Don’t worry, at some point the NFL lockout will end, free agency will begin and training camp will be just around the corner.
So with that inevitability in mind, let’s take a look at the Seattle Seahawks’ free agents, discussing who will stay and who will go in the coming weeks.
The Seahawks currently have 54 players under contract. That does not include the nine rookies taken in this year’s draft, who have not signed a contract because of the lockout. So 23 Seattle players will hit the free agency market next week once a new CBA is agreed to by players and owners.
ESPN’s John Clayton has projected the Seahawks will have $39 million in cap space if the new cap number comes in at a projected $120 million. Of course, no one knows what the exact number will be because we don’t have a deal yet, so that number is fluid. But if anyone can predict where those numbers will come in at, it’s Clayton. Seattle has until the end of the year to meet its cap obligations
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So we can presume that Seattle will be a major player in free agency, both in signing their own free agents and others, as it appears they will have some cap space to bring players in.
High profile free agents for Seattle include quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, cornerback Kelly Jennings, offensive linemen Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer, and kicker Olindo Mare.
So let’s take a look at what’s in store for Seattle’s free agents.
S Jordan Babineaux Age: 28The skinny: A seven-year veteran, the Southern Arkansas product was a key contributor in passing situations for Seattle in 2010. Babineaux finished with 36 tackles, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks in a reserve role. After starting 16 games in 2009, Babineaux became a backup again a year later, with Pete Carroll giving Lawyer Milloy the nod. Babineaux also took a significant pay cut. Babineaux was released during final roster cut downs, but brought back two days later at a significantly reduced rate of a $1.4 million, one year deal. Babineaux adds versatility, size and experience to the Seahawks’ defensive backfield, but with Seattle drafting safeties in back-to-back years in Kam Chancellor and Mark LeGree, “Big Play Babs” days in Seattle could be numbered. Stay or go? Babineaux’s likely moving on.
TE Chris Baker, Age: 31 The skinny: Baker finished with only nine receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown in 2010, but he was used mostly as a blocking tight end in running situations. Baker played in all 16 regular season games, but finished the season on the injured reserve with a hip issue. Signed through the 2011 season, the Seahawks released Baker in March.Stay or go? Baker will not be back.
DE Raheem Brock, Age: 33The skinny: The Philadelphia native finished with a career-high nine sacks in 2010 and 32 tackles. Brock paired with Chris Clemons to give Seattle one of the most productive sack duos in the league. However, Brock’s age might have Seattle looking elsewhere in free agency, or creating an opportunity for Dexter Davis and Aaron Curry to get more snaps rushing the passer.Stay or go? Brock could be back at the right price.
DT Amon Gordon, Age: 29The skinny: The Everett native and Mariner High product saw limited action last year, positing two tackles against Tampa Bay. But Gordon could benefit from Seattle’s lack of depth at defensive tackle. Gordon is limited by the fact that he probably just provides depth for Seattle at nose tackle in running situations, but he does give the Seahawks someone who knows defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system.Stay or go? Hawks could take a flyer on him to fill out 90-man roster. QB Matt Hasselbeck, Age: 35The skinny: The Seahawks offered the veteran quarterback what they consider a fair offer before the lockout began in March, but Hasselbeck chose not accept the deal and see what better offers he can get on the open market. Once free agency begins next week, Seattle’s offer might not still be on the table. Hasselbeck reportedly has interest from Tennessee and Minnesota, and reportedly is looking for something similar to Kerry Collins’ two-year, $15 million deal he received from the Titans two years ago, with $8.5 million guaranteed.
There’s no doubt that Hasselbeck can still play, just go back and watch his impressive performance in the NFC West Wild Card game against New Orleans. His pedigree and ability to command an offense make him one of the most attractive free agent quarterbacks on the market.
But questions about Hasselbeck's durability and his ability to play at a high level over the long haul still persist, and Seahawks brass are approaching the contract negotiations with their eyes wide open.
My predecessor, ESPN’s Mike Sando, unearthed some interesting statistics regarding Hasselbeck’s recent performance. According to Sando’s research, Hasselbeck has the NFL’s lowest passer rating since 2008 among the 19 quarterbacks with at least 35 regular-season starts during that time. Hasselbeck’s rating during that time is 71.4, more than 10 points lower than Carson Palmer’s rating, which ranks 18th among the 19 quarterbacks.
Further, Sando lowered the bar to 25 regular-season starts since 2008 for a closer look. And the results were Hasselbeck ranked 26th out of 28 quarterbacks in passer rating. Mark Sanchez (70.2) and Derek Anderson (60.6) were the only ones with lower ratings.Stay or go? Hasselbeck likely will not be back, and Tennessee is a realistic landing spot as UW product Jack Locker’s mentor.
