At the conclusion of the NFL’s first week of 2014 free agency action, the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks find themselves suddenly in a position of need, still with more questions than answers. As has become seemingly typical in the 21st century, the league’s top team has faced a fair amount of pilfering by, and exodus to, the lesser squads of the NFL. Golden Tate is a Detroit Lion. Red Bryant and Chris Clemons are Jacksonville Jaguars. Clinton McDonald is a Tampa Bay Buc. Lastly, starting RT Breno Giacomini is now a New York Jet.
Seattle now finds themselves missing several starters on both sides of the ball, and with a potential need at wide receiver. The free agency wheels continue to turn, and the Seahawks have been linked to several notable free agents. We’ll explore three specific areas of need, and those who might potentially fill them, below:
Situation: Golden Tate is out of Seattle and in Detroit. Doug Baldwin has been slapped with a 2nd round tender, and is likely to sign a multiyear deal by the end of the month. Percy Harvin, after a stellar showing in the big game six weeks ago, is finally healthy. Jermaine Kearse showed exceptional growth in his second NFL season, and barring any major surprises, should see an expanded role in 2014. Sidney Rice has been released, but according to the latest reports, is close to re-signing in Seattle at a significantly lower cap number.
The Seahawks have also signed two wideouts to future contracts: Taylor Price, selected in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by the New England Patriots, and Chris Matthews out of the CFL. Both receivers have been plagued by injury, but when healthy, have shown flashes of brilliance. UFA WRs Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks have both signed with other teams today (as of 4PM) limiting the options left at the position on the open market.
Projected Depth Chart:
1. Percy Harvin
2. Doug Baldwin
3. Jermaine Kearse
In an ideal world, Sidney Rice comes back on a low-dollar, “prove it” contract, stays healthy, and is penciled in as the team’s true #1 receiver, a-la 2012. This pushes Percy Harvin to #2 and puts Doug Baldwin back in the slot– where he would theoretically split time with Harvin depending on scheme and package. The chart is filled out with an up-and-coming Kearse at #4, who has improved his vision and pass-catching ability and proven himself as a valuable blocker.
General Manager, John Schneider, has shown a real knack for finding diamonds in the rough, if either Price or Matthews pan out as real options at WR, the Seahawks are in pretty good shape at the position. Another potential replacement for Golden Tate is Pittsburgh Steelers UFA, Emmanuel Sanders– he possesses a similar skillset to Tate and could return punts, as well. There has been no official speculation that the Seahawks are interested in Sanders. If Seattle were to make a move on Sanders, that would likely mean ‘no go’ on Rice, and he would need to seek out employment elsewhere– leaving the Seahawks, again, undersized at the position.
Also of note here is the interesting situation at tight end. Seattle has been linked to Green Bay Packers UFA, Jermichael Finley. Finley has injury concerns coming off of a serious neck injury, and when he’s on the field there have been questions about his blocking ability– a major aspect of what the Seahawks look for in a TE. If Finley were signed, that could mean the eventual release of Zack Miller, though not necessarily– Seattle could theoretically carry four TE’s on the roster and utilize Finley as more of a slot receiver (Think Jimmy Graham). This would require Miller to restructure his contract– a necessity for him to remain on the team as it is. Seattle recently re-signed Anthony McCoy and also has the promising Luke Willson under contract.
In conclusion, Seattle has a lot of internal options at the position, and outside of the Rice/Sanders/Miller/Finley conundrum, doesn’t need to seek further depth via free agency. Look for the team to take a taller receiver again this year in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft.
Situation: The Seahawks have released DE’s Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Both have signed with Gus Bradley’s Jaguars, as the Seattle-Jacksonville pipeline continues to flow. DT Clinton McDonald signed a multiyear deal with Tampa Bay. These are three pretty big losses out of the teams defensive rotation, luckily they were able to work out a deal with DT Tony McDaniel and stem the flow.
Seattle was able to re-sign Michael Bennett on what turned out to be a bit of a bargain deal, counter to all word prior to the signing. They’ve also got returning starters under contract in Brandon Mebane and Cliff Avril. Lastly, there are a couple of talented and promising young guys that didn’t find playing time last year– notably DE Greg Scruggs.
Needs: Seattle will look to replace those lost on the outgoing side of free agency. Look for them to make a serious play at Chicago Bears UFA DT/DE Henry Melton. Melton is a fourth year player who put together some pretty impressive stats prior to the 2013 season– which he missed most of recovering from a serious knee injury and subsequent surgical procedure. Melton is versatile and can play anywhere on the defensive line. Seattle loves versatility on defense; Melton is a great fit.
The Cowboys and Vikings have also shown serious interest in Melton, but he’s currently on a visit in Seattle– it’d be great to see him leave town with a one or two year deal in hand, something in the neighborhood of what the Seahawks tendered Michael Bennett last year, in the 3-5M/yr. range.
Another high-profile name the Seahawks have been linked to is former Viking DE, and future HOFer, Jared Allen. Allen is another good fit for the system in Seattle, and the situational rotation used by the Emerald City D could go along way towards keeping his aging legs fresh all the way into January. The biggest holdup on getting any potential deal done with Allen is money. He’s been one of the premiere pass-rushers in the league for the better part of the last decade, and wants to be paid like it. If Seattle and Allen can meet in the middle somewhere in the 4-6M/yr. range, expect him to be wearing Seahawk blue, come August.
Again, the Seahawks are in decent shape over all along the defensive front, and should look to inject a couple of veteran names into a unit flush with youth and depth.
Situation: This was the weakest unit on the squad last year, and just lost a veteran presence at RT in Breno Giacomini. It also looks like they’ll lose another veteran in Paul McQuistan at some point. Young talent is available on the depth chart in Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey, who both progressed immensely as the season progressed, but with questions at both guard spots and at least some concern about injury regarding C Max Unger and LT Russell Okung, this is the Seahawks single greatest position of need.
Most of the high-profile veteran UFAs have already been taken off of the market, but there are a few flyers here and there. Watch GM John Schneider make an under-the-radar move or two here, as we draw closer to the NFL Draft in May. Also look for several draft picks devoted to the offensive front, potentially even the teams first round selection at #32 in what looks to be a particularly deep draft at both the guard and tackle spots.
Stay tuned here at Emerald City Swagger as the free agency period progresses. We’ve got you covered. Comments? Questions? Concerns? Leave it in the comments below, or hit me on Twitter @JasonTurnerWA