RENTON – A week into this frenetic combination of free agency and the beginning of training camp, and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is back in his old element.
“We’ve been recruiting,” the former University of Southern California coach said. “This is kind of like the old days, and our guys have really stepped up and helped out.”
After reeling in a promising group of free agents during the opening days of free agency, the Seahawks added the top tight end in the market, announcing Tuesday that the team had come to terms with former Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller.
Terms were not disclosed, but Miller reportedly received a five-year deal worth $34 million, with $17 million of that guaranteed.
Just as Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable, the Raiders’ former head coach, helped woo ex-Raiders guard Robert Gallery to Seattle last week, Cable showed just as much sway in courting Miller.
“Coach Cable gave me a call Saturday morning and saw I wasn’t signed yet, kind of feeling the Raiders would have done it by then,” Miller told the Oakland Tribune. “He said, ‘We want you here, and I’m going to make a push to get you here.’
“I took a visit, and my wife and I just loved it. I’m still kind of blown away about what an amazing place it is, and we feel it’s the best fit.”
Said Cable: “We had a deal going in Oakland. We were all close and cared about it and went through a lot together. And we turned that thing around, and then it all changed. That’s life. But I’m as fond as him as he is of (me), and I’m fond of a lot of those guys. But I’m here now, and we’ve got to get Seattle back to something bigger and better.”
Miller has been Oakland’s most targeted offensive player over the past four years, finishing with 226 receptions for 2,712 yards and 12 touchdowns during that stretch. Only five tight ends have more catches during that time.
Miller was Oakland’s leading receiver last year, with 60 receptions for 685 yards and five touchdowns, earning a Pro Bowl berth as an injury replacement for San Diego’s Antonio Gates.
With Miller in Seattle, it appears that fourth-year tight end John Carlson will be seeing a reduced role. Carlson, who is in the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him $620,500 in base salary this season, saw his production drop last year after having more than 50 catches in each of his first two seasons. He finished tied for fourth on the team in receptions with 31 for 318 yards and a touchdown.
Part of the reason for Carlson’s drop in production was that Seattle often had him help protect quarterback Matt Hasselbeck as a blocker instead of running routes.
Carroll said the plan is to use Miller and Carlson together.
“That’s exactly what’s in our minds,” he said. “Anybody that thinks otherwise doesn’t get it. They’ll be on opposite sides, and we’ll be moving them around for matchups and all kinds of stuff.”
Of course, Carlson has seen team leaders Hasselbeck and linebacker Lofa Tatupu move on in recent weeks, so he understands that it’s possible he could be packing his bags, too.
“Honestly, those things are out of my control, and I can’t worry about it,” Carlson said.
For what it’s worth, Cable said he’s looking forward to using them both.
“The most important thing to me is we now have two fantastic tight ends,” Cable said.
Heading into free agency, the Seahawks were expected to be an active player, with about $40 million of salary cap room to spend. And they have risen to the task, making a financial commitment to key players at key positions.
Those players will be allowed to practice for the first time Thursday after having to wait because of NFL rules regarding the new labor agreement, and Carroll expects those guys to hit the ground running.
Carroll said as much in a meeting with the team’s free agents after practice this week.
“The thing that I’m talking to them about is, they’ve come here to do something, to make an impact,” Carroll said. “And I want to make sure they don’t waste a day. We can’t let a couple days go buy getting comfortable. We have to hit it. So I wanted them in these days leading up to Thursday to try to click their minds in that they’re in camp, and they’re going and it’s competition time – all of the normal things that happen when you go to camp.”
Recently re-signed defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said the message was received.
“He just wants us to be active and be ready to take that role,” Mebane said, “and to just go and be a leader and bring some excitement and everything to the team. A lot of guys are still excited, but some of them haven’t seen a lot of us play before. So he’s just telling us to be ready.”
The Seahawks agreed to terms with defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson. Terms were not disclosed, but it’s believed to be a one-year, $1.5 million agreement.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pounds Wilkerson, 30, played for New Orleans last season, finishing with 16 tackles and two sacks in 16 games. The nine-year pro played the 2008 and 2009 seasons in Tampa Bay, where he was coached by current Seattle defensive line coach Todd Wash, finishing with a combined 11 sacks those two season with the Bucs.
Carroll said defensive end Chris Clemons had ankle surgery during the offseason, and the team trainers are bringing him back slowly. The Seahawks agreed to terms with former Buffalo Bills free safety Brett Johnson and University of Montana running back Chase Reynolds. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kentwood High graduate Mike Karney is scheduled to visit the Seahawks today. Karney started at fullback for the St. Louis Rams last year. According to the National Football Post, former Washington Redskins pass rusher Chris Wilson and former Pittsburgh and San Francisco kicker Jeff Reed worked out for the Seahawks on Tuesday.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks