Seattle Seahawks

League source: Seahawks “sure” to talk to LT Russell Okung in free agency

gbell@thenewstribune.com

Offensive tackle Russell Okung fills a need for the Seahawks. He’s also the first player drafted by GM John Schneider in 2010.
Offensive tackle Russell Okung fills a need for the Seahawks. He’s also the first player drafted by GM John Schneider in 2010. The Associated Press

A Russell Okung reunion? That’s about to be part of the Seahawks’ free-agent conversations.

Adrian Peterson is not. Not for now, anyway.

A league source with direct knowledge said the Seahawks are “sure” to talk to Okung once free agency begins. The team will begin exploring whether there will be a reunion with the 29-year-old left tackle after Thursday at 1 p.m., the time free agency officially opens.

Because he is representing himself for the second consecutive year, Okung cannot directly negotiate with teams and vice versa until then. He was coach Pete Carroll’s and general manager John Schneider’s first draft choice for Seattle in 2010.

The Seahawks enter free agency about $24.6 million under the league’s 2017 salary cap of $167 million per team, according to overthecap.com.

That includes the $1.797 million they are committing to starting right tackle Garry Gilliam for 2017 after deciding this week to offer the restricted free agent the lowest-level tender, which is worth that amount. Their total does not include any money toward starting cornerback DeShawn Shead, whom Seattle decided not to tender as a restricted free agent. Shead is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in January.

The $24.6 million isn’t a ton of cap space, just 20th-most in the NFL. But it’s $10 million more in buying power than the Seahawks had when the 2016 market opened.

Last week at the league scouting combine in Indianapolis, Carroll said of his team in free agency: “We have a chance to do some things there. We’ll see what’s available to us — very aggressively and very actively.”

But Schneider said the Seahawks won’t be throwing money around starting Thursday.

“You’re just trying to constantly make smart decisions,” the GM said last week. “We have to look out for not just 2017, but 2018 and 2019. I know you guys get tired of me talking about it, but we want to be a consistent championship-caliber team. … We want to be there every single year, and having our fans be like, ‘These guys are busting their tails to get us back to the Super Bowl and be world champions.’ 

The Seahawks’ pattern since Schneider and Carroll arrived in 2010 is to wait out the first wave of big-bucks signings on the opening day of free agency, let the market set itself at targeted positions, then go after more cost-effective signings in the subsequent days or weeks of free agency.

So, if form holds, the league’s biggest splashes on the first day of free agency won’t be from coming out of Seattle.

“Actually, we are aggressive in free agency. We just don’t do a lot of deals lately,” Schneider said. “We try to pride ourselves on being involved in a lot of deals, and then deciding what our threshold is for those deals.”

The biggest free agent of their own to try to re-sign, besides the recuperating Shead, is Luke Willson. The tight end wants to see what the market bears for him before weighing whether to re-sign as Jimmy Graham’s backup in Seattle.

Unsubstantiated rumors had the Seahawks in the running with Oakland as most interested to sign Peterson. But that makes no sense for Seattle. The 32-year-old is a 2014 season-long league suspension and injuries removed from being a 2,000-yard rusher and 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player for Minnesota.

Many such rumors come from agents, family members or friends who are trying to portray that multiple teams are interested in their players, for leverage in free agency.

The Seahawks are waiting for C.J. Prosise, their tantalizing rookie from 2016, and Thomas Rawls to stay healthy long enough to have a full season as their young (combined NFL experience: three seasons) and inexpensive rushers. That leaves money for bigger priorities: offensive linemen, defensive backs and defensive tackles.

“Guys have made statements about who they are, and then they have to come back and reestablish that and take it as far as they can,” Carroll said last week at the combine. “There is nothing in the way of C.J.

“Thomas Rawls is a terrific player on our team, too, who had a very difficult season. He was banged up all year. So those two guys come back to camp really raring to go, and we are looking forward to that.”

That doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t seek insurance against more injuries from Prosise and Rawls, who has yet to finish a full season since high school in Flint, Michigan.

That does mean it’s unlikely they will break their bank for it.

Okung won’t be Seattle’s only target to meet Schneider’s goal of getting more experienced on the offensive line. D.J. Fluker, released this week by the Chargers, was the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He played right tackle and, in the past two seasons, right guard for San Diego. There is ample debate around the league if Fluker is better suited to power-run blocking or the zone-blocking scheme favored by Seattle line coach Tom Cable.

Carroll was spotted in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday attending Alabama’s Pro Day workouts. It’s safe to say the coach had an eye on Crimson Tide left tackle Cam Robinson, as well as man-coverage cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

Robinson was the Outland Trophy winner as college football’s top interior offensive lineman in 2016. He got the attention of the Seahawks — and every other team — last week at the combine.

Seattle picks 26th in the first round on April 27. Offensive tackles are considered a weak position both in free agency and this draft. So Robinson and Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, considered the other top college tackle, might not be available when the Seahawks pick in round one.

Hence their interest in Humphrey.

Shead could re-sign as an unrestricted free agent for a minimum salary, which would be more than $1 million less than the cost of that lowest tender the Seahawks didn’t offer him, while he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the playoff loss at Atlanta on Jan. 14. The Seahawks signed veteran Perrish Cox early this offseason to a non-guaranteed, one-year contract worth $775,000 in base pay as a fallback option at cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.

But their experience signing Cary Williams in free agency two seasons ago — handing him the starting job, then benching him and cutting him in the middle of that 2015 season — could make Seattle hesitant to import a more costly cornerback to start. That, plus Shead’s injury and now free agency, makes cornerback a high Seahawks priority in next month’s draft.

“Yeah, it pushes it up,” Schneider said. “We have to … but not at the combine (for the draft). We are watching everyone.

“It’s just a matter of how free agency goes.”

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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