Clayton: Seahawks took a different approach to free agency in 2017
The NFL’s unrestricted free agency period officially ended on Tuesday.
To everyone’s surprise, the Seahawks were considerably active, signing seven UFAs to one-year contracts. That’s the second-most in the Pete Carroll-John Schneider tenure. The most was in 2011, when they signed eight.
At that time, the Seahawks were in their second year of building their team under Carroll and Schneider. They were coming off a 7-9 season in which made more than 200 roster transactions and pulled off an upset by winning a bad NFC West division. They pulled off another upset in the playoffs, beating the Saints when Marshawn Lynch delivered his Beast Mode touchdown run that energized Seahawks fans so much it registered on the Richter scale.
Coming off that excitement, Carroll and Schneider tried to be aggressive in free agency. They signed wide receiver Sidney Rice, tackle Robert Gallery, defensive tackle Alan Branch, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson, kicker Jeff Reed and safety Atari Bigby. In the latter part of free agency, Schneider saw tight end Zach Miller still available and added him with a five-year, $34 million contract.
The Seahawks went 7-9 in 2011 and missed out on the playoffs because of a late-season loss to Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers.
With a partial help of the 2011 free-agent class, the Seahawks, while starting to draft the core group of their current defense, made the big jump in 2012 to 11 wins. The Super Bowl fun followed the next two years.
This year’s free-agent class is so different in its structure. Normally, Schneider shies away from free agency because it costs the franchise compensatory picks. This year, that wasn’t the case. Seattle’s list of 14 unrestricted free agents didn’t include the types of players who were going to command the big salaries that would result in third- and fourth-round compensatory picks.
At best, the Seahawks were only going to get sixth- or seventh-rounders if they lost more free agents than they signed. Figuring they needed to start building roster depth and maybe finding starters for the future, Schneider signed seven unrestricted free agents to one-year deals and added more street free agents.
They capped the offseason with 11 draft choices, including six on defense.
Here are a few thoughts.
• The Eddie Lacy signing should have the biggest impact. He’ll only be 27 next season, and remember, he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. If he can pound out a 1,000-plus-yard season, the Seahawks’ offense will have the feel of the Marshawn Lynch days.
• Adding Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi and Ethan Pocic to the offensive line should dramatically improve the run and pass blocking. Last year, the options at tackle were limited. Bradley Sowell tried hard but didn’t play well. J’Marcus Webb added nothing. It forced the Seahawks to rush rookie George Fant into the left tackle role and he did well. At the moment, Fant is the left tackle and Joeckel could be the left guard. Aboushi will back up on the right side of the line. Pocic will do the same and will be versatile enough to play center if necessary. Now, the Seahawks have plenty of options.
• Linebacker is deeper and maybe better with the additions of Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin and Arthur Brown.
• The sleeper signings are safety Bradley McDougald and kicker Blair Walsh. Though his confidence has been shot for the past couple of years, Walsh still has one of the strongest legs in the game.
• The defensive line is deeper and younger. Second-round pick Malik McDowell could be a pass-rushing force. Free-agent pickup Dion Jordan could be a surprise if he’s in shape and starts to live up to the potential that made him the third pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
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