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Free agency 2014: Seahawks Live Blog & open thread

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Updates and instant reaction as it happens until 5pm PST

The new league year is under way. Here are the first moves to be made:

– Clinton McDonald is leaving the Seahawks to sign a four-year with Tampa Bay. Shame.

– Walter Thurmond is visiting with the Jaguars.

– Dallas released Demarcus Ware. He’ll turn 32 in July and had only six sacks in 2013.

– Cleveland signed 49ers safety Donte Whitner. San Francisco will sign Antoine Bethea in replacement.

– Indianapolis are signing Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones.

– Miami are looking to sign Texans defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. He’ll visit the Dolphins facility with the intention of getting a deal done.

– Jacksonville signed Denver guard Zane Beadles.

– Lamarr Houston will sign for Chicago after they missed out on Michael Bennett.

– Eugene Monroe is set to stay in Baltimore.

– Brandon Albert agreed a contract with the Dolphins. No shocks there.

– The Raiders signed Roger Saffold to play guard apparently. Despite allowing tackle Jared Veldheer to sign with the Cardinals for less money.

– Dexter McCluster is swapping Kansas City for Tennessee and a three year deal.

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It’s a pretty stunning set of events involving the Raiders.

A team with more cap space than anyone else in the NFL is going to watch Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston walk away and sign with other teams, and yet they’ve added an injury-prone guard to their roster for $42.5m.

Madness.

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It’s no big surprise Clinton McDonald was snapped up quickly for $12m over four years.

The Seahawks were unlikely to pay $3m a year — and he did enough in 2013 (5.5 sacks) to warrant attention.

It’s easy to forget he was cut by Seattle and re-signed before hitting his best form.

Walter Thurmond will visit with the Jags. He might be a player they just can’t afford to keep with so much business to be done elsewhere.

There’s still no word on any of Seattle’s other free agents.

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A sign of a lack of interest by Seattle?

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Another Seahawks departure…

O’Brien Schofield provided nice depth for Seattle last year. But again, at $8m over two years the Seahawks were never going to match that.

It’s time for players like Benson Mayowa to step up and fill out the depth on this team.

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More on Walter Thurmond visiting with the Jags…

Thurmond enjoyed something of a break out campaign last year before his suspension.

Yet his role in Seattle remained limited once Byron Maxwell took ownership of the starting spot across from Richard Sherman.

If there’s one position this team can keep churning out players its cornerback. No reason to worry here.

Still no news on Golden Tate, Breno Giacomini et al.

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Atlanta have signed defensive tackle Paul Soliai, end Tyson Jackson and guard Jon Asamoah.

Soliai gets five years, $33M, $14M guaranteed and $11M in year one. Jackson is earning $25m over five years.

Compare that to Michael Bennett’s deal. The Seahawks got an absolute bargain in comparison. The Falcons are in full-on panic mode.

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Another comparison to compound the Raiders madness.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe has now re-signed with Baltimore for $37.5m. That’s $5m less than Oakland is paying often-injured Roger Saffold to play guard.

Saffold has four starts at guard.

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Wow… didn’t expect this…

Finley is still awaiting medical clearance so he can play football again after neck surgery.

He’ll need to be checked out before any signing. It’s interesting though, that the Seahawks are even bringing him in for a visit.

It doesn’t mean he’s going to sign. But what if he checks out medically? Where does this leave Zach Miller? Are they looking for a replacement?

Remember, Seattle re-signed Anthony McCoy yesterday.

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Some more high profile signings…

– Vontae Davis re-signed with the Colts. It’s not that long ago they traded a second round pick for him. He’ll get a similar deal to Sam Shields in Green Bay — four years, $39m.

– Malcolm Jenkins leaves New Orleans to sign for Philadelphia for $16.25m. He was a corner at Ohio State but always projected to safety in the NFL.

– The Broncos will sign Cleveland safety T.J. Ward.

– Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph is signing with the Vikings.

– Darren McFadden will re-sign with the Raiders for $4m.

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More on the possibility of Jermichael Finley to Seattle…

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Interesting…

As much as people want to hammer Gabbert, a year working with Harbaugh could save his career.

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News of another visit to Seattle.

Price is a former third round pick from 2010. He’s 6-1 and 195lbs. He’s been with the Jaguars since leaving New England.

And he only has five career receptions.

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Our first Golden Tate sighting…

If he’s taking visits, prepare for the worst.

Yet nobody can complain if he ends up getting a deal worth $7m a year. The Seahawks can’t overpay for the sake of it.

Trying to replace Michael Bennett with a rookie would’ve been impossible. Replacing Tate? This is a terrific class of receivers in the draft.

Whether they want to go after a bigger receiver (Pete Carroll’s apparent preference) or a Tate clone — both are available this year.

It will be a sad day if/when he moves on, however. He’s come on leaps and bounds the last two years. He gets under the skin of NFC West rivals (particularly St. Louis) and has a knack for making big plays.

He’s not an every-week contributor, but when he has an impact it’s usually game-winning. That’s tough to replace.

If Tate leaves, they better hope Percy Harvin can stay healthy. Not only is he capable of making similar plays — but they also made quite a statement paying Harvin a year ago, while possibly letting one of their own walk away.

And while one player potentially departs Seattle…

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Here’s something to monitor… Jairus Byrd’s market.

Despite a lot of talk in the week about wanting $9m a year, he’s currently en route for a visit to cap-limited New Orleans.

Even if he doesn’t sign for the Saints, it seems like he isn’t going to get anywhere near $9m a year.

That’s crucial for Earl Thomas’ earning potential. Clearly the Seahawks will re-sign Thomas this off-season, it’s simply a case of when and for how much.

If Byrd was getting a major contract, Thomas’ deal would’ve been even higher.

If he takes a more modest contract, the Seahawks can breathe a sigh of relief.

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One player who might not be leaving Seattle is…

He had a big impact last year. An underrated impact.

Providing they can get the deal done at a decent price, this would key a key signing.

Again, I’ll stress what a good draft this is for receivers. It’s not quite as good a draft for defensive linemen. So keeping Bennett and McDaniel would theoretically allow the Seahawks to go OL and WR with their first two picks.

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Some early thoughts on how the day one moves impact the draft…

– The Raiders allowing Jared Veldheer to walk, while spending big on a guard, could be a hint that they intend to draft a left tackle at #5 — building a new offensive line. One of Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson will almost certainly be available.

– Tampa Bay going defensive line early fills their biggest need. If they sign Anthony Collins, it fills their other big need (left tackle). The Buccs are putting themselves in position to potentially go after one of the top receivers at #7.

– Pittsburgh almost certainly won’t draft a safety in round one after keeping Troy Polamalu on a new deal and today adding Mike Mitchell.

