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ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer |
So will the Seattle Seahawks gingerly dip their toes in, or will they do a belly flop into this year's free agency pool?
If Thursday night, the beginning of the NFL’s free agency period, was any indication, the Seahawks likely will take the more cautious approach.
Seattle was rumored to be in the running for this year’s top free agent, 30-year-old Julius Peppers. But the Washington Redskins have jumped to the front of the line for the talented defensive end, with the Chicago Bears not too far behind.
No top-tier player in this year’s free agent class appears to be on Seattle’s radar heading into the first weekend of free agency.
However, the Seahawks could be on the verge of losing its top free agent, receiver Nate Burleson. According to a report from the National Football Post, several teams are interested in the Seattle native’s services, including the Chicago, the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Seattle did announce tenders for its restricted free agents on Thursday.
The Seahawks tendered four players at the level of their original draft round: center Chris Spencer (first round, $2.621 million salary), defensive end Darryl Tapp (second round, $1.176 million), guard Rob Sims (fourth round, $1.176 million) and wide receiver Ben Obomanu (seventh round, $1.101 million).
The original draft round designations mean the Seahawks have first right of refusal for those for players, or they can receive a pick in the round of that player’s original draft position if they choose not to match an offer sheet from another team on that player.
Also, the Seahawks placed an exclusive rights tender on linebacker David Hawthorne. Because Hawthorne has only two years of experience in the league, he is not eligible to sign with another NFL team. His only options are to sign the tender or try to negotiate a better contract.
Offensive tackle Brandon Frye and linebacker Lance Laury were not tendered and therefore became free agents on Thursday.
One player who deserves a bump in pay is Hawthorne, according to his agent, Russel Hicks.
“I would like to see (them) have more of a commitment,” Hicks said. “I think he’s earned it.”
Currently, Hawthorne would make the league minimum based on his two accrued years in the league if he were to sign the exclusive rights tender that the Seahawks designated him with, which amounts to a $460,000 salary for one season.
Hawthorne, who will be 25 in May, likely would again become a restricted free agent at season’s end, although his status for 2011 would remain uncertain while the league and the NFL Players Association talk about a new collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA will expire after the 2010 season.
In Hawthorne’s second season in Seattle, the undrafted free agent out of Texas Christian played in all 16 games and started 11 at middle linebacker in place of Lofa Tatupu, who went on injured reserve after having surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle in October.
Hawthorne more than held his own, leading the team in tackles with 117, finishing second on the team in sacks with four and tying safety Deon Grant for the team lead in interceptions with three. Hawthorne also forced two fumbles.
With his ability to play outside linebacker as well, Seattle would get much-needed depth at the position by keeping Hawthorne in the fold. Seattle’s linebackers missed a total of 18 games as a group. And if the Seahawks decide to change to a 3-4 scheme, Hawthorne likely would be a starter.
Although rare, players who receive the exclusive rights tender designation have received more compensation than required from their respective teams under the designation.
An undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, Green Bay running back Ryan Grant held out of training camp for seven days after rushing for 956 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007, his first full season in the league. He added 201 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers’ playoff win over Seattle.
Green Bay tagged Grant with the exclusive rights tender that carried with it a salary of $250,000 for one accrued season, but he ended up signing a four-year, $18 million deal in August 2008.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437