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The Seahawks could be comparing other linebackers with Mike Morgan, who is a free agent. (AP)
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Clayton: After adding to offense in first phase of free agency, focus for Seahawks shifts to defense

The Seahawks could be comparing other linebackers with Mike Morgan, who is a free agent. (AP)

After working on offense during the first phase of free agency, the Seahawks’ focus shifts over to the defense.

Like they did with the signings of Eddie Lacy and Luke Joeckel, they are still trying to find players they can sign on good deals, but any more additions on offense will be luxury. Pete Carroll would like to add another veteran offensive lineman, but there isn’t a rush.

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The Seahawks got out of the first wave of free agency only losing two players – kicker Stephen Hauschka and defensive end Damontre Moore – and the first of their free agents they re-signed was cornerback Neiko Thorpe earlier this week, followed by tight end Luke Willson and cornerback DeShawn Shead on Friday.

With return man Devin Hester expected to retire, the Seahawks have 10 unrestricted free agents to consider, half of which are on defense. Among them is defensive tackle John Jenkins, who has visited the Chicago Bears.

Judging by the Seahawks’ mid-week visits of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Michael Wilhoite and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Bradley McDougald, you can tell they are trying to weigh players they might sign against some of their own free agents who could come back. Whilhoite will be compared to Mike Morgan, the starting strong side linebacker who played on a one-year, $1 million contract last year. McDougald will be compared to safeties Kelcie McCray and Steven Terrell, who didn’t receive the restricted free agent tender and became unrestricted.

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Whilhoite and McDougald have value. Among ESPN’s top 150 free agents (excluding released players), McDougald was the 57th best player, and he’s the second best remaining safety behind T.J. McDonald of the Los Angeles Rams. McCray, by the way, is 129th. Whilhoite ranks 100th on the list, while Morgan is 140th.

Let’s look at some of the positions the Seahawks might explore in the next round of free agency.

Cornerback. This might be a position where the Seahawks will have to wait until the draft. The remaining list of free-agent options aren’t good, particularly with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne getting deals Thursday. Darius Butler of the Indianapolis Colts, Sterling Moore of the New Orleans Saints and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Alterraun Verner head the list of remaining players on the market. Verner might be the best of the trio, but he’s 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds, which is not exactly the size Carroll is looking for.

Safety. McDougald is an interesting prospect. He’s started the past two years in Tampa Bay and Pro Football Focus gives him a solid 79 rating. At the right one-year price, he could be a good option. The aforementioned McDonald and former New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd are also still out there, though McDougald is the only one brought in by the Seahawks so far.

Linebacker. Wilhoite could be a candidate to study if the Seahawks rate him better than Morgan. The Seahawks also looked at Denver’s Dekoda Watson as a possible special teams linebacker. If the Seahawks don’t bring back Terrell and McCray, they are going to need special teams assistance. That’s why re-signing Thorpe was important – he’s an option at cornerback and he’s good on special teams, and the Seahawks got him at a good price of $3.5 million over two years. Other options at linebacker are Perry Riley of the Oakland Raiders and Gerald Hodges of the San Francisco 49ers.

Defensive line. This group is pretty thin. The Seahawks had former Washington Redskins lineman Ricky Jean Francois in for a visit, but when one of the top remaining defensive tackles is Tyrunn Walker of the Detroit Lions, the Seahawks might have to wait for the draft to find inside defensive line help.

Offensive line. This will be anyone’s guess. The Seahawks need a leader who might be willing to be a backup – and make backup money. They wouldn’t bring 33-year-old Nick Mangold in to move Justin Britt out of the center spot, especially considering they need to sign Britt to a contract extension after how well he played in his first year at the position in 2016. But a Mangold-type player would be a good fit if he would be willing to be a backup guard and center for low one-year pay.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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