– Dallas’ critical condition on the defensive line continues to grow. Surely they won’t go in any other direction in round one after being forced to cut Demarcus Ware?

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Another player visiting with Seattle…

Hatcher turns 32 in July. Ex-Dallas. 6-6 and a shade under 300lbs. He had 11 sacks in 2013 — his best year in the pro’s by some distance.

If he’s hungry to win, while working in a system with similar concepts to Monte Kiffin’s in Dallas, Seattle is the place to be.

He’d fit like a glove in the D-line rotation. But I wonder if it’s an either/or situation with McDaniel?

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Here are some Jermichael Finley highlights, as he prepares to visit with the ‘Hawks:

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I’m going to wrap up the live blog for tonight. As news breaks this evening, feel free to use this as an open thread.

Seahawks re-sign Michael Bennett for $28.5m

Monday, March 10th, 2014

The Seahawks did what they had to.

It’s easy to forget just how crucial Michael Bennett was last year.

He’s not underrated, far from it. He’s interesting enough and high profile enough to never fly under the radar.

But he’s not Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas. Or Marshawn Lynch. Or Russell Wilson.

And if you’re not one of those four, there’s a perception Seattle can get by without.

It’s a terrible perception, because they couldn’t get by without Michael Bennett.

Not everyone on this roster is irreplaceable. In fact they’ll probably get the chance to prove that when Golden Tate, Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel, Steven Hauschka and Breno Giacomini hit the open market tomorrow.

Ideally you’d keep all five. But this isn’t an ideal world.

Bennett was a completely different kettle of fish.

They’ve been looking for this type of player for some time. Someone who can knit the pass rush together and make it truly effective.

Chris Clemons couldn’t do it on his own. For three years he tried.

Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett provided the help he needed. And with Clemons struggling to reach his very best aged 32 and coming off an ACL injury, the two new recruits helped take the defense to another level.

Bennett was pivotal to that.

With Clemons rushing the edge, the Seahawks were too one dimensional. It was only pressure from one side. Bruce Irvin provided some balance in 2012, but it wasn’t consistent. And there was nobody crashing the interior.

There aren’t many Michael Bennett’s in the NFL. Someone who can genuinely line up in the middle and not concede leverage against the run, yet can also play defensive end and round the edge with speed or power.

Suddenly they were attacking teams from all angles. It became very difficult to react to certain looks. Quarterbacks couldn’t just shift protection to the side Clemons was monitoring.

In the second half of the season and in particular the playoffs, Bennett and Avril combined repeatedly to attack one side with great success.

Seattle’s pass rush was legit for the first time in a long time.

How important was that? It meant the world. Finally the Seahawks could make the most of an uber-talented secondary. You can’t coverage-sack your way to domination. You need guys up front who flat out get after it.

Losing Bennett was comparable, in my opinion, to losing Richard Sherman at cornerback. Not necessarily devastating, but man what a gaping hole to fill.

There wasn’t anyone similar available in free agency. Guys like Jared Allen and Henry Melton just aren’t the same type of rusher.

The draft? No chance. This isn’t the year to try and replace your best pass rusher with a rookie. Not unless you own a top-five pick.

This was an absolutely vital signing.

Let’s put it this way. They might be able to replace Tate, Giacomini, McDonald, McDaniel and Hauschka and still make it back to the Super Bowl next year. There’d be a drop off, but c’est la vie.

I’m not sure they had any chance at replacing Bennett and the impact he’s had.

Yet again John Schneider pulls it off. He let a player take a check on his value and still got the deal done, despite heavy interest elsewhere (especially Chicago).

What’s more, it appears the Seahawks got a great deal. Mike Florio is reporting a $28.5m contract over four years.

That’s some outstanding negotiating on behalf of Schneider and the Seahawks front office.

It also goes to show how much Bennett enjoyed his year back in Seattle.

Clearly, he wanted to remain part of this team.

So what does it mean for the rest of free agency?

They might be able to structure the deal to limit the cap hit in year one (eg $4-5m cap hit).

Other big contracts will come off the books over the next couple of years, so it makes a degree of sense. With the overall cap also set to keep rising by about $10m a year until 2016, they might be able to maintain enough room to re-sign their other free agents.

I still expect Tate back with the team. He’ll get some interest elsewhere, but I suspect they’ll find a way to keep him — even if it does mean spending a little more than they originally intended.

We’ll have to wait and see what the market is for Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Both players, along with Breno Giacomini, are more likely to re-sign with the Seahawks the longer they remain unsigned.

I bet they’d love to retain Chris Clemons and keep their three-pronged pass rush together. Creating $7.5m in extra cap space will also be tempting.

At least with Bennett signed up they can feel better about cutting and attempting to re-sign Clemons to a cheaper deal. They could also look at a player like Jared Allen, depending on what interest he’s getting.

Would you be willing to swap Clemons for Allen on a $5-6m deal? It’d be a $1.5-2.5m total saving.

Alternatively they could use the $7.5m to re-sign the teams other free agents first, then re-assessing the situation afterwards with Clemons or anyone else.

They may even introduce Benson Mayowa into a more active role. There’s a reason why they red-shirted and protected him throughout last season, while other promising young players were cut and ultimately lost.

If the Seahawks can go into the draft having re-signed Bennett, Tate and Giacomini — they can feel very happy about their situation.

Essentially, the player they’re drafting at #32 won’t be replacing a key starter. It’ll give them an opportunity to add a Joel Bitonio to play left guard, or another receiver to add to their current group. Or, if the board is kind, yet another pass rusher.

Whatever happens, today is a good day for this team — and the first step towards making 2014 another Championship season.

**UPDATED**

It looks like Michael Bennett wasn’t the only player to re-sign with the Seahawks today…

Seahawks face challenging free agency

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

The Tweet above appeared last night, just after the ‘legal tampering’ phase of free agency began.

24 hours later, Drew Rosenhaus appears to be right.

It is going to be a lot different this year.

(By the way, do you know who Michael Bennett’s agent is? His name rhymes with ‘Brew Chosen House’.)

Today Everson Griffen re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on a $42.5m contract with $20m guaranteed.

That’s for the guy who recorded 5.5 sacks last year, by the way.

In four years he has just 17.5 sacks.

Now he’s getting paid $8m a year.

I think we can kiss goodbye to any hopes Michael Bennett is re-joining the Seahawks for $8m a year.

He’s a better pass rusher. He has better production. He’s just better.

The rising cap is having the desired impact. If the Griffen deal is any indication, teams are willing to spend a little more on ‘middle class’ talent. And while we’ll still see a few one year ‘prove it’ deals in the second stage of free agency, I suspect the big names will be snapped up very quickly.

