In the week that has elapsed since the NFL’s free-agency signing period began, many Seahawks fans have caterwauled over one defection after another — WR Golden Tate to Detroit (5 years, $31 million), RT Breno Giacomini to the Jets (4 years, $18.5 million), DEs Red Bryant (4 years, $17 million) and Chris Clemons (4 years, $17.5 million) to Jacksonville, among others – with virtually nothing coming back.
The Seahawks have watched nine members of their Super Bowl team, seven from the NFL’s top-ranked defense, skedaddle elsewhere either via free agency or cuts while GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have been largely quiet.
In the first six days, NFL teams handed out $665 million in guaranteed deals and $1.52 billion in face-value contracts to 128 players.
Amid the unprecedented spending, Schneider and Carroll weighed in by signing 26-year-old wide receiver Taylor Price, a former third-round pick by New England and a Jacksonville castoff who hasn’t played a down in two years.
While the Seahawks have retained six of their unrestricted free agents, most recently PK Steven Hauschka for $9.15 million over three years ($3.5 million guaranteed), and restructured the contract of TE Zach Miller, some losses are marquee players, leading to an inevitable and alarming comparison to what happened to Baltimore after it won Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Ravens lost eight primary unrestricted free agents after the 2012 season, notably WR Anquan Boldin to San Francisco, and failed to recover in 2013, finishing 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The fear in Seattle: That pattern is repeating.
Although Schneider and Carroll have yet to comment about the raid on the roster they painstakingly constructed over four years, it’s doubtful the events of the past week have taken them by surprise. More likely, they expected and planned for it.
It could not have come as a much of a shock that Tate took the guaranteed $13.25 million Detroit offered. The Seahawks didn’t make a more concerted effort to keep him because of the Lions’ offer, as well as the investment made in Percy Harvin, a better, although less durable, player.
Giacomini made nine regular-season starts at right tackle (three more in the postseason), but the Seahawks went 7-1 in the eight started by his backup, rookie Michael Bowie. With Bowie in the lineup, the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 211 yards at Indianapolis, 151 against Tennessee, and 211 at Atlanta. Giacomini is nearing 30, Bowie is 22 and has plenty of upside.
Walter Thurmond signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants worth $3.5 million, but the Seahawks already replaced him with Byron Maxwell, also the replacement (after Thurmond) for Brandon Browner, who was not going to return after two suspensions in two years.
Given their cap space heading into free agency, the Seahawks had little choice but to cut WR Sidney Rice and DEs Bryant and Clemons. All have reached their point of career decline and replacements are available on the roster (including players on IR in 2013).
Those moves added substantial cap room, although Rice might return on a restructured deal, as did Miller.
Everything the Seahawks have done – and not done — in free agency is with an eye not so much to defending a Super Bowl title in 2014, but on 2015. That’s when the Seahawks will need all the cap room they can muster to re-sign to long-term extensions quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, players they cannot afford to lose.
The hit to the post-Super Bowl roster looks bleak, but the Seahawks have already achieved some primary objectives in free agency. The first came the market opened, signing DE Michael Bennett to a four-year, $28.5 million contract. That was the “must-sign” — the only one this offseason.
Everything since primarily has been about clearing cap room and re-signing as many of their free agents as possible. The Seahawks have done it in a justifiable way.
The Seahawks have the remainder of the free-agency period to replace departed players, perhaps with a defensive lineman such as Jared Allen, and the college draft. However it shakes out, the Seahawks have accomplished what they needed to do.