On day 1 of the Seahawks’ off-season, as players cleared out their lockers at the VMAC, unrestricted free agent LB Bruce Irvin, who said infamously a year ago that he envisioned himself playing for his hometown Atlanta Falcons, told reporters that his current preference is to return to Seattle. Irvin said he would be willing to accept fewer dollars to do so, rather than take what he might be worth on the free agent market.
“Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) asked me (Monday) that when I met with them,” said Irvin, when broached about the possibility of offering the Seahawks a hometown discount. “If it came to that, I would definitely come back.
“I’m established here. These are my brothers. I honestly can’t even imagine myself playing with anybody else. Being in a different meeting room. Listening to different pregame speeches. It’s crazy to me.”
Irvin, whom the Seahawks selected with 15th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of “Almost Heaven” West Virginia (the way Irvin identifies his collegiate affiliation on TV intros), had his option declined by the Seahawks in the off-season, initially angering him.
But he got over it, and played well. He is one of 15 key unrestricted free agents on Seattle’s roster (see below). He was asked Monday how much less he would be willing to take.
“Probably $3 million,” he replied.
Irvin did not clarify whether he meant $3 million over the life of a new contract (probable), or $3 million for one year (highly unlikely). Given Irvin’s previous statements about playing for Atlanta, perhaps clarification is asking too much.
“If I happen to be somewhere else, like I said, I will always have a genuine appreciation for John and Pete for sticking their neck out and taking me when everybody said I was a reach because I had a lot of baggage that comes with me,” Irvin said.
Irvin played in 15 regular-season games in 2015 and recorded 5½ sacks. He praised Seattle’s coaches for transforming him from a third-down pass rushing specialist, his primary role as a rookie, into a solid outside linebacker.
“They’ve done a great job of putting my abilities on display instead of just leaving me to come in on third down,” said Irvin. “They developed me and really showcased that I can do more than just rush the passer. So my hat is off to them for helping me become a complete player. I have all the respect in the world for them.”
Irvin is 26, and quarterback Russell Wilson Monday emphasized Seattle’s youth as he headed into an earlier than expected offseason.
“We’re still young,” said Wilson when queried about the Seahawks remaining relevant after their 31-24 divisional ouster Sunday. “We’re really, really young. That’s scary.”
Typical of Wilson, he didn’t dwell on Sunday’s 31-0 halftime deficit, the early playoff ouster, or anything remotely to do with what might have been. He looked ahead.
“Next season begins today,” said Wilson, who threw two first-half interceptions against the Panthers, including a pick-six, but came back in the second half with three touchdown passes and directed a fourth drive that resulted in a field goal. “I’m excited about that and excited about the team we have. We’re going to have a great team for a long time because of the way we work.”
A key question is whether RB Marshawn Lynch will be part of it. Lynch turns 30 in April and will count $11.5 million against the cap in 2016, leading to a widespread belief Lynch has played his final game with Seattle, especially since the Seahawks already have a younger replacement in Thomas Rawls, who finished the season on injured reserve.
Wilson wouldn’t speculate on any business decision regarding Lynch, saying, “I don’t know all that stuff, but in terms of football he’s phenomenal. He’s a guy that’s been a great leader in terms of his physical nature on the football field and his approach to the game. There’s nobody like him. He can do a lot of special things. Just to see him out on the field yesterday was a special thing.”
Coach Pete Carroll mentioned in his post-game remarks Sunday that the loss to the Panthers, in which Carolina scored the first 31 points and Seattle the final 24, was a microcosm of the season, in which the Seahawks started 2-4, then 4-5 and played from behind in more than half of their games. Wilson agreed.
“It was definitely a journey,” he said. “We came up just a little bit short and it’s a little bit disappointing. But you use that as an acceleration, a catalyst into the next year.”
LB Bobby Wagner, as did Carroll last week, acknowledged that Seattle’s slow start this season, which ultimately eliminated any chance of a home playoff game, was largely due to a “Super Bowl hangover.”
“We had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of guys trying to get over what happened in the Super Bowl,” he said. “For us to go pull through that and be in the position we were this year, I feel like we won’t have to do that next year. We’ll have a much fresher start. We’re going into the off-season very healthy. We’re going to get some guys back (Rawls, TE Jimmy Graham) and I feel like we’re going to be a very scary team next year.”
“We’re going to have to go through the emotional roller coaster of not being in the Super Bowl, which we’ve been accustomed to the last two years,” added WR Doug Baldwin, a Pro Bowl alternate after catching a career-high and franchise-record 14 TD passes.
“At the same time, we get January off for the first time in four years. It’s an extra amount of time for our bodies to recover, for our mental states to return to normal, to kind of balance out. I believe that will give us an extra edge coming into the off-season program, and getting ready for next year.”
The next significant period for the Seahawks is in March when free agency begins. They have 15 key unrestricted free agents (and several other restricted free agents) that will require attention:
Key unrestricted free agents
|Player||Pos.||Age||’15 Cap Hit||2015 Season|
|Russell Okung||LT||28||7,280,000||Started 13 games, 2 more in playoffs|
|Brandon Mebane||DT||31||5,700,000||Made 15 starts, 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks|
|Bruce Irvin||OLB||26||2,895,542||2012 No. 1 pick 15 starts, 5.5 sacks|
|Ahtyba Rubin||DT||29||2,600,000||16 starts, 36 tackles, 2 sacks|
|Jermaine Kearse||WR||25||2,356,000||49 catches, 5 TDs, 2 more in playoffs|
|J.R. Sweezy||G||26||1,556,212||Started 15 games, 2 more in playoffs|
|Tarvaris Jackson||QB||32||1,500,000||Mopped up in four games, all big wins|
|Jon Ryan||P||34||1,500,000||47.3 yards per punt with a long of 73|
|Michael Morgan||OLB||28||1,000,000||Played in 14 games with 2 starts|
|Jeremy Lane||CB||25||691,279||Played in six games after injury return|
|Will Tukuafu||FB||32||665,000||Played in 14 games, scored 1 TD|
|Demarcus Dobbs||DE||28||665,000||Reserve played in 11 games, no starts|
|Ricardo Lockette||WR||29||660,000||Season-ending neck injury at Dallas|
|Deshawn Shead||FS||27||660,000||Started 5 of final six games, 1 INT|
|Fred Jackson||RB||34||615,000||Played in 16 games, 2 receiving TDs|