Age plays a part of course. Griffen doesn’t turn 27 until December 22nd. The Vikings clearly believe he has development potential under their new coaching staff. They’re likely to go after Michael Johnson too, with Jared Allen moving on to pastures new.

If the Seahawks want Bennett, they’re probably going to have to fork out big money. And the money just isn’t there to make a long standing, expensive commitment.

He won’t be easy to replace if he does move on.

Especially not this off-season.

They might have to get creative. It might be a case of adjusting what they can do up front.

They have enough funds to look at Allen — but even he might generate a bigger market than first anticipated.

This is a crucial next few days for Seattle. It’s not just Bennett. Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald were crucial players on the defensive line. Golden Tate will get some interest, while even Steven Hauschka and O’Brien Schofield carry value.

Walter Thurmond was an underrated figure in Seattle’s secondary too. Breno Giacomini, for me, is as good as any right tackle in the league.

Losing Bennett might increase the chances of those players being kept — but don’t make any assumptions here. If the market is red hot on Tuesday, you can bet your life teams will go after a piece of Seattle’s pie.

The value of guys like McDaniel and McDonald could go beyond what is realistic for the Seahawks. At the end of the day, you’re not going to give either a big contract just because Bennett’s moving on.

If spending is increasing dramatically in the open market, Seattle’s stars could easily see their value sky rocket. Hey — they were part of a relentless, dominating defense.

If you lose those two players plus Bennett and Red Bryant — that’s a heck of a lot of change up front. Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons are only contracted through 2014 too, so there’s really no long term consistency on the defensive line outside of Brandon Mebane (who has a deal until 2015).

Seattle’s secondary gets a lot of publicity — and rightly so.

But you need a pass rush and you need to play the run well. It all starts there. The Seahawks defense took the next step last season because they had superior pass rush options compared to 2012.

Fortunately Seattle has a front office known for pulling a few strings and making things happen. Nobody expected the Percy Harvin/Bennett/Avril moves a year ago. They’re playing with less money and more holes this year, but you know they’ll have a plan of some kind.

They’ll need one. Because this is going to be a great challenge.

By the way, I wonder if this is any indication as to where Bennett ends up? Coincidence?

Joel Bitonio could be Logan Mankins

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Underrated.

I sat down and watched Joel Bitonio’s tape vs Fresno State today — and once again came away thoroughly impressed.

One thought stuck in my head…

‘This guy reminds me of someone’

Logan Mankins is 32 on Monday. He’s had a terrific career with the Patriots.

He’s been to six Pro Bowls. He’s a five-time All-Pro. He had the franchise tag in 2011 and he’s been to two Super Bowls.

There haven’t been many better left guards in the NFL in the last nine years.

And when I watch Bitonio for Nevada, I see Mankins.

I did a bit more digging and some of the comparisons are crazy:

College career
Mankins — Left Tackle for Fresno State in the MWC
Bitonio — Left Tackle for Nevada in the MWC

Combine numbers
Height: Mankins (6-4) — Bitonio (6-4)
Weight: Mankins (307lbs) — Bitonio (302lbs)
Arm length: Mankins (33 3/8) — Bitonio (33 7/8)
Forty yard dash: Mankins (5.06) — Bitonio (4.97)
Short shuttle: Mankins (4.45) — Bitonio (4.44)
Three cone: Mankins (7.54) — Bitonio (7.37)
Bench press: Mankins (21) — Bitonio (22)
Vertical jump: Mankins (31.5) — Bitonio (32)
Broad jump: Mankins (7.11) — Bitonio (9.6)

Look how similar those numbers are. An almost identical vertical, bench press and short shuttle. Bitonio actually grades higher in the broad jump and forty. He also has slightly longer arms.

Mankins was drafted with the #32 pick by the Super Bowl Champions with the intention of converting to left guard in the NFL.

Could Bitonio also be drafted by the reigning Champions with the intention of switching to left guard?

Mankins is a great finisher, capable of getting a defender off balance — driving open a running lane and completing the block. He was also an excellent pass-protector during his peak years.

You see so many similar traits with Bitonio.

He’s a slightly better athlete. And while he has the core strength, leg drive and technique you want to see — he’s also adept at pulling out of position and getting to the second level. He’s also a finisher who plays with a real edge.

Mankins has been one of the toughest players on the Pats roster over the last few years.

Bitonio is cut from the same cloth. He never backs down. He looks for people to punish.

He’s a coaches dream.

Every time you put on the tape, you can’t help but come away impressed with this guy.

Why is nobody talking about him?

Right now I’d be willing to give him a top-20 grade. I can’t think of 20 players in this draft I’d want ahead of Joel Bitonio.

Regular visitors to this blog know I’ve argued again and again about the obsession NFL fans have with offensive linemen.

‘Games are won in the trenches’ is the cliché. Games are actually won in many different ways. And several of the recent Super Bowl Champions (Seattle included) have not won because of an elite, dominating offensive line.

In fact I’ve been anti Seattle taking a guard in round one. I think there’s better value elsewhere and the likes of David Yankey are so overrated, he’ll probably still be around late into day two of the draft.

Forget all that.

Draft this guy.

If he’s there at #32, I’d run to the podium.

Bitonio has the potential to be great. And for whatever reason he continues to fly under the radar while other, weaker players get so much publicity.

I believe he can play tackle. Sure. But I want to kick him inside to guard. I want to see if he really is going to be the next Mankins.

He’s great in pass protection at left tackle. He can kick slide, mirror and defend against speed. He can deliver a nice solid punch to the chest of a D-end and win with power. There’s no reason why those skills can’t be translated to guard.

But it’s his work in the run game that has me most excited. He knows how to turn a defensive lineman to take him out of the play and free up running lanes. He’ll drive a guy backwards and dump him on his ass. He’ll pull around to the right and deliver a key block to turn a decent gain into a good gain.

I’ll say it again. He’s being hugely underrated.

Judge for yourself, here’s the Fresno State tape. I made some notes underneath.

1:35 — quick to recognise the blitz and pick it up. He’s got his eyes on the edge rusher who sits, he spots the interior blitzer and stops him getting to the quarterback. Excellent awareness, speed and power to execute. Not many college tackles can do this.

1:51 — drives his defender off the spot to the right hand side, dumps him on his backside and creates a running lane. Good defense in the secondary to react to the situation and limit the damage.

3:47 — gets to the second level, drives forward.

4:17 — finishes the block. Drives his guy downfield and keeps fighting, doesn’t back down. Edgy.

4:26 — kick slide, gives the edge rusher no chance to beat him. Quick feet at all times. Body position is ideal and always in control. Good hand use once engaging in the block. Can’t be beaten by power at this level.

