Following the Seahawks right now reminds me of walking into a Las Vegas casino without the urge to play into the wee-small hours.
The room is alive with the sounds of cheers and giddy hollering. A slot-machine across the aisle is spilling coins – ding! ding! ding! – and still more coins.
Everybody else is rolling while I’m standing still, determined to make it through the night on $50. It’s prudent behavior, I suppose, but who goes to Las Vegas to exercise prudence?
Through the first three days of the offseason’s free agent-signing phase, the Seahawks have shown a similar resistance to gambling. Despite their need for a pass-rushing force from the edge, for instance, they never were interested in bidding for defensive end Mario Williams.
(The two-time All-Pro ended up with the Bills, who in turn ended up with a bill putting them on the hook for $50 million.)
Guard Steve Hutchinson, a future Hall-of-Fame candidate, made a visit to Seahawks headquarters the other day, presumably to talk about returning to the team he left amid controversy six years ago. Whatever Hutchinson wanted, the Seahawks weren’t buying. He signed a three-year deal with the Titans on Thursday.
Some silly money is being thrown around this week. The Buccaneers guaranteed former Saints guard Carl Nicks $31 million. That’s right: $31-million, guaranteed, for a guard. And the Bucs didn’t stop there.
They signed former Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson to a contract assuring him $26 million.
And the Seahawks? Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are in an uncharacteristic holding pattern, preferring to allocate resources toward such key incumbents as running back Marshawn Lynch, defensive end Red Bryant, and offensive lineman Paul McQuistan.
Carroll and Schneider aren’t committed to keeping every veteran – guard Robert Gallery, tight end John Carlson and linebackers David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill are either gone, or going – but the Carroll-Schneider brain trust identified the team’s priorities, and is following through on them while adhering to a philosophy of roster management built around fiscal responsibility.
It’s a sound way to operate. Bedrock NFL powerhouses don’t go wild during the free-agent signing period. Bedrock NFL powerhouses stockpile talent from the draft, then do some tweaking with trades.
Bedrock NFL powerhouses use free agency to seal a gap here and there.
This just in: The Seattle Seahawks aren’t a bedrock NFL powerhouse.
They’re better equipped to challenge for the playoffs than when Carroll and Schneider were hired before the 2010 season – a year they improbably went to the playoffs, and improbably advanced – but the team, for all the upgrades that have been made to the defensive backfield and the offensive line, will go only as far the quarterback can take it.
If Tarvaris Jackson remains the quarterback, the Seahawks aren’t going anywhere beyond an 8-8 record.
Which brings us to Matt Flynn, the free agent from Green Bay who was scheduled to arrive in Seattle on Thursday night for an interview that will conclude this morning. As a four-season backup quarterback to All-Pro Aaron Rodgers, Flynn has put together a résumé that is both confounding and intriguing: Two career starts (confounding) that produced two games with outrageous passing numbers (intriguing).
Since throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns in an otherwise inconsequential regular-season finale against the Lions, Flynn’s free-agent stock has fallen. The Browns were thought to be potential suitors, but they seem committed to Colt McCoy. The Redskins were thought to be potential suitors, but they traded two future No. 1 picks, and a No. 2, to the Rams, in a bold ambit to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. And while the Dolphins remain suitors, they’re clinging to the possibility of signing Peyton Manning.
So the field for Flynn has been thinned, and the Seahawks, consistent with their newfound skepticism toward free agents, are not inclined to get goofy. If they make an offer for Flynn, the offer likely won’t be for more than two years.
Take it or leave it, kid.
There’s something admirable about resisting the temptation to write an eight-figure check for a quarterback with two career starts. But here’s the thing: If Flynn gets a more substantial offer than two years elsewhere, the Seahawks are left with Jackson, who had four chances to lead them to fourth-quarter comebacks last season.
He went 0-for-4.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Tarvaris has a big upside, and we need to fit with him as he fits with us,” Carroll has said of Jackson. “He needs time with his guys. He needs an offensive line that’s got their act together from the start …
“I think there’s a chance for a lot of growth.”
Brad Childress, the ex-Vikings coach, spoke of Jackson in the same flattering tone before the 2008 season. Childress dwelled on the quarterback’s potential, and how he only needed time to showcase his unlimited ability.
Minnesota returned seven Pro Bowl players that season. It acquired Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen in a trade, part of a $60 million investment the team made in upgrades. All that separated the Vikings from a run to the Super Bowl was a quarterback.
Childress determined his starting QB to be Jackson, who threw a game-ending interception in Week 1, and failed to lead the offense into the end zone in Week 2. He was benched before Week 3.
Tarvaris Jackson is a tough cookie. His teammates respect him. His coaches think the world of him. But after six seasons in the NFL, he’s shown no ability to execute the fourth-quarter drives that win close games.
Matt Flynn visited Seattle on Thursday. If Carroll and Schneider say goodbye to Flynn without offering him a big-time contract, they will regret it.
A gamble? Of course he is. But this gamble has a payoff that could put the Seahawks in the playoffs.
Take a deep breath, guys, and let it roll.