The first domino the Seahawks needed to fall to set their offseason plans fell late Friday afternoon: Marshawn Lynch agreed to return for $12 million guaranteed this year as part of a new, two-year contract extension he signed at team headquarters in Renton. The deal got done during a meeting between him, his agent, Seahawks general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll -- and even owner Paul Allen.
Now the Seahawks know they don't need to sign a lead running back when the free-agent signing market opens tomorrow. They can keep their primary targets at cornerback, including among Tramon Williams of Green Bay and Cary Williams of Philadelphia. That's because, as the Seahawks expected, starter Byron Maxwell is about to leave as an unrestricted free agent.
No way the Seahawks were going to get into a bidding war that apparently is going to net the backup to Brandon Browner until late in the 2013 season a stunning $25 million guaranteed in a reported six-year, $63 million deal from the Eagles. Besides, if they really wanted to keep Maxwell as a young cornerstone of the defense -- as they have with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright and (are about to with) Bobby Wagner -- the Seahawks wouldn't have let Maxwell reach free agency; they would have signed him well before this.
Reminds me of what my former Raiders beat writer colleague noted yesterday from a Hall of Famer we both covered for years, which rings very true:
That crazily inflated deal shows how weak the market on free-agent cornerbacks is, and how the Seahawks could end up just waiting until next month's draft to get one rather than engage in that kind of financial foolishness.
I've seen estimates from those who follow every nook and cranny of this that the Seahawks have after the Lynch extension anywhere from $24.4-25 million in available salary-cap space as free agency "begins."
Speaking of falling, what in the name of John Brodie is going down with the 49ers?
First the owner and general manager essentially kick one of the most immediately successful coaches in league recently, Jim Harbaugh, out of the Bay Area all the way to the University of Michigan. Then, weeks after GM Trent Baalke expressed his desire to keep five-time Pro Bowl runner and long-time franchise cornerstone Frank Gore, Gore is apparently leaving for Philadelphia as LeSean McCoy's replacement.
But there's more: late last night many of my Bay Area pals had fun chasing down a report out of Houston from the same Texans radio host that first had Maxwell's huge new numbers from the Eagles that Colin Kaepernick is on the trading block.
That prompted this quick -- within an hour -- unusual and strong public denial from Baalke in which he called the Kapernick story "quite frankly, ridiculous."
Then this morning, those same Niners writers are typing this about the possible retirements of two foundation guys on San Francisco's defense:
The 49ers appear from afar -- and from up close there by the Bay, even -- to be in disarray. Or in the very least, nothing remotely like the franchise that came within Sherman's tipped pass away from Michael Crabtree in the Seattle end zone away from the Super Bowl 14 months ago. The NFC West isn't the same as it was even last season.
--If you missed it because you had a life beyond this on a Sunday morning, the Seahawks have apparently given recently injured tight end Anthony McCoy a one-year contract to return from the 2015 season. The five-year veteran from USC could gain prominence if he can stay healthy, now that the Seahawks have released veteran starter Zach Miller following a failed physical.
--Yahoo! Sports is reporting the Seahawks are interested in a free-agent outside linebacker from Cleveland. At first glance linebacker isn't one of the positions where one would think Seattle wants or needs to spend much money, not with All-Pro Bobby Wagner, emerging Bruce Irvin and newly re-signed K.J. Wright all under contract for 2015. But Carroll can never have enough pass rushers.
--By the way, it's not supposed to be like this. The league rules are this is supposed to be a "talk-only" period from Saturday until Tuesday, the latter being the first day of the 2015 league year and thus the first day teams are allowed to agree to deals and have free agents sign them.
That "displeasure" strikes a bit like wanting to have it both ways. The league can't at all be displeased by the fact its atop national headlines yet again -- in early March, even.
--This, by the way, is great -- and from one of the best:
Old-school. And the right way.