Leftover thoughts on the first two weeks of free agency
With the first two weeks of free agency in the books, here are a few Seahawks-related musings that we haven’t had a chance to cover.
Always involved. The Seahawks have found starters and contributors everywhere from the CFL, the later rounds of the draft, other teams’ practice squads and the free-agent scrap heap. How? They leave no stone unturned when it comes to building their roster. That approach applies to big-name free agents as well, something general manager John Schneider explained when asked about Seattle’s reported interest in pass rusher Greg Hardy, who signed with Dallas. The Seahawks may have never been anywhere close to signing Hardy, but at the very least they were going to kick the tires. “I think you’ve heard me say before that we try to pride ourselves on being in every deal as much as we possibly can so that we know at the end of the day that when we put our heads on the pillow that we knew we were doing what was best for the organization,” Schneider said, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. “… it bugs me when certain deals go down, maybe a trade or something like that that I wasn’t in on or made aware of, because you want to at least take a swing or decide if you want to be able to take a swing.”
Bailey’s opportunity. Alvin Bailey became the leading in-house candidate to start at left guard once James Carpenter departed in free agency, but it’s far from guaranteed that he’ll end up with that job. As is the case with Patrick Lewis at center, Bailey would have to beat out whatever other candidates Seattle adds in free agency and/or the draft. And to do that, he’d have to take a big step forward this offseason. Bailey drew mixed assessments from coach Pete Carroll while making six starts between the regular season and playoffs as an injury replacement at left guard and both tackle spots. In an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” in December, Carroll noted Bailey’s intelligence and the poise he showed while being pressed into action at different spots along the offensive line, but he also joked about how Bailey had eaten his way to 350 pounds. It’s reasonable to expect that Bailey will be better in his third season, especially if he’s able to focus his efforts at one position as opposed to having to be ready to step in at multiple spots. But he won’t be handed a job, a reality that Carroll pointed to while discussing Bailey with “Bob, Groz and Tom” earlier this month. “I’m hoping that we’re going to see Alvin Bailey step up and do a better job,” Carroll said. “He’ll have a competitive opportunity.”
Messaging with Graham trade. What’s clear from their public comments about the Jimmy Graham trade is that Schneider and Carroll are trying to ward off any resentment that the move might create in Seattle’s locker room, especially with a receiver corps that is very aware of how it’s perceived. Perhaps this is a product of the Percy Harvin trade and how it understandably might not have sat well with some players when Seattle gave a player from outside the organization the biggest contract in franchise history. There are some notable differences with the Graham trade, of course. He’s a tight end and the Seahawks more or less inherited the contract he signed with New Orleans as opposed to having given him one themselves. Still, he’s making an average of $9 million a season, which makes him by far the highest-paid pass-catcher – and one of the highest-paid players at any position – on Seattle’s roster. There’s the potential for some upset feelings, which would explain the approach that Carroll and Schneider have taken while publicly discussing the trade. They have avoided giving the impression that Graham’s addition was a reflection of any sort of shortcoming of Seattle’s receiving corps. They have mentioned and praised players by name – specifically Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse – while saying that Graham is going to be a complementary part of the Seahawks’ passing game as opposed to the focal point. Schneider’s comment about the trade Tuesday on ESPN was another example. “Adding a guy like Jimmy for us is huge to go along with Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, guys that are just clutch, clutch receivers for us that probably don’t get enough credit as they deserve, quite frankly,” he said.
Defensive-back departures. Last year it was Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond and Chris Maragos. This year it has been Byron Maxwell and Jeron Johnson. That’s five defensive backs the Seahawks have lost in free agency over the last two seasons, and that total doesn’t include Ron Parker, who was released before the 2013 season when the Seahawks had an incredible abundance of secondary depth. Parker eventually became a starter in Kansas City, which just gave him what is said to be the largest contract ever for an undrafted safety. All of that speaks to not only the job Seattle has done in acquiring and developing defensive backs but the work the Seahawks have to do in order to replenish all the talent they’ve lost. Expect Seattle to further address the secondary in the draft even after signing cornerbacks Cary Williams and Will Blackmon in free agency.