The toughest part of John Schneider’s week wasn’t the lack of sleep or the endless phone calls, emails and text messages.
It probably came when his young son punched him and ran out of the room crying when it became public that Matt Hasselbeck wasn’t returning to Seattle.
“So I get it,” Schneider said on Friday afternoon. “I get it.”
After a wild five days, Schneider spoke about Seattle’s bounty of free agent signings that was capped on Friday afternoon when the Seahawks announced they had re-signed defensive tackle Brandon Mebane to a reported five-year deal worth $25 million.
Seattle confirmed its big free-agent splashes – quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, offensive lineman Robert Gallery, defensive lineman Alan Branch and wide receiver Sidney Rice – and locked up all its draft picks when first-round selection James Carpenter and third-round pick John Moffitt signed their contracts on Friday.
But before going into detail on his new acquisitions, Schneider first wanted to address Hasselbeck and the decision to move on from the only quarterback ever to take the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
“A really big decision, very hard decision. These decisions affect people’s lives, and we do not take them lightly,” he said. “We’re very excited about moving forward, don’t get me wrong, but I just wanted to start this by talking about the respect we have for the man, the football player, everything he did here in Seattle.”
Later during his chat, it became clear that the length of the lockout played a significant role in Seattle’s decision to let Hasselbeck go to Tennessee and turn its attention to signing Jackson. An offer was extended to Hasselbeck before the lockout, but with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell coming over from Minnesota, the Seahawks concluded their best option going forward in such a short offseason was to bring in Jackson because of his experiencing playing the last five seasons for the Vikings.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty. I mean, we’re getting ready to play a football game here in a couple of days. It’s not like Matt couldn’t have come in and learned the system quickly. He has experience in the system,” Schneider said. “But it just became evident to us that the longer this thing went … (Jackson is a) pretty intriguing young prospect.”
The Seahawks were able to retain Mebane when the sides finally agreed on a contract. Much like Hasselbeck, the Seahawks and Mebane attempted to get a deal done before the lockout, but instead the negotiation became a long process that finally ended with Mebane returning to Seattle for his fifth season.
Mebane has developed into an important cog in Seattle’s run defense. He had 35 tackles and one sack in 12 games last season for the Seahawks. He has started 53 of 59 games since being drafted in the third round by the Seahawks in 2007.
“Being able to re-sign one of your own guys who was a hot commodity in free agency is huge for us,” Schneider said. “He wanted to stay here, we wanted him to stay here.”
Earlier in the day, Seattle finished off its deal with Carpenter, important because Carpenter is projected to be Seattle’s starting right tackle. He was on the field a short time later for the Seahawks’ first practice in helmets, working as expected within the framework of what Seattle hopes its top offensive line will be.
Seattle is still waiting for Gallery, who arrived on Friday but can’t practice until Thursday.
Seattle also finalized its deal with Moffitt, whom the Seahawks hope will be their starting right guard by the time the Sept. 11 season opener at San Francisco arrives.
Second-year left tackle Russell Okung understands what Carpenter is going through. A year ago, Okung held out for a week and then was quickly trying to catch up on what he missed. This year, the timetable is accelerated even more because of the NFL lockout and Carpenter missing out on minicamps and OTAs.
“It’s tough. Bullets are being thrown at you and you have to catch it really quick. But from the first day, James is doing a great job,” Okung said.
Along with locking up Carpenter, the Seahawks brought back linebacker Leroy Hill on a one-year contract. Hill will enter his seventh season with the Seahawks and provide depth at linebacker after Seattle lost backup Will Herring to New Orleans.
Hill missed most of last season after suffering an Achilles injury in the second game of the regular season at Denver. He was a starter for most of his first five seasons with Seattle but struggled with injuries and off-field problems his last two seasons.
Seattle also confirmed it had re-signed fullback Michael Robinson and linebacker Matt McCoy.
“The cool thing is we had a plan in place, and it was kind of like the draft … bang, bang, bang, bang,” Schneider said. “We just kept going. And had reviewed it, and everyone was on the same page so much that it was great.”