Attracting and signing free agents is tough for Northwest sports teams. Seattlites feel like crossing the bridge to the Eastside is another world away. Imagine how folks from the East Coast feel when traveling to Seattle for the first time. The Sonics and Blazers at least had the chance host free agents during the Summer months. The Seahawks are stuck bringing in players at a time when most of the country is starting to come out of Winter, yet Seattle still struggles with inclement weather. This week may be the worst weather of the year, and don’t underestimate the impact that has on a player’s decision. Former Chargers lineman Kris Dielman famously was set to replace Steve Hutchinson in Seattle, but turned down more money to return to a more pleasant climate in San Diego.
Jason Jones spent the day in Seattle yesterday, and Matt Flynn flew in last night. Both are pivotal figures in the Seattle off-season. The aforementioned Hutchinson already made his visit and decided to go to the Titans instead. It’s hard to imagine the weather was a factor for a guy that already played here a few years and knew what he’d be in for before making the trip. Reports are that Flynn has a visit scheduled to Miami after Seattle. He, and his girlfriend, have strong ties to Louisiana. The Dolphins are far more desperate for a quarterback and the Seahawks (no matter what your opinion of Tarvaris Jackson is). It is hard to see what would cause Flynn to pick Seattle over Miami. To put it another way, if he did pick Seattle, it would speak volumes about who he is and what he values. The Seahawks are a better team, with better young talent, and more functional front office. A person who would turn down what will almost certainly be more money, better weather, closer proximity to home/family, less threat of competition, in order to play for a more promising team is a guy any fan would love to have. It almost never plays out that way. Expect Flynn to leave tonight for Miami, and only to return if the Dolphins are playing at CLink.
Jones is being pursued hard by the Rams. It is a great sign that he got on the plane to Seattle despite their aggressive overtures. He may have some connection with the team that has not been made public yet, or his agent is convinced they will get a blowout offer that will drive his market way up. The Rams were reportedly still in contact with his agent while the Seattle visit was going on. The Titans, his original team, also are still in the mix. This has all the makings of a bidding war. Jones is 25, has upside, and is a rare find as a disruptive interior pass rusher. He could fill the role Pete Carroll wanted Jimmy Wilkerson to do last season, moving all along the line to pressure the passer. The downside is that Jones is undersized and has had some injury issues. Make no mistake, Seattle will have to outspend the other teams to get Jones. He youth, potential and rarity make him worth the risk and cost. If Red Bryant just got $14.5M guaranteed, Jones could hit the $10-20M range, maybe even more. Word is that he will make his decision by Monday. This one has the feel that if he leaves Seattle without a contract, he won’t be back. Just a hunch.
Michael Robinson tweeted last night that he had re-signed with the Seahawks. Robinson was always a good special teams player, but became a Pro Bowl fullback last season. His toughness and leadership are undeniable. This ensures the key elements of that running game are back intact. There should be no reason for the team to take a step back there.
It could get very quiet over the next week after Flynn and Jones make their decisions. There will be other guys that come and go, but don’t expect many impact signings. Seattle has an obvious need at linebacker, and some are asking about Curtis Lofton, who is possibly the premium linebacker on the market. What many many not realize is that the linebacker position is going through a similar commoditization that running backs went through. Rookie linebackers can come in and make an impact right away as starters. They don’t take as long as other positions to adjust to the NFL. K.J. Wright is an obvious recent example. Paying a premium for a position that can be addressed with high-impact players in the 4th round is not something a smart front office does. There are plenty of great linebackers in this draft. Expect the Seahawks to be very frugal in their linebacker free agent shopping. Larry Grant continues to be a guy that would make some sense, but he will be a second or third-tier free agent since he would cost a 7th-round draft pick in return. David Hawthorne could get re-signed, but only if another team doesn’t offer him a good contract.
Since the Seahawks expressed interest in Hutchinson, it would make sense that they would continue to look for veteran depth at guard. Former Brown Eric Steinbach may be a name to watch.
Pray that the Seahawks have full-spectrum lighting installed at the VMAC, and that some news of real import breaks today. If another player’s girlfriend is the biggest story of the day, it would be disappointing.