4:39 — drives his man off the spot. Watch the replay. This is why he can play guard. Power at the point of attack, drives his man sideways and finishes the block by dumping the defender on his back side.

5:06 — great pull and then finishes the block for extra yardage.

5:28 — perfect kick slide on third down. Allows time in the pocket and the quarterback converts on third and six with a developing route down the seam.

5:39 — blocks and dominates his guy at the line of scrimmage while two other defensive linemen penetrate up the middle. Nice example of the difference in quality on that Nevada line.

6:20 — his guy (#31) doesn’t rush, so he goes and finds someone else to hit (#27). The pressure from the right side gets to the quarterback, but you can’t help but notice Bitonio’s determination to get involved and find someone to hammer.

6:57 — drives his man to the right and opens up a big hole on the left side for a strong run for a first down. Watch the replay to see just how much he moves the defender off his spot.

8:10 — great initial punch to win the block. Ends the contest with his first move. The protection is good enough to complete a touchdown pass.

8:59 — quick feet, good mirror on the pass rush.

There are very few players I’d draft ahead of Bitonio if he’s on the board at #32.

On a physical and athletic level he compares to the best tackles in this class — Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews. Check out my article from last week for more on that.

Move him to left guard and make him the backup left tackle if Russell Okung gets another injury. I think you’d finally tie up that position for the long term, with a player good enough to warrant the long term investment.

Whether he ends up being the next Logan Mankins or not — I’ll guess we’ll find out in time. He has a good shot.

Either way, I suspect he’s going to be a quality player at the next level.

Friday thoughts: QB’s falling, free agency talk & Ryan Shazier

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Matt Cassel, here sporting a horrendous moustache, has re-signed for the Vikings

What if no quarterbacks go early in the first round?

Jacksonville re-signed Chad Henne today for $8m over two years.

The Jaguars needed a veteran presence at quarterback irrespective of whatever happens in May’s draft.

But it’s somewhat intriguing that while the Jags made that move, Matt Cassel was linked with the Texans before re-signing with equally QB-needy Minnesota. Josh Freeman’s name comes up when people talk about the Raiders.

None of these players are likely to be long term solutions.

But how about this thought…

Last year the draft community spent a lot of time debating Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Mike Glennon and Landry Jones.

Everyone had a favourite. Everyone assumed at least two or three would go in the first round because of the importance of the position.

In the end E.J. Manuel was the only day one selection.

Glennon — a third round pick — wasn’t too highly rated in comparison to some of the others. Yet he showed the most promise as a starter and has at least a decent chance of developing into a franchise quarterback for the Buccaneers.

You can’t compare one class to another, and clearly last year the NFL didn’t think much of the QB group.

But could it be happening again?

Could we be totally overestimating a quarterback class and the likelihood of a cluster of top picks being spent on the position?

The Houston Texans appear likely to take a quarterback at #1 — and John McClain made some very valid points on NFL AM this morning to back that up.

But what about the rest?

Could the Jaguars be preparing to add a Sammy Watkins or a Khalil Mack at #3, waiting until round two or three to go after a Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, A.J. McCarron or even a Logan Thomas?

Watkins just looks special — a rare talent. For a team that has little to offer a rookie signal caller, could a case be made for going Watkins-QB instead of one of the top quarterbacks and possibly the eighth or ninth best receiver in round two?

Oakland could go in many different directions. Re-signing Jared Veldheer is important. Whatever happens there, how enticing will a Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson be at #5? Or a Sammy Watkins or Khalil Mack for that matter?

The Jags and Raiders are going through major rebuilds. They’ve seen Seattle build around a quarterback and then insert Russell Wilson as a starter to win a Championship.

They won’t feel handcuffed into going QB. If they don’t grade Blake Bortles as much more than a late first rounder, if they can’t trust Johnny Manziel and if they just don’t think Teddy Bridgewater is special enough — they can pass.

The Browns are a bit of a wildcard all of a sudden. They’ve gone from almost certainly trading up to get ‘their’ quarterback, to people now believing they’ll avoid the position altogether at #4.

The Vikings sitting at #8 might wish to avoid drafting another first round quarterback after the disaster that was Christian Ponder.

I’m not saying any of these scenarios are likely, but it’s become the assumed position that the top three quarterbacks will go quickly.

Could we see something like this?

#1 Houston — Blake Bortles (QB)
#2 St. Louis — Greg Robinson (T)
#3 Jacksonville — Jadeveon Clowney (DE)
#4 Cleveland — Sammy Watkins (WR)
#5 Oakland — Khalil Mack (DE)
#6 Atlanta — Jake Matthews (T)

If Clowney, Robinson, Watkins, Mack and Matthews are the top five players in the draft — and you can make a strong case for that — why isn’t this at least somewhat possible?

And how would it impact the draft?

Would we see teams jostling for position, trying to get back into round one for a Bridgewater or Manziel?

Would they simply sit tight, content with the secondary options (Carr, Garoppolo, McCarron, Mettenberger) if none of that trio are available?

How low could two of the ‘big three’ drop?

Could it weaken the options for teams picking late in the first round?

It’d create a fascinating dynamic, that’s for sure.

Doug Baldwin given second round tender

This isn’t a surprise.

Baldwin would’ve been snapped up on the original round tender as an UDFA. Yet with such a strong draft for receivers, it’s unlikely anyone will bite on a second round pick.

It made sense for Seattle to make this move. It’ll be interesting to see if a long term deal is possible, especially if Golden Tate walks in free agency.

Further thoughts on Bennett and Tate

I fully expect Tate to re-sign in Seattle.

It’s a safe bet that the market for receivers in free agency is going to be atrocious. Eric Decker might get a nice deal, but that could be that.

With so many quality players available in the draft, it seems very unlikely anyone will offer Tate the kind of money Seattle would be unwilling to match.

In fact he might struggle to garner much more than $4-5m on the open market.

Often the best deal you’ll get is the one before you start making visits.

I sense Riley Cooper anticipated a flat market and knew he had the best offer from the Eagles already on the table.

It might actually be to Seattle’s advantage if Tate becomes a free agent. If he’s not being offered the kind of money he expects, it’ll suit the Seahawks.

I think it’ll be a very different situation with Michael Bennett.

It’s not a great draft for pass rushers and despite a few naysayers playing down his impact last year — he really had a terrific season.

He can feature in all schemes, he can play inside and out.

He has 21.5 sacks as a versatile starter the last three years.

And with Greg Hardy and Brian Orakpo being franchised, he’s competing with Michael Johnson (3.5 sacks in 2013) and Jared Allen (aged 32) to be the top pass rusher on the market.

I know who I’d rather have.