LB Will Herring, Age: 27The skinny: The Auburn University product was one of the more versatile linebackers for Seattle last season, with the ability to play all three linebacker positions. However, Herring is looking for a starting role, and could be targeted by another team looking for linebacker help like Chicago or St. Louis. Herring played a lot for Seattle in passing situations, finishing with 36 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception. A fifth-round draft choice in 2007 by Seattle, Herring has started seven games over his four-year career with the club, and also has been a stalwart on special teams.Stay or go? The Seahawks would like to have him back, but he’ll likely get a better offer to start elsewhere. LB Leroy Hill, Age: 28The skinny: Not much has gone right for Hill since former Seahawks vice president Tim Ruskell franchised him three years ago, leading to a six-year, $38 million deal. However, a series of embarrassing, off-the-field issues led to Seahawks general manager John Schneider restructuring Hill’s contract to a one year deal worth just over $2 million for the 2010 season. Hill also struggled to stay healthy, playing in 24 of a possible 48 games the last, three years, including missing all of last year after suffering a heel injury early last season at Denver. But the hard-hitting Hill is still young enough to recover and help someone, and could get that opportunity in Chicago, where a familiar face in Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell could take a flyer on him.Stay or go? Hill likely has worn out his welcome in Seattle.
CB Kelly Jennings, Age: 28The skinny: While much-maligned, the former first round pick has proved durable for Seattle, starting 44 games in his five-year career in Seattle. At 5-11, 180 pounds, at first glance Jennings doesn’t appear an ideal fit for Seattle’s press coverage scheme on the outside. Add to that the fact that it appears the Seahawks would like to clear a path for second-year product Walter Thurmond to start, and Jennings could be headed elsewhere, with Detroit or Houston as possible destinations. However, don’t rule out the possibility of Jennings returning to Seattle –at the right price. Stay or go? The Seahawks bring back the reliable Jennings for continued depth at a need position.
OT Sean Locklear, Age: 30The skinny: The eight-year pro started 78 games for the Seahawks, but likely will be moving on with Seattle selecting offensive tackle James Carpenter in the first round of this year’s draft to start at right tackle. Seahawks’ brass asked Locklear to restructure his contract last year, and he agreed shave the last two years off of his deal, reducing last year’s salary from $5.4 million to $3.4 million to a one year, $3.25 million deal in 2010. Locklear never complained, and by the end of the season was one of the team’s most consistent linemen. A former member of Seattle’s coaching staff said he believed that Locklear was a top 15 linemen in the league, so there likely will be some interest from teams looking for a right tackle to come in and play right away.Stay or go? The North Carolina State product will play elsewhere in 2011.
QB J.P. Losman, Age: 30The skinny: The former first round pick for Buffalo didn’t see any time as Seattle’s third-string quarterback last season, but the Seahawks like his potential. Whether or not Losman returns depends on what moves Seattle makes in free agency, and whether or not they bring in an undrafted free agent to serve as a developmental prospect.Stay or go? A possibility to return.
K Olindo Mare, Age: 38The skinny: The Seahawks franchised the veteran kicker last season, with Mare agreeing to play for the one-year, $2.8 million tender. Mare didn’t disappoint, making 25 of 30 field goal attempts and placing 27.4 percent of his kickoffs resulting in touchbacks, fourth overall in the league. Mare would like to be back, but is looking for the security of a multi-year deal.Stay or go? Hawks have bigger fish to fry and need the stability of a veteran kicker in the fold. LB Matt McCoy, Age: 28The skinny: The San Diego State product led Seattle in special teams tackles with 19, and also served as a backup for Lofa Tatupu at middle linebacker. With the lockout leaving little time for Seattle special teams coach Brian Schneider to get rookies and new players up to speed, along with the fact that Will Herring could leave in free agency, McCoy could once again fill a key role on special teams for Seattle. San Diego recently hired Rich Bisaccia as the team’s new special teams coach to turn around the Chargers’ woeful unit. McCoy played for Bisaccia when he was in Tampa Bay, so San Diego now become a natural landing spot for the Southern California native. Stay or go? McCoy seems more valuable to Seattle than other teams.
WR Ruvell Martin, Age: 28The skinny: Martin was released during final roster cuts but brought back midway through the year because of injuries to the receivers’ group. And he made some plays, most notably the 61-yard reception in the opening drive of Seattle’s 16-6 win over St. Louis. Martin finished with seven receptions for 158 yards and and a score in five games played. He has some ability to stretch the field, and at 6-4, 220 pounds, is a big target. But I’m not sure there’s room on the roster after Seattle signed Isaiah Stanback to a futures deal and drafted Kris Durham in the fourth round – both are big targets that could back up Mike Williams. Stay or go? He could return to compete for a job, and has experience under Darrell Bevell’s West Coast system from his time in Green Bay.
