media” and a couple of “minor knee surgeries” have successfully fixed the problems that have sidelined him in the past. Assuming all this pans out, it’s great news for the Seahawks’ depth on the interior defensive line.
DT Kevin Williams (35)
The main question with Williams is whether or not he’ll choose to retire, but after getting within inches of a earning a ring with Seattle I don’t think there’s any question who he’ll want to sign with if he does decide to return. He looked rejuvenated as a rotational run-stuffer last year and held his own as a starter after Brandon Mebane went on IR midway through the season.