Seahawks won’t play tag this year with free agents

General manager John Schneider says franchise tag unlikely to be used

Staff writerFebruary 22, 2013 

INDIANAPOLIS — Seahawks general manager John Schneider provided little insight into what his team’s personnel department thinks are the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s draft class, and how they match up to Seattle’s overall needs.

“To specifically not answer your question, I think it’s a good group all the way through,” joked Schneider. “There’s just different parts of the draft that are nice in a couple areas.”

Thanks for the clarity, John.

But while remaining vague on his plans for the draft, Schneider offered some details for how the team will address free agency.

He indicated that the Seahawks likely will pass on using the franchise tag for the third consecutive season to keep around one of seven Seattle players expected to become free agents in March.

“We’re still evaluating that,” he said. “I don’t necessarily see us using it.”

Defensive linemen Jason Jones and Alan Branch, along with cornerback Marcus Trufant remain possibilities to return to Seattle.

And while it may not be the team’s first choice, Schneider

said the Seahawks would be willing to part ways with backup quarterback Matt Flynn.

However, Schneider indicated it’s not a slam dunk Flynn will be with another team in 2013 because he likes the team’s talent at the position.

“I think we have a great setup,” Schneider said. “I feel very blessed that we have two quarterbacks like this, two starting-caliber guys. What happened last year didn’t really have a reflection on what Matt did – or Tarvaris (Jackson) for that matter – it was really what Russell (Wilson) did in kind of stepping forward and taking charge. And the way he performed in the preseason was really hard to argue – I think he was like 12 of 18 on his possessions, or something like that (scoring drives during the exhibition season).

“So we feel really blessed with our situation right now. And it’s so early – everybody’s involved in their draft meetings – so it’s not like I’ve had a chance to sit down with other general managers, or some of the other people that I’m close with through the league to talk about what their situation is.

“But as you guys well know, we’re always going to listen to everything. And if we’re not doing that, we feel like we’re not doing our job. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will do something with Matt.”

Asked if Flynn’s 2013 base salary of $5.25 million is a deterrent to keeping him on the roster, Schneider didn’t hesitate.

“No, because we have different models set up in our cap,” Schneider said. “And obviously we have a model that includes Matt – our primary model.”

Seattle likely will face competition as sellers in the quarterback market, with San Francisco veteran Alex Smith expected to be available via trade.

The University of Utah product was replaced by Colin Kaepernick midway through the 2012 season, but still has some value. Smith finished the season with a 104.1 passer rating.

Expect Schneider to keep close tabs on San Francisco, because the possibility of the 49ers moving Smith affects the trade value of Flynn.

“We’re going to look at all options available,” said San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke, when asked about the possibility of trading Smith. “Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided.”

Smith, 28, is a known commodity. He has a 38-36-1 record as a starter, with 81 touchdown passes, 63 interceptions and a career passer rating of 79.1.

Flynn, 27, could have a higher ceiling, with nine TDs, five interceptions and a career 92.0 passer rating in two starts.

Schneider said Flynn wants a chance to earn a starting job, and Seattle will look to provide that chance elsewhere if it makes sense for the Seahawks.

“I don’t think anybody in the National Football League is content to be a backup,” Schneider said. “So, I wouldn’t think he’s content, no. I think he would want an opportunity to start, and is extremely confident in his abilities. That’s why he came to Seattle. He told me that he wanted this to be his team.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams

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