I’m not surprised stuff like this is emerging…

The Niners are unlikely to be able to afford Bennett with only a projected $10m in cap room available.

A treasure trove of picks in a loaded draft class will likely be their total focus this off-season.

Yet they can help drive Bennett’s price skywards. And there should be plenty of interest elsewhere after such a fantastic 2013.

I mentioned this yesterday and I’m going to repeat it again, because I think it’s worth debating.

Franchising Bennett never appeared to be an option for the Seahawks. It was consistently ruled out, by either John Schneider himself or by the media quoting sources.

Let’s look at the possible scenario that would’ve guaranteed one more year of Bennett for Seattle…

Franchise tag = $13m
Cutting Clemons saves $7.5m

Pass rush includes: Avril, Bennett, Mayowa, Irvin — possibly a draft pick (eg Marcus Smith)

This would’ve cost a cumulative total of $5.5m in extra outlay, with the only loss being Clemons.

It would’ve meant keeping Avril and Bennett at the heart of your pass rush for one more year, while placing the responsibility on Mayowa to replace Clemons at right end.

The financial outlay on Bennett would be substantial, but really it’s only $2m more than the cap hit Zach Miller took up last season.

Here’s the extreme alternative…

If they lose Bennett in free agency, the chances are they’ll keep Clemons on his $9m salary. Seattle can’t force him to take a pay cut. And they surely wouldn’t be willing to lose yet another starter on the defensive line?

With Clemons secure, you maybe look into replacing Bennett with a player like Jared Allen or Lamarr Houston. You’re likely to be spending at least as much as Bennett cost on his one year deal ($5.5m).

This would effectively mean an added cost of $5.5m at best. Exactly the same amount you’d pay in the scenario that saw Bennett tagged.

This isn’t me criticising or challenging the front office. Why would I do that?

It’s merely a talking point nobody else is bringing up. I’m throwing it out there so we can debate this.

There’s still every chance the F.O. re-signs Bennett to a cool four-year deal on $7.5-8m a year after another bold free agency strategy pays off.

There’s even the chance they simply re-load on the defensive line on the cheap and don’t miss a beat.

But the discussion is fascinating to me, because it took a few years to get the D-line right. Blowing it up and starting again (very possible considering the status of Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald) will be a real challenge — even for Schneider and Pete Carroll.

Seahawks re-sign Jeanpierre & Johnson

Ryan Shazier could be a top-20 pick

Put a 4.4 alongside these numbers from the combine:

– 6-1, 237lbs
– 25 reps on the bench press
– 42 inch vertical
– 10.10 broad jump
– 6.91 three cone
– 4.21 short shuttle

Shazier gets caught in traffic too easily, but there’s no doubting he’s a truly fantastic athlete. Certainly one of the best in the draft.

At a time when all the focus is on the size of Seattle’s cornerbacks, the speed of their linebackers is very underrated.

Teams looking to mimic the ‘Hawks have to look at this guy. He could be an option at #12 for the New York Giants, at #13 for the Rams or the New York Jets at #18.

It seems very unlikely he’ll make it past the Bengals at #24. That could be a worse-case-scenario for Shazier.

Michael Bennett to test free agency

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

A lot of people are saying they never expected Bennett to re-sign in Seattle before March 11th.

I’m not one of those people.

In fact, I fully expected the Seahawks to get this done before free agency.

Why?

Because Bennett is absolutely crucial to what this team managed to do last year.

It’s easy to sit here as Super Bowl Champions and bask in the glory of that success.

It’s also easy to forget just how integral Bennett was in getting it done.

Think back to 2012. The Seahawks were good enough to make the Super Bowl that year too.

So what really let them down?

The total reliance on Chris Clemons to provide a pass rush. That’s what.

He essentially was the teams pass rush.

Bruce Irvin had been drafted in to help — and he did to a certain degree. He had a few sacks, he had some impact in a specialist role.

But on early downs, Clemons was the man they relied on. And Clemons alone.

He had 11.5 regular season sacks out of a total 36. Throw in Irvin’s eight as a rookie and they combined for 54%.

No other player had more than three sacks.

This isn’t one of those situations where the numbers don’t paint the true picture. Clemons was the only guy creating consistent pressure and Irvin had an impact in obvious passing situations.

The Seahawks lost four games in 2012 where a lengthy fourth quarter drive proved costly.

Arizona (week 1), Detroit (week 8), Miami (week 12) and Atlanta (playoffs).

The final defeat to Atlanta ended their season.

When they needed a stop, when they needed to get to Matt Ryan with seconds remaining…

They couldn’t.

Not with Clemons nursing an ACL injury by that point.

Seattle knew they had to improve the pass rush and that’s why they went out and added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett a year ago.

They knew they’d only get them both on short term deals — and to some extent, it was inevitable we’d come to this position.

Yet Bennett had such a defining impact in 2013, I truly thought it’d be a case of ‘over my dead body’ he entered the market. In the same way Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman almost certainly won’t hit free agency next year.

He was a weekly feature in Greg Bedard’s ‘Pressure Point’ articles, ranking among the top-10 edge rushers in the NFL all year.

He only had 8.5 sacks for the season, but how many close calls stopped that being much more?

Remember the ‘low hit’ on Matt Ryan? That’s just one example of several ‘nearly’ sacks for Bennett.

He was relentless, impacting games on a weekly basis.

When the playoffs came around, he was nearly unstoppable. Teaming up with Cliff Avril to destroy one side of the line, they forced and collected fumbles against the Niners. It followed a victory over the Saints, where Bennett forced and recovered another fumble.

Who can forget the big touchdown against New Orleans in week 13, setting the tone for a one-sided destruction?

I said it a few times on here during the season, and I still believe it now. You can make an incredibly strong argument that Bennett was Seattle’s defensive MVP last season.

We all appreciate Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. A few weeks after the season ended, their stock couldn’t be higher.

But during the season, it was Bennett who had the biggest say in turning Seattle’s defense from accomplished to elite.

They looked for this guy for so long. They wanted Jason Jones to fill that void — he couldn’t.

Having seen what this defense was capable of, risking losing such an integral piece just seemed so unlikely that the Seahawks would probably be willing to pay a little more to avoid that consequence.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that — let’s see what happens when the Thomas and Sherman talks heat up. Because I’m willing to wager neither will hit the market, even if it costs a few more dollars.

Schematically I also thought they’d be willing to make sure Bennett stayed in Seattle.

Having cut Red Bryant, you could see his snaps increasing next year as an every down end — finding a way to keep that double team with Avril on the field for a significant number of snaps.

It’d be difficult to imagine a defensive line next year minus Bryant and Bennett — and let’s not forget Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald are also free agents.

