The Seahawks have some money and needs for this year’s free-agent market.
Do they have — or went to spend — enough available cash to match how wild that market’s already become, though?
Seattle has an estimated $21-24 million in cap space available for Tuesday’s official “start” of NFL free agency, depending on sources ranging from the NFL Players’ Association to overthecap.com and sportrac.com. That’s after signing 30-year-old veteran cornerback Will Blackmon on Monday.
Jacksonville released Blackmon last month to save about $980,000 in cap space. He was with the Seahawks from February through Aug. 27 of 2013 before they released him. Blackmon was Green Bay’s fourth-round pick in 2006 when current Seahawks general manager John Schneider was a personnel man for the Packers.
Seattle’s $20-plus million in spending money sounds like plenty — until you remember the NFC champions also would like to take care of quarterback Russell Wilson and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner before the fourth and final seasons of rookie contracts they’ve been outplaying for three years expire.
Plus, they have more than a couple needs.
Suddenly — as in, since the first quarter of last month’s Super Bowl when Jeremy Lane shattered his wrist and shredded his knee returning an interception — the Seahawks’ most pressing concern in free agency may be at cornerback.
As expected, they are losing unrestricted free agent and starting cornerback Byron Maxwell. He set the exorbitant, just-about-ridiculous market at the position by agreeing over the weekend to sign a contract with Philadelphia worth a reported $50 million, with a stunning $25 million guaranteed. That might be double what Seattle may have been willing to pay its sixth-round draft choice from 2011; he was a backup until late in the 2013 season, when Brandon Browner got suspended before leaving for New England.
The Seahawks have been linked to Green Bay starter Tramon Williams, whom Schneider helped bring to the Packers in 2006. Williams recently rejected Green Bay’s $8 million, two-year offer to stay.
Cary Williams, a free agent leaving Philadelphia, has also drawn Seattle’s interest and reports have him heading to the Seahawks.
The Patriots added two more cornerbacks to the market on Monday when they decided not to use their $20 million contract option for 2015 on Darrelle Revis. Sure, he’s an All-Pro. But he also turns 30 this summer and may command half or more of Seattle’s remaining cap space for this year.
The Boston Herald reported Monday the Patriots are also unlikely to pick up Browner’s contract option for this year that would cost New England $4.8 million against the salary cap. Declining Browner’s option by 1 p.m. Tuesday and not restructuring his deal would make the original member of the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” an instant free agent at far below Revis’ cost.
For now, Tharold Simon is a possible replacement for Maxwell. But he just had shoulder surgery after Tom Brady and the Patriots exploited Simon for two touchdowns. That was at the end of Simon’s first full season of health; the fifth-round pick in 2013 missed all of that year with foot injuries. So to say Simon is largely unproven is an understatement.
But claiming the free agent market for a cornerback is strong, young and affordable would be a gross overstatement.
The Seahawks need a tight end or three after terminating the contract of veteran starter Zach Miller following four seasons and two ankle surgeries last fall. Tony Moeaki, whom Seattle signed off an injury settlement from Buffalo in the middle of last season, is also a free agent.
Innuendo has focused on Seattle out-bidding Jacksonville’s reported $9-million-per-year offer to sign free agent Julius Thomas away from Denver. But Thomas is more of a receiver — 12 touchdown catches last season — and far from the blocker that Miller was for a running game that will again be the basis of Seattle’s offense now that Marshawn Lynch is back and re-signed.
Jordan Cameron, the free-agent tight end from Cleveland, may be a better fit and a lower cost. He’s fit in with Pete Carroll before; the native of Los Angeles played for the coach at USC a half-dozen years ago.
Guard James Carpenter joins Maxwell as Seattle’s only starters who are unrestricted free agents. If the Seahawks truly wanted to keep their inconsistent No. 1 draft pick from 2011 they would have extended Carpenter’s contract long before this. So, yes, they are in the market to replace him.
Former Idaho Vandals star Mike Iupati of the 49ers is the most highly regarded free-agent guard. But he reportedly is about to sign with NFC West-rival Arizona. Clint Boling, a starter with Cincinnati since he entered the league the same year Carpenter did, is likely to be cheaper.
How much could the Seahawks use more defensive tackles? They tried to defend their lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl last month while playing defensive tackles Demarcus Dobbs, who’d been waived in November by the 49ers, and Landon Cohen, who weeks earlier had been parking cars for the valet company he owns in South Carolina.
Seattle has run stuffer Brandon Mebane coming off a torn hamstring suffered in November; Schneider said last month he expects Mebane to be healthy enough for training camp. But he turned 30 in January, is currently scheduled to cost $5.7 million against Seattle’s 2015 salary cap, and his five-year contract ends after this coming season.
Mebane may be asked to restructure his contract. And the Seahawks may still be shopping for a defensive tackle.
Ndamukong Suh is going to sign a new contract reportedly worth a mind-boggling $60 million guaranteed and $114 million overall with Miami to headline the start of free agency. So now Terrance Knighton, Denver’s brick wall, is getting the most free-agent attention at this position. But he turns 30 this summer. His familiarity with new Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, the Broncos’ former defensive coordinator, along with known interest from the Colts, Redskins and Bears makes the market likely pricey for him.
Detroit’s Nick Fairley would come more cheaply. He is only 26. And couldn’t the Seahawks use a true nose tackle with a nickname of “Snacks”? But New York’s Damon Harrison is a restricted free agent; the Jets have to decide by Tuesday afternoon whether a team would owe them a first- or a second-round draft choice to sign him away. Schneider seems to value top draft choices far too much to play that game.
The Seahawks made qualifying offers to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette and defensive back DeShawn Shead, all but assuring those two exclusive-rights free agents are returning in 2015. But they did not tender a contract to Bryan Walters, so last season’s punt returner is now an unrestricted free agent. Special teams and linebacker veteran Mike Morgan had been a restricted free agent, until Seattle signed him for 2015 on Monday.
Houston released veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, who has the size and physicality Seattle needs at the position. But the Seahawks don’t need the 33-year-old Johnson’s age. The draft that begins April 30 will have bigger, younger — and much cheaper — wide receivers.