By Danny O’Neil
INDIANAPOLIS – The question isn’t whether the Seahawks have a franchise player.
It’s how many.
Michael Bennett led the Seahawks with 8.5 regular-season sacks while playing one a one-year deal. (AP)
They just aren’t planning on using the franchise tag. At least not this year, general manager John Schneider saying that Thursday to 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” in an interview from the NFL’s scouting combine.
Michael Bennett was one possibility after he led Seattle with 8.5 sacks last season while playing on a one-year contract with the Seahawks, but using the franchise tag on a defensive end comes with a price tag of more than $12 million. Even if Seattle argued Bennett were a defensive tackle, the price would be more than $9 million.
The other possibility was thought to be kicker Steven Huaschka, who led the NFC in scoring and made 22 consecutive field-goal attempts. The one-year price tag for a kicker is more than $3 million, and while Schneider didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of using the franchise tag, he said he wasn’t anticipating that.
That’s not entirely shocking. The Seahawks have not used the franchise tag since 2010, Schneider’s first year as general manager. Seattle designated kicker Olindo Mare the franchise player that year, but has not used it in any of the previous three seasons.
Golden Tate’s future is a question as he prepares to enter free agency.
There’s no doubt, however, about how Seattle’s desire to keep him.
“It’s a big priority,” Schneider said. “Yeah. We have a number of unrestricted free agents that we’re just kind of getting a lay of the land. This is actually the weekend it kind of starts. People start hearing from other teams and how well they’re liked and appreciated. Golden knows where we stand, how much we love him and how much we want to have him back on our team.”
Tate is one of two offensive starters who is an unrestricted free agent; right tackle Breno Giacomini is the other. Receiver Doug Baldwin is a restricted free agent.
Left tackle Russell Okung finished out the season despite a toe injury serious enough that there was some uncertainty as to whether he’d need surgery going forward. He hasn’t yet, which is decidedly good news.