A sea-change up front is not what this team needs right now.

There’s every chance Bennett does still re-sign in Seattle. Several other players (Bryant, Brandon Mebane) were allowed to test the market only to re-sign eventually.

If he’s looking for a deal worth $9-10m, he might end up disappointed. I have a hard time thinking Seattle wouldn’t be willing to go for $8-9m.

But there are a lot of teams out there with plenty of cap room. Oakland have an absolute mountain to spend. So do Jacksonville.

His brother Martellus Bennett has been campaigning for him to join Chicago for weeks. The Bears need to bolster their defense.

So there’s at least some chance Seattle will be without Bennett going forward.

I also doubt it’ll be in any way ‘easy’ to replace him if he moves on to pastures new.

Lamarr Houston has played some end in Oakland, but for me he’s always looked more comfortable as a three technique rushing the interior. He’s 6-3 with short arms and a squat 300lbs body.

Bennett is taller and longer, with 25lbs less bulk to shift around the field.

Houston has 16 sacks in four years. Bennett has 21.5 in his last three since becoming a regular starter.

Anyone expecting Houston to go flying round the edge like Bennett — it aint happening.

Ditto Henry Melton. Again, Bennett is a defensive end who can play inside. He’s not a three technique convert. That’s what Melton would be. He’s also coming back from a serious knee injury.

They could go out and sign Jared Allen. In fact I fully expect the Seahawks to have some interest there.

He’s taller than Bennett and a similar weight (270 vs 274), but he’s an orthodox defensive end. The good thing about Bennett is his ability to play tackle and end, so you can line him up inside without fear while also starting Clemons and Avril on the edge.

It’s going to be tough for Seattle to find a replacement early in the draft. Kony Ealy ran a similar forty time (4.91 vs 5.00) but had an explosive three cone drill. He has similar size.

And yet his tape is pretty underwhelming and there’s no guarantee he makes it to #32 or has a similar impact. Bennett’s pretty unique at what he does.

You also have to weigh up the cost factor here. If you sign one of the three free agents named above for a deal worth $5-6m, Clemons might have to be retained on his current contract.

Ian Rapoport seems to think so…

Clemons doesn’t have to accept a pay cut after all. Unless you want to risk losing him too, you might have to stomach the cap hit.

If you’re spending $9m on Clemons and $5-6m on a new free agent, would you be better or worse off by franchising Bennett for $13m, cutting Clemons and putting your faith in Benson Mayowa, a future draft pick (Marcus Smith?) or even re-signing O’Brien Schofield?

Or perhaps even reverting Irvin back to the LEO?

This isn’t a criticism, I’m just throwing it out there. Again, all things could become very clear if his market is cold again in free agency and they get him back on a cap-friendly contract.

The Seahawks aren’t going to make life difficult for themselves by overpaying one player. They have a structure they believe in, and a price in mind.

Yet losing Bennett would have a major detrimental impact on the defense.

The last thing they want to do is go back to relying on a single individual (eg Avril) for a pass rush. Even an Avril, Allen and Clemons trio would be a downgrade for me.

Having reached the top, Seattle needs to keep the core elite together.

I’d put Bennett very much in that group, and that’s why I figured he’d be kept at all costs. Taking away the intrigue of the open market, by putting the intrigue on a piece paper with a Seahawks logo at the top and the words ‘SIGN HERE’ at the bottom.

In other news…

Seahawks interest in Taylor Martinez?

The Nebraska quarterback is an intriguing prospect.

An incredible athlete, nobody really expects him to develop into a pro-passer at the next level.

Yet his size (6-1, 210lbs) and speed (electric) is worth some consideration at a different position.

I could definitely seem him being tried out at safety.

Kouandjio’s knee receives a thumbs up

I’m not sure if this news is enough to get him back into the first round mix, but it can only help Kouandjio’s dwindling stock.

Dr. Andrews’ backing doesn’t, however, provide any justification for his lousy display at the combine…

Go read this

Just a terrific piece by Danny Kelly at Field Gulls.

Updated mock draft: 5th March

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Scroll to the bottom for a few notes on this week’s projection…

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a creative quarterback who can be productive at the next level. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Hang your hat on this guy. He’s the most exciting offensive tackle prospect to enter the league in years.
#3 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
When the Jaguars met with Manziel at the combine, he needed to prove he was the ultimate competitor. I bet he succeeded in doing that.
#4 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
With the top two quarterbacks off the board and this insane talent still hanging around, they make the pick and wait on a signal caller.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The best receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. You can build around a talent like this. Get a quarterback later.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
If the Falcons can grab a pass rusher in free agency, this looks like a great match. They need to protect Matt Ryan.
#7 Khalil Mack (DE, Buffalo)
The Buccs need an edge rusher. Mack is versatile and can line up in multiple positions. This is a vital need.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a Norv Turner quarterback and Aaron Donald will remind Mike Zimmer of Geno Atkins. He deserves to go this high.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s worth a shot here.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
People are down on Lee because of a 4.5 forty. Don’t sleep on this guy. He’s immensely talented and would be the perfect, fiery compliment to Calvin Johnson.
#11 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Ken Whisenhunt is not endorsing Jake Locker. He’s keeping all of his options open. In this projection they put their faith in Teddy.
#12 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Really talented, ideal big man who will compete for the ball in the air. Eli Manning needs a target like this — especially after last seasons pick-fest.
#13 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
The Rams will keep adding talent where they can. A rangy safety at the back-end makes a lot of sense here. Some people think he’s the real deal.
#14 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Chicago’s defense was a shambles at times last season. It all starts up front, especially if they lose Henry Melton. Hageman has unreal upside.
#15 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
The Steelers don’t have a big man on the outside who can be a threat in the red zone. It’s not their only hole, but it’s a viable option here.
#16 Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
His three cone drill at the combine was among the best in recent history. He can play inside and out. Dallas needs to rebuild its defensive front.
#17 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
He does everything well. Flawless character. Insane competitor. HUGE hands. He absolutely deserves to go this early, if not earlier.
#18 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
A 4.3 forty and massive 2013 production puts him in the top-20 range. Some of the Steve Smith comparisons a bit odd. He’s more of an all-round playmaker.
#19 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
An absolutely superb tackle in college, but expected to move to guard in the NFL. Could play left guard next to prospective free agent signing Brandon Albert.
#20 Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
There are 2-3 logical left tackle options in free agency they can go after. Presuming they sign one, Barr comes into play as an outside rusher. Possible bust.
#21 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Perhaps not quite ‘can’t miss’ enough to go in the top-15. He’d excel in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. Very athletic but not out of this world.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
Andy Reid made sure he got a good look at the top two safety’s at the combine, putting his big sandwich down to sit in the stands.
#24 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier’s vertical and broad jump were off the charts last week. Stunning athlete with insane potential. Needs to direct traffic better to make more plays.
#25 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
They need more size up front. Tuitt can play end in a 3-4. Running a 4.8 at his pro-day this week helps his cause. Strong as an ox.
#26 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Two picks on defense and no QB? Perhaps. They have the third pick on day two with Houston (Bortles) and Washington (RGIII) ahead of them. It’s entirely possible they stand pat and keep building that D.
#27 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He had an outstanding work out last week, but that’s not the whole story with Gilbert. There are a few concerns here. Reports say he was nearly benched by OKST last season.
#28 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
They’re about to undergo a forced major rebuild on the offensive line. It wouldn’t be a shock to see one of their first two picks go on a tackle or guard.
#29 Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
Missed the combine but we’re talking about major upside here. He could be J.J. Watt-lite. Belichick loves versatility up front.
#30 Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois)
Aggressive, wiry safety. Would fill a need for the Niners. Didn’t work out at the combine due to injury.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Underrated, incredibly athletic tackle or guard. Versatile. Outstanding character. Tom Cable would love this guy. Can either replace Breno Giacomini or play left guard.

