As first reported by Danny ONeil of the Seattle Times, the Seahawks have placed the original-round restricted free agent tender on defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Mebane, a prospective free agent, has been a star in Seattles different defensive lines since he was selected in the third round of the 2007 draft. According the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires at the turn of the new league year on Friday, March 4, original third-round tenders are due $1.275 million in base salary that becomes guaranteed in Week 1 of the regular season.
Of course, complications abound with this deal and the current labor issues. When the CBA expires, and if there is no new agreement at that time (as there most likely will not be), the NFL Players Association has argued that all tenders will be null and void until a new agreement is reached. The Seahawks gave the restricted tag to Mebane instead of franchising him, because the deal the Redskins made with Albert Haynesworth last year bumped up the average salaries of the top five defensive tackles to a ridiculous number about $12.5 million guaranteed and franchise tags are based on the aggregate salaries of the top five players at that players position.
So, the original-round tender is a wise move, especially in this draft class. If any other team offers Mebane a contract, the Seahawks could either match it, or let him go and receive that teams third-round pick. And the Seahawks lost their 2011 third-round pick in the trade for Charlie Whitehurst.
As good as Mebane has been for the Seahawks, a simple cost efficiency analysis indicates that the team is now in the catbird seat either way. They either keep their standout defender at a fraction of the price it would take to sign him to a long-term deal, or they cut bait and pick up an extremely valuable pick they can use on what most experts agree is the single greatest class of defensive linemen in the history of the NFL draft. And because of that depth as many as 10 linemen could wind up going in the first round some very talented people could be pushed down to the second and third rounds.
Sportspress Northwest has already reported the Seahawks interest in Clemson end Jarvis Jenkins, but at the inside positions Mebane plays so well, Seattle may be looking at a number of different replacement options Oregon States Stephen Paea, Baylors Phil Taylor, Temples Muhammad Wilkerson, and North Carolinas Marvin Austin could be individuals of interest.
So, with time running out in the current deal between the owners and the players, and on the same day they signed Leon Washington to a four-year deal, the Seahawks continue to lock up many of their most valuable assets in some interesting ways.