SEATTLE – Ready?
The Seahawks better be, after a lockout that spanned more than four months, stalling their plans to complete an offseason makeover.
Because the longest work stoppage in NFL history is about to give way to a most compressed flurry of offseason transactions.
Teams can begin talking to free agents this morning, which means about the time the rest of the city is contemplating morning coffee, the Seahawks will be talking contracts with some of the hundreds of players on the market.
You can’t even compare this to speed dating because there’s going to be precious time for small talk. The Seahawks report for a team meeting Wednesday night, and right now they have 22 unrestricted free agents, dozens of roster spots to fill and one big unanswered question: Who will be the quarterback?
Issues for the Seahawks, as they fill their roster:
Charlie Whitehurst is the only quarterback signed. The team’s preference remains re-signing Matt Hasselbeck, but that doesn’t mean the Seahawks are inclined to increase the offer they made to him in March. In fact, it’s quite possible—perhaps even likely—they’ll hold firm. Minnesota and Tennessee are teams with rookie quarterbacks who could be seeking a veteran like Hasselbeck to be a bridge to the future.
If Hasselbeck isn’t re-signed, don’t expect Whitehurst to be handed the job. He will have to compete for it against someone like Tarvaris Jackson of Minnesota, who Seattle is expected to pursue if Hasselbeck doesn’t re-sign. Expect Matt Leinart to get a look, too. Not only did Pete Carroll coach Leinart in college, but Carl Smith – Seattle’s new quarterbacks coach – was Leinart’s position coach in 2004.
2. Defensive line
The position isn’t as important as quarterback, but Brandon Mebane is as important as anyone Seattle will consider this week. Most consider him one of the top 20 unrestricted free agents, and he will be coveted by teams that run a 4-3 scheme.
Will Seattle pay the premium to keep Mebane? The Seahawks will feel some urgency to do so, given the depth of their defensive line, or more accurately the lack thereof. Through six games last season, Seattle was among the better rush defenses in the NFL, thanks in large part to the trio of big bodies—Mebane, Colin Cole and Red Bryant. Each was injured at one point, and the Seahawks’ defense never recovered.
3. Left guard
Rookie James Carpenter was drafted to play right tackle, John Moffitt will be installed at right guard. Max Unger will be the center and Russell Okung the left tackle. That quartet has a combined 27 NFL starts.
There’s a vacancy at left guard, and Seattle might pay to fill it. Robert Gallery became a formidable left guard the past four years in Oakland, where he played under Tom Cable, now Seattle’s offensive line coach. Gallery turns 31 today, and he has played in only 18 of 32 games the previous two seasons, so there is a bit of a risk in both age and injury history. But Seattle needs to get veteran leadership on the line.
This might be the deepest position in free agency in terms of talent, with headliner Nnamdi Asomugha of Oakland and capable starters like Johnathan Joseph of Cincinnati, Richard Marshall of Carolina and Ike Taylor of Pittsburgh.
The reality is that Seattle is too early in the rebuilding process to consider buying a premium piece like Asomugha to put the Seahawks over the top. It’s very possible that Seattle will look within for improvement at the corners, seeing if younger players like Walter Thurmond or rookies Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell show promise.
One name to keep an eye on: Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets. He has the size and athletic swagger that Seattle wants from its corners.
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