Mock notes

Seahawks take Joel Bitonio at #32

The options on the defensive line weren’t great in this projection. But they aren’t great anyway once the likes of Aaron Donald leave the board.

At receiver, six players go in the first frame here. I suspect we’ll see a rush like this, then a pause, before a further rush in round two. The six players I’ve listed seem almost certain to be gone before Seattle’s pick.

Overall Bitonio just seemed to be the best fit. He ticks all the boxes.

I wrote this article last week detailing my thoughts on Bitonio, but plenty of people are sleeping on this guy.

From a physical stand point he’s right up there with Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews. Check the combine numbers. Then go look at his tape against UCLA (Anthony Barr) and Florida State (BCS Champs).

We’re talking about a seriously underrated, versatile lineman who could play left tackle for some teams.

In Seattle, he either replaces Breno Giacomini or starts at left guard.

I’ve not been a major advocate for taking an offensive lineman in round one this year. With Bitonio, he’s just too good to pass up.

He looks and sounds like a Tom Cable protégé.

If teams genuinely see him as a guard convert only — as Tony Pauline reported — he’ll continue to fly under the radar.

He’s a classic Carroll/Schneider pick. Gritty, competitive, insane athletic ability, under-appreciated and he’s a finisher.

Round two for half the league maybe, but round one for the Seahawks.

Justin Gilbert at #27?

After a combine, it’s easy to assume those who performed well will fly up the boards.

That’s not always the case.

There’s so much to like about Justin Gilbert’s length and speed. I can see why he’s gaining momentum as a prospective top-15 pick.

But there are other things to consider too.

Bob McGinn’s scouting notebook provides some of the best insider information you can get pre-draft. Here’s what he reported about Gilbert:

“He’s very perplexing to me,” said one scout. “Big knock on him is ball skills. He’s a big, long athlete that can run. He didn’t play real well last year. They were even going to bench him because of inconsistent play. I just don’t think he sees the ball real well. He has first-round talent but he’s just up and down.” The track record of Oklahoma State CBs in the NFL isn’t stellar. “Gilbert gets beat all the time,” a second scout said. “He’s got some interception production, but when you see the picks they’re not really legitimate ones.”

He has a ton of athletic potential, but he’s someone I want (and need) to do more work on.

Running well and having ideal length is not a precursor to going early in the draft.

Not if scouts think you’re a liability who’s going to get beat frequently at the next level.

And it’s worth remembering — for all of Seattle’s length and speed at corner — they’re also well coached, incredibly prepared and among the most technically gifted corners in the league.

It’s not just about running fast and having long arms.

Marqise Lee the #2 receiver

The knee-jerk reaction to make after the combine is — “Lee ran a 4.5? He’ll sink like a stone.”

He’s not big. He’s not tall. He’s not an elite speed guy.

But you know what? Nobody competes like Marqise Lee. He’s relentless. He makes impossible grabs look easy. He’s a stunning playmaker. He has special teams value.

Not every team is going to feel this way, but a lot of people will LOVE his tape. And it’s easy to forget just how dominant he was when completely healthy.

There’s no reason at all why he won’t be a top-15 pick.

Either way, he’s one of six receivers who won’t last long.

Sammy Watkins, Lee, Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham Jr and Brandin Cooks will almost certainly not make it to #32, severely limiting (and possibly ending) any hopes Seattle has of taking a receiver in round one.

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Thoughts on Johnson, Browner and Tate

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Seahawks place second round tender on Jeron Johnson

If Johnson signs his tender, he’ll be due $2.187m in 2014.

While Doug Baldwin is a certain lock to be tendered highly, this wasn’t quite so expected.

It’s clear the Seahawks feared losing Johnson for nothing.

Using the original round tender (he’s a former UDFA) would mean any team can offer him a contract on starter money, and Seattle would have to match the offer.

There are enough teams with substantial cap room (here’s looking at you, Jacksonville) who would probably be willing to tap into Seattle’s rich depth in the secondary.

At least by placing the second round tender, the Seahawks avoid losing him for nothing this year.

There are suggestions within the national media that some teams could show interest in Johnson. It’s not a great year for safety’s in the draft.

But the idea someone would use a second round pick to snatch him away is fanciful.

He’s played sparingly in three years, with 15 total defensive tackles in his career.

What’s more likely is someone might be willing to spend, for example, a fourth or fifth rounder to make Johnson a starter.

By placing this tender the Seahawks can at least have that discussion. Instead of watching him walk out the door for zero compensation.

It also shows how highly they rate the player. At a time when cap space is limited, they’re willing to pay him just over $2m to be a backup.

It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

Brandon Browner reinstated by the NFL

It’s not often the NFL backs down when challenged.

But that’s exactly what they’ve done here.

Faced with a lawsuit and a lengthy court battle, the league and Brandon Browner’s representatives have come to an arrangement that will allow him to be a free agent from March 11th.

It’s a decision that effectively saves Browner’s career.

He was due to serve a one year suspension. Considering he turns 30 in August and wouldn’t be able to play until his 31st year, this is big news.

The immediate question Seahawks fans have asked is — what chance he returns to Seattle?

I’d say only a very small chance, if any at all.

Byron Maxwell proved he’s a capable replacement. While Browner and Walter Thurmond were serving suspensions at a vital time in the season — Maxwell was busy making plays on the field.

This team is all about competition. You can’t compete when you’re ineligible. Maxwell, at this stage, is simply more reliable.

For me, he’s also better.

