This free agency period couldn’t have gone much better for the Seahawks. While a certain degree of fist clenching occurred as Peyton Manning drifted away and Mario Williams shacked up in Buffalo, the reality is neither were ever likely to land in Seattle.
The front office understandably wanted to meet with Manning because, ultimately, it’s Peyton Manning. But there were reportedly 12 teams who reached out to the future Hall-of-Famer and that number probably got higher as time went on. He met with just four teams – the four most serious contenders. Seattle’s checklist for the off-season may have included ‘try and arrange meeting with Peyton Manning’, but it didn’t necessarily include ‘sign Peyton Manning’.
Williams has signed a deal including over $50m in guarantees and Buffalo are on the hook for around $16m per year. The Seahawks are not going to be signing contracts like that any time soon. This front office evidently wants to build around a core of players who fit the competition mantra – young, hungry and different (in a good way). They also want to be able to reward those who succeed, keeping the key members of the team. When the time comes to re-sign Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Max Unger – some fans may appreciate why it pays to have cap room in the bank. Rest assured, any angst over failing to compete for Williams this week would be doubled if Thomas or Okung are forced to walk in the future.
Seattle’s front office is playing it cool, not rushing into the feeding frenzy and searching for value. Yes, it may be a bit boring for fans who clamour for the big splash. Ultimately though, this is how championship teams are built and how they prosper for multiple years. Although significant holes remain (including one well advertised hole under center), after four drafts under Carroll and Schneider I have a feeling most people will be content with the work done. You may have to wait twelve months for your quarterback fix, but it’ll probably be worth the wait. Those are the cards that have been dealt.
Meanwhile, the team has gone about it’s business efficiently this year. They’ve made key re-signings such as Red Bryant, Marshawn Lynch and Paul McQuistan. They’ve looked into the veteran quarterback market and will almost certainly add a signal caller on a competitive rate that won’t restrict the team from a big splash in the future. But it’s not just the work conducted by Carroll and Schneider that has been a major positive. Elsewhere, other teams are also helping the Seahawks in a big way before next month’s draft.
There’s no need to mess around here – the Seahawks are drafting a pass rusher in round one. Not another offensive lineman, not a receiver. Not even a quarterback. They’ve publically highlighted the pass rush as an area for improvement and they’re not trying to deceive anyone. There is a top tier of three defensive end prospects who will leave the board early, followed by a decent looking second tier. We’ve debated who might also be looking for defensive line help before the #12 pick, but it’s a list that possibly gets shorter with every passing day of free agency.
– The Jacksonville Jaguars needed to hit the free agent receiver market, but were surprisingly quiet while Vincent Jackson, Robert Meachem and others were making visits. They secured a deal for Dallas’ Laurent Robinson, but it’s hardly the big splash fans were hoping for. Blaine Gabbert needs help if he’s going to make it in the NFL and Jacksonville’s group of receivers is among the worst in the league. They re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey and a strong second tier of pass rushers may encourage the Jags to go in a different direction in round one. Moving up to draft Justin Blackmon can’t be ruled out, while Michael Floyd is a strong alternative. They need to find a quality target for Gabbert, it’s the #1 priority.
– Miami owns the next pick after Jacksonville and they’re losing the battle for Peyton Manning. It’s not a good sign for a franchise with so much history to strike out on Jim Harbaugh (strike one), Jeff Fisher (strike two) and now Peyton Manning (strike three). The end result is a team with a new coaching staff, but no quarterback and now no top receiver following the Brandon Marshall trade. Joe Philbin worked in a system in Green Bay that utilised talented receivers so well, it’s hard to imagine Miami will try to get by at the position. Despite initial feelings they would draft a defensive end or right tackle, it looks as if the Dolphins may have to prioritise quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) or wide receiver (Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd). They could still sign Matt Flynn who has worked with Philbin before, but Mike Sherman also has history at Texas A&M with Tannehill.
– Buffalo shocked the NFL by signing Mario Williams to a mega-deal. They now have a defensive line filled with talent and will surely concentrate on other key areas in the draft. Despite spending two high picks on offensive lineman in 2009 (Eric Wood and Andy Levitre) the Bills also traded away left tackle Justin Peters to Philadelphia that year. They’ve shown little interest in re-signing 2011 starter Demetrius Bell, which suggests the #10 pick could be spent on a new blind-side blocker. Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin should be available in that range and both players would be solid additions. While we can’t rule out the drafting of another pass rusher to compliment Williams, the sheer amount of dollars invested in the defensive line is already taking up a large portion of the team’s cap. After all, what use is a good pass rush if you’re own quarterback is facing similar pressure from less talented players?
Only last week we discussed the possibility of Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw and Quinton Coples being drafted by the teams listed above, leaving the Seahawks in no man’s land. Now – it wouldn’t be a total shock if all three made it to #12, giving the Seahawks their pick of the bunch. That’s an unlikely scenario, but not impossible. Seattle will be out of luck in a big way if one of their preferred picks isn’t on the board at #12. When the team adds a pass rusher in round one and makes further additions to the front seven, they’ll be closing in on a top-echelon defense. And with that side of the ball secured, it’ll be time to start planning for a big splash to fill the other big need on this roster.