Seahawks Insider Blog

Six former Seahawks starters gone in last six days. What’s next, as free agency set to officially “begin”?

Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (88) kissed Seattle goodbye on Tuesday by agreeing to a three-year contract with Green Bay. He’s the sixth former Seahawks starter to leave in the last six days. What’s next for the transforming team, as free agency officially begins Wednesday?
Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (88) kissed Seattle goodbye on Tuesday by agreeing to a three-year contract with Green Bay. He’s the sixth former Seahawks starter to leave in the last six days. What’s next for the transforming team, as free agency officially begins Wednesday? joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Yeah, it just seems like Dave Krieg is about the only former Seahawks starter who hasn’t left town this past week.

Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson became the latest to exit on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Graham agreed to a three-year contract with Green Bay. Richardson, 25, took five years from Washington. Both deals came the eve of the official start to the NFL’s free-agency signing period.

They are the fifth and sixth former Seahawks starters to leave in six days.

The exodus list entering Wednesday, when free-agent signings and trades become official: Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett (whom Seattle agreed to trade to Philadelphia last Wednesday). Then Seattle waived Richard Sherman (as you might have heard) plus fellow defensive backs Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead. Those four moves saved Seattle $19.15 million against this year’s salary cap.

The Seahawks indicated to Shead they wanted to sign him back, at a different cost. But he’s believed to be visiting Detroit and San Francisco to shop.

Then on Tuesday Richardson, the four-year veteran wide receiver, agreed to leave for Washington for an alarming $8 million a year.

The net gains this week for Seattle entering Wednesday were relatively modest: Agreeing to re-sign safety Bradley McDougald for three years and $13.95 million, to keep him from free agency; tendering an offer to restricted free agent and nickel defensive back Justin Coleman for $2.941 million. And that’s it.

So far.

"It's been one of the toughest offseasons to deal with," Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright told SiriusXM NFL Radio Tuesday. “Every year it's not fun when guys leave, but this has hurt pretty bad. You just didn't see that happening the way it did.

“It's a ruthless business. We know what we signed up for. However, it still doesn't make it easier.”

But before you panic into Puget Sound, head first, remember: This is how free agency has gone for the last six years for the Seahawks under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. They typically wait out and avoid the frenzied first-day, big-buck splashes. They become active signing in the secondary, lower-cost waves of a cooler market.

In Tuesday’s latest overheated, first-wave example: "P-Rich" proved too rich to keep.

Washington agreed to give Richardson, Seattle’s often-injured second-round draft choice from 2014, a reported $40 million, five-year contract with $20 million in guarantees.

The 25-year-old Richardson played just six games his first three seasons after the Seahawks made him their second-round draft choice in 2014, was likely about $3 million per season higher than cap-strapped Seattle would have considered to keep him.

The Seahawks’ remaining wide receivers are Baldwin (signed through 2020), Lockett (going into the final year of his contract), 2017 rookie Amara Darboh (whom the Seahawks love for his polished routes but needs to show more in year two), 2017 seventh-round draft choice David Moore (still an unknown) and former safety and college quarterback Tanner McEvoy (whose roster spot remains endangered this year) and former LSU track star Cyril Grayson (raw, with raw speed).

So, yes, another apparent position of need.

Richardson tore a knee ligament at the end of his rookie season. He returned in November 2015, then had that season end after two quarters because of a torn hamstring that affected most of his 2016, too. Before last season he worked in Southern California extensively with quarterback Russell Wilson. And it paid off--now, literally. Richardson surpassed Lockett as Seattle’s No. 2 wide receiver behind Doug Baldwin, and showed his speed was back on deep balls and clutch throws by Wilson.

Now Washington rewards his progress. Baldwin and Lockett congratulated him online about his new deal Tuesday--and the work back from injuries it took to get the new cash.

Richardson is the first departure that could factor into Seattle getting a compensatory draft choice next year, because unlike the others his contract had already expired to become an unrestricted free agent.

Graham agreeing to sign with the Packers hours later on Tuesday made him the second possible comp-pick departure.

Seattle was never in the running to come close to the money Graham was looking for on the market after a 10-touchdown season in 2017. His year was deceptive. Graham--whom the Saints also targeted this week, for a reunion--was second in the league in drops last season. He had his fewest catches and yards over a full season since his rookie year a decade ago for New Orleans.

Green Bay cut wide receiver Jordy Nelson, franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, to clear $10 million in salary-cap space. That made Graham’s deal happen.

Where does this leave Austin Seferian-Jenkins?

In demand.

Now the Saints, having missed out on a Graham homecoming, are believed to be targeting Seferian-Jenkins. Tuesday afternoon, a league source said the New York Jets were making another effort to re-sign the former University of Washington and Gig Harbor High School star and keep him from leaving in free agency--and that "a few" other teams were also in play. Seferian-Jenkins, a 25-year-old native of Fox Island who still has family in the area, declined the Jets’ offer of $8 million for two years last month.

The Jets made a strong, renewed effort to bring him back Tuesday. A league source told The News Tribune New York was among "a few" teams in serious discussions to sign Seferian-Jenkins. The Seahawks were still believed to be one of those teams, but Tuesday’s developments of Graham agreeing with the Packers to boost the Saints’ interest in Seferian-Jenkins complicate Seattle’s efforts to sign him. That is, Tuesday may have driven up his price.

Seferian-Jenkins has been in the Seattle area since last week. Last weekend he hung out with his family and friends in Gig Harbor and Fox Island. Monday he worked out with some Seahawks players in a Seattle-area gym on their own.

A source said he is "extremely interested" in coming home to play for the Seahawks, and that his hometown team is likewise interested.

But now the market is heating up.

The Seahawks entered Wednesday afternoon’s official start to free-agency signing with what was believed to be about $27.5 million in cap space. That includes the $2.914 million allocated to Coleman for his second-round tender.

That does not include two more tenders offers expected to come to two more Seahawks restricted free agents: defensive end Dion Jordan and running back Mike Davis. The team may announce those Wednesday. That would drop Seattle’s cap space down to at least about $23 million. Factoring in the rookie pool the team needs to sign what’s scheduled to be eight picks in next month’s draft, that cap space number would be more like $16 million.

That may be the more accurate buying power the Seahawks will have in their ongoing efforts into Wednesday morning to re-sign defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, then to try to shop for their many other needs.

If Seattle’s form holds, that shopping will be judicious, patient and most likely in that second wave of free agency.

Whether you like that or, more likely, not.

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