DT Brandon Mebane, Age: 26The skinny: The Cal product voiced displeasure over not getting a deal done with the Seahawks before the lockout began in March, and now is looking forward to test the free agent market once the lockout comes to a close. A four-year starter for Seattle, Mebane should receive a lot of interest on the free agent market, and picked up some more leverage when it was revealed that Colin Cole’s offseason surgery on a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss five weeks last season could mean that the Iowa product will not be ready for training camp. The Seahawks are thin at defensive tackle, and could use Mebane’s versatility, playing him at nose tackle until Cole is ready to go. A starting point for negotiations could be Cole’s five-year, $21.4 million contract. Other potential suitors for Mebane’s services include Chicago, Indianapolis, Carolina, Cleveland and Denver. Stay or go? Mebane has more value to Seattle because of his productivity and knowledge of Seattle’s defensive scheme. I think he stays. DB Lawyer Milloy, Age: 37The skinny: The 15-year veteran impressively played all 16 games as a starter for Seattle, finishing tied for second on the team in total tackles with 88 and third in sacks with four. Milloy has lost a step, but he still feels like he can help a team as a veteran starter with good leadership and mentoring skills. However, that place likely will not be in Seattle. With Kam Chancellor and Mark Legree taken in back-to-back drafts, the Seahawks want to make sure their young guys get on the field, and neither would win an open competition against Milloy. The Tacoma native also is looking to play for a team that has a realistic chance at winning a Super Bowl, and also would like to receive more in compensation than the $955,000 veteran minimum he made with Seattle last season.Stay or go? Milloy will play somewhere else in 2011.
OL Chester Pitts, Age: 31The skinny: A year after microfracture knee surgery, Pitts sat out of training camp and missed the first six games of the season. Pitts saw action at left guard and left tackle for Seattle in seven games, starting four games at left guard and a game at left tackle. However, Pitts did miss three games because of an ankle injury and finished the season on the injured reserve after suffering a concussion in the final game of the year against St. Louis. Stay or go? The Seahawks are looking at younger options up front, and Tyler Polumbus started at left guard in favor of a healthy Pitts at the end of the year.
DL Jay Richardson Age: 27The skinny: A midseason pickup for Seattle on November 2, the Ohio State product appeared in seven games, finishing with eight total tackles and a quarterback hurry. At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, Richardson can play both 5-tech and 3-tech, and provides some versatility up front.Stay or go? With Seattle’s lack of depth up front it makes sense to bring Richardson back.
FB Michael Robinson Age: 28The skinny: Released by San Francisco and picked up by Seattle in September, the Penn State product served as Seattle’s main option at fullback in 2010, and also was a core special teams player. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates liked Robinson’s versatility, including his ability to run Wildcat and catch the ball out of the backfield. However, with Seattle’s shift to more of a run-oriented offense under new offensive line coach Tom Cable, the team could be looking for a fullback with more bulk.Stay or go? I think Robinson returns because of his versatility and special teams play.
DL Junior Siavii Age: 32The skinny: Picked up off the waiver wire when Dallas released him during final roster cuts, The Oregon product was productive up front for Seattle, starting six games at both defensive tackle and defensive end. Siavii finished with 30 total tackles, three quarterback hurries and two pass deflections. However, he finished the season on the injured reserve after leaving the Atlanta game in the fourth quarter with a neck stinger.Stay or go? If he’s healthy, Hawks should bring him back. Siavii can play both 5-tech and 3-tech.
OL Chris Spencer Age: 29The skinny: Perhaps Seattle’s most consistent linemen last season, Spencer started all 16 games in anchoring the middle of the offensive line. The former first round pick started 70 games for Seattle, but has been dinged up and hasn’t always lived up to expectations. The Seahawks appear to be ready to turn the page, with general manager John Schneider saying 2009 second-round draft choice Max Unger’s ideal position is center.Stay or go? Spencer was Alex Gibbs’ choice to play center, and Cable is a Gibbs’ disciple. But I think Spencer may be ready to move on.
WR Brandon Stokley Age: 35The skinny: Another midseason pick-up for Seattle who turned into Matt Hasselbeck’s security blanket in his short time with Seattle. Stokley finished with 31 receptions for 354 yards, and also provided some mentorship to Seattle’s young receiver group. Stay or go: Seattle wants to give younger receivers like Golden Tate and Kris Durham a chance to play, and that doesn’t happen with Stokley back. DT Craig Terrill Age: 31The skinny: Released during final roster cuts in September, Terrill rejoined the team Oct. 1 and played in 12 games, including one start. He finished with 11 tackles and one pass deflection, and also blocked three field goals. Terrill’s eight blocked field goals ties him with Joe Nash for the franchise lead.Stay or go? Terrill can still push the pocket in passing situations and provides valuable depth up front.
OT Ray Willis Age: 28The skinny: The Florida State product missed all of last season after being placed on the season-ending injured reserve because of a knee issue. Willis has 20 career starts with Seattle, but doesn’t appear to be an ideal fit in Seattle’s zone blocking scheme, which requires an offensive tackle with nimble feet that can get to the second level.Stay or go: Willis will look for a team close to his home base of Florida.