Free agency arrived this week amid a hail of fuss and tweetage.
But, traditionally, it’s to little effect around here.
And once again the competitive fortunes of the Seahawks in 2017 will be bolstered to a greater extent by other means.
For the Seattle Seahawks, free agency is the time for pushing the shopping cart down every aisle, but usually only picking up some quick-setting spackle for the worst roster cracks.
Veterans customarily arrive at free-agent status because they no longer pencil out for their old teams. They can help new teams in the short run, sure, no question. But the cost of players at the prime positions are inflated by the market.
For the Seahawks, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett (2013) and Ahtyba Rubin (2015) are examples of the few truly impactful players added in recent seasons as veteran free agents.
The most significant official action this week was the loss of kicker Steven Hauschka (expected and prepared for), and the signing of former Jacksonville tackle Luke Joeckel.
Nothing you should sleep through, but not season-altering transactions, either.
The kicking of T.J. Lang’s tires is more significant, but nothing official had come of his “recruiting” visit to Seattle as of Saturday evening. The guard was a Pro Bowl selection for Green Bay last season, and if healthy and willing, could significantly upgrade a unit in need of talent and experience.
Joeckel has been banged up and performed nowhere near his status as a second-overall draft pick four years ago. But he’s still 25, and if he’s functional, he’ll be a nice addition.
Lang would change things and perhaps force some shuffling of the deck to find the best five up front.
There are two obvious reasons for the Hawks’ search for offensive linemen. There’s a desperate need, of course. But, also, the upcoming draft is considered heavy on defensive talent and lean on blockers.
If they can tick some boxes with line help in free agency, they can use the five picks in the first three rounds to continue the search for depth and potential replacements for aging defensive stars.
So the draft is and always will be most crucial to how this team is constructed and renewed — but not immediately. And that’s why it seems that the talent infusion of the greatest impact this season will be of last year’s rookies maturing into veterans.
Guard Germain Ifedi and defensive tackle Jarran Reed are two who could improve this team right away, riding the rookie learning curve toward consistent productivity.
But running back C.J. Prosise might be the most intriguing of the group. The Hawks are bringing in veteran free agent backs for evaluation, but the biggest addition could be the return to health of Prosise.
Because of an early wrist injury and a late shoulder injury, Prosise only got 30 carries and 17 catches last season, but against the Patriots, he had 66 rushing yards and 87 yards in receptions. The next week, he broke away for a 72-yard rushing touchdown against Philadelphia.
If those few plays are indicators of his long-run potential, free-agent backs won’t be needed.
Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson had an impressive training camp last summer and looked ready to add quality depth, but played in just three games and went on injured reserve in October.
Tight end Nick Vannett was inactive early because of an ankle injury and finished with a scant three catches. But he has the look of a solid blocker and has surprised the staff with his receiving skills.
This draft will bring some surprises and will add to the competitive nature of camp.
But as it is, the growth and return to health of last season’s rookie class could provide the boost the Hawks need most.