If Browner’s market is ice cold and he’s willing to sign a ridiculously low contract, then maybe they consider it.

But I suspect they’re ready to move on. Not just with Maxwell, but with their other young guys like Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, Akeem Auguste and DeShawn Shead — plus any new additions they make this off-season.

Golden Tate on staying in Seattle

In the interview linked above, Tate says talks haven’t really heated up with the Seahawks about a new contract.

This isn’t a big surprise, and I wouldn’t read too much into it.

In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if Tate was allowed to test the market.

There are two things to consider here, both linked to a rich draft class at receiver.

1. Will the open market be impacted by the talent available in the draft?

We could see 9-10 receivers going in the first 40-50 picks in May. Teams that need a wide out know this draft class is loaded at the position.

Are you going to go out and spend big money on Tate, Hakeem Nicks or Eric Decker, or are you going to bring in a rookie for a fraction of the price?

It could make absolute financial sense to let Tate discover his true value, and then make an offer.

If he doesn’t get the money he and his agent expect they’ll be forced to lower their expectations.

It could be the difference between Seattle paying $6m per year and $4m per year.

2. Are the Seahawks willing to risk letting Tate walk, knowing they can fall back on the draft?

There’s no doubt Seattle wants to keep Tate. But I’m also sure they won’t see it as the end of the world if he signs somewhere else.

Even picking at #32 in the draft, they’ll have a chance to select a quality receiver. The options at #64 could also be enticing if they go in a different direction with the first pick.

If they wish to let Tate discover his true value, they can do so with some degree of confidence. This is a great draft for wide outs.

Q&A on Field Gulls

One final link for tonight — I featured in a Q&A with Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls, discussing a few talking points in the draft.

Check out the piece by clicking here.

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Region of Boom

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

A Hawks fan named Tanner sent me a link to this video on Sunday. It’s really well put together. If you’ve got 50 minutes to spare, check it out…

Region of Boom from Tanner Hewitt on Vimeo.

Why the Seahawks probably won’t be trading for Jimmy Graham

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

So yeah, this happened today…

Three Tweets from three different ESPN accounts — all linking Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks.

This trade almost certainly won’t happen.

The final tweet in that trilogy above is the main reason why.

ESPN Stats point out Seattle was tied 28th for tight end production in 2013.

That’s not because they have an incompetent starter who couldn’t catch a gently thrown beach-ball.

It’s because they simply don’t throw to the tight ends that often — by design.

The Seahawks are the the most run-centric team in the NFL. Whether it’s Marshawn Lynch grinding up the middle or Russell Wilson scrambling for a few yards, they’ll continue to run the ball with authority.

The tight end in Seattle’s system first and foremost has to be a good blocker. It’s why Zach Miller’s cap hit was $11m last year — higher than anyone else on the roster.

They really value what he brings to the team as a blocker first, catcher second.

Replacing Miller with a guy who can’t block to save his life just isn’t going to happen.

That’s not to say the Seahawks wouldn’t value a player with Graham’s insane size and athletic ability.

But the price to get him out of New Orleans will be two first round picks and a giant contract on top of that.

That isn’t happening.

He also turns 28 in November. So by the time you’re ready to start spending first round picks again, he’ll be into his 30′s.

This isn’t like the Harvin trade. That only took a single first round pick plus change. The 2013 draft didn’t have anywhere near the depth and quality of the upcoming class, so it looked like a no-brainer to the Seahawks front office.

Pete Carroll had previous with Harvin, so did Darrell Bevell. He was approaching his 25th birthday at the time, not his 28th.

Despite my original scepticism, the deal for Harvin made absolute sense.

The Graham suggestion makes very little sense.

How could you look some of your players in the eye after giving up a kings ransom for this tight end?

Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bruce Irvin — the whole linebacker crew.

These are the guys who shut him down in the playoffs — out-fighting him on every target and making him look pretty ordinary in the process.

All after he initiated a pre-game scuffle with several Seahawks in a bizarre attempt to make some kind of statement.

Talk is cheap, as they say. Graham ended the game with one catch for eight yards.

You’re going to trade two first rounders and dish out an outstandingly massive contract before rewarding the guys (Thomas and Sherman) who helped shut him down in the post season on the way to a Super Bowl victory?

No way.

It’s encouraging that the cap will probably hit $150m by 2016. That’ll certainly help the Seahawks keep hold of Thomas, Sherman and Russell Wilson for the long haul, without having to decimate the rest of their roster (Bobby Wagner and others will also need to be re-signed).

But having already splashed out on Harvin a year ago, they can ill-afford to keep adding sizeable contracts.

They might not a get a player of Graham’s calibre with the #32 pick in May, but they’ll hopefully get a starter who earns no more than $2.1m during the four years of his rookie contract.

Call me a cynic, but this looks like a classic back-scratching job between journalists and agents a week before free agency.

One which I would totally understand, by the way.

But it’s up to us to see through it.

Right now Graham’s a franchise tag player and New Orleans don’t have any major incentive to budge form that position.

Giving the impression someone might swoop in with an offer-sheet perhaps encourages the two parties to talk, with Graham’s representatives pushing for a long term deal.

The battle lines are being drawn too. The Saints have tagged Graham as a tight end. He feels he should be tagged as a receiver. The difference is worth over $5m.

Any edge you can find, you’ll take.

This looks to me like the Graham camp playing their first card.

Seattle (the most attractive destination in the NFL right now it seems) and two other respected franchises (Green Bay and New England) — all with a perceived need at the position — are catalysts to try and get talks moving.

For one first round pick, I could see those teams being interested.

But the Saints won’t accept that.

And there’s no way those teams are coughing up two first rounders. Not with this draft class.

Graham to the Seahawks isn’t happening.

Franchise/transition tag news

Brian Orakpo is officially off the market, after he was one of four players to receive the franchise tag before today’s deadline.

With Greg Hardy one of the others to be tagged, this is good news for Michael Johnson.

For the teams hoping to adding a top tier free agent at defensive end, he’s now the best option alongside Jared Allen.

Don’t expect a dead market for pass rushers this year. Outside of the obvious top prospects, this isn’t a great class for edge rushers in the draft.

A lot of people expect Atlanta to trade up for Jadeveon Clowney. I think there’s an argument to be made that says they’re more likely to stay put at #6, use free agency to get a pass rusher and use the draft to get a much needed left tackle.

The other two players to be given the franchise tag were Nick Foles (K, New York Jets) and obviously Jimmy Graham.

Two players were given the transition tag — Alex Mack (C, Cleveland Browns) and Jason Worilds (OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers).

The Seahawks didn’t make any transactions today, which was to be expected.

They have until March 11th to prevent Michael Bennett, Golden Tate and co. hitting the open market.

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