With National Football League free agency commencing Tuesday afternoon and the draft following six weeks later, the 2012 season has begun. This is the time when teams do their shopping, and the Seahawks have already checked off one of their major priorities.
Last week when they signed unrestricted free agent running back Marshawn Lynch to a four-year deal worth $31 million, $18 million guaranteed. The Seahawks have 16 additional unrestricted free agents of their own to either sign or not sign (ta-tah Charlie Whitehurst), and dozens of free agents from other teams to consider in the biggest free agent market in NFL history.
Seattle has $29.8 million to spend under the new salary cap of $120 million, according to ProFootballTalk.com. At least seven teams have more to spend, topped by the Bengals at $49.9 million.
Seattle’s next in-house priority would seem to be Red Bryant, who flourished last year after he shifted from defensive tackle to defensive end. Good news: Bryant said following the 2011 season that it was his desire to remain with the Seahawks. But the Seahawks are also interested in Mario Williams, 27, considered the best defensive end in the market, from the Houston Texans. He reportedly will take his first visit to Buffalo.
Two of Seattle’s 2011 starting linebackers are also free to test the market, Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne. Hill had a potentially career-threatening situation defused last week when an Atlanta prosecutor dropped charges of drug possession. Hawthorne isn’t a must-sign for Seattle, but his productivity as a starter should warrant an offer by the Seahawks if interest isn’t excessive elsewhere.
Seattle began its signing process Tuesday by re-signing special-teams linebacker Heath Farwell.
The Seahawks will also be eying dozens of other league-wide free agents. The one who drew the most attention was quarterback Peyton Manning, released by the Colts last week when they decided that the $28 million roster bonus they owed him didn’t make sense. They hold the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, expected to be Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
But the Seahawks’ interest has gone nowhere so far. Manning has shown no public interest in the Seahawks. He has made well-publicized visits to Denver and Arizona, and was said to be flying Tuesday to Tennessee, where Titans owner Bud Adams expressed clear interest in signing the former Volunteers hero.
When the free agent signing period commences, the following will be the priorities of the NFC West teams:
ARIZONA CARDINALS: Besides Manning, the Cardinals have to shore up a porous offensive line, and add another receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald.
Shoring up the offensive line might be the biggest priority of all. The Cardinals have finished 31st in sacks allowed in each of the past two seasons, a fact Manning is not likely to have missed.
ST. LOUIS RAMS: The Rams are off to a terrific start with the haul of draft picks they will get from Washington in exchange for the second overall pick, apparently destined to be Robert Griffin III of Baylor. Specifically, the Rams sent the No. 2 overall choice to the Washington Redskins for three first-round picks and a second-round pick.
The Rams, 2-14 last season, need upgrades all over their roster, primarily at cornerback and wide receiver. The cornerback could be Courtland Finnegan, who played for new head coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The 49ers seek a big receiver who can be a red-zone threat that would improve an offense that featured tight end Vernon Davis and little more. Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints fits that description.
The Rams are also reportedly targeting defensive tackle Adam Carriker (Washington), cornerback Jason Allen (Houston), RG Jake Scott (Tennessee).
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: The Manning debate shows the degree of interest by the Seahawks in upgrading the QB spot. Tarvaris Jackson is the fallback position with a single year left on his contract.Flynn would seem to be an attractive alternative.
Seattle Seahawks’ Unrestricted Free Agents
|Atari Bigby||S||15||2 starts; saw action on special teams|
|Raheem Brock||DE||16||No starts, 4.0 sacks; entering 11th year|
|Red Bryant||DE||16||Started all 16 with 1 sack and 1 TD|
|John Carlson||TE||0||Missed all of 2011 season with an injury|
|Heath Farwell||LB||11||Re-signed Tuesday|
|Justin Forsett||RB||16||Marshawn Lynch backup had 1 TD|
|Breno Giacomini||RT||15||Had 8 starts on injury-depleted line|
|Mike Gibson||OL||3||Spent most of season on injured reserve|
|Anthony Hargrove||DL||13||Had 3.0 sacks and 12 solo tackles|
|David Hawthorne||LB||15||Had 72 tackles, 2 sacks in 14 starts|
|Leroy Hill||LB||16||Started all 16, had 4 sacks, 68 tackles|
|Matt McCoy||LB||1||Placed on injured reserve Oct. 4 (knee)|
|Paul McQuistan||OL||16||Made 10 starts, playing tackle, guard|
|Michael Robinson||FB||14||Key to Marshawn Lynch’s rushing|
|David Vobora||LB||6||No stars; played mainly on special teams|
|Charlie Whitehurst||QB||6||3 starts proved he wasn’t the answer|
|Jimmy Wilkerson||DE||0||Did not play during 2011 season|