Rost: Why the Seahawks have been quiet at start of 2021 free agency
The Seahawks are officially the odd ones out when it comes to free agency, but this isn’t new territory for Seattle.
The Seahawks, Falcons and Eagles were the only teams without notable free agency moves on the NFL Network’s tracker as of Monday evening. But even though the lack of movement was expected from Seattle, it hasn’t kept some Seahawks fans from getting nervous.
Here are the two most common questions I saw from listeners during the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period, the unofficial start to free agency:
Why aren’t the Seahawks making moves? Should I be concerned about radio silence?
For starters, they don’t have a ton of salary cap room, even following the release of Carlos Dunlap. But mostly, this is general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll’s M.O. when it comes to free agency. The Seahawks typically spend below league average. And if you’re looking to feel better about that, NFL analytics expert Warren Sharp has information you’re going to like.
Sharp recently examined the free agency spending of Super Bowl teams and found a common trend: teams that spend less in free agency win more games, and teams that spend more lose more often.
There are all sorts of factors at play here, but the reality is teams like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New England and Seattle haven’t typically entered bidding wars for high-priced, high-profile free agents, and they don’t overspend. In the last two years, the Chiefs have led the pack here. In the last seven years, the Seahawks and Patriots have dominated that area. On the other end of the spectrum are the Jaguars and Jets.
Now, whether you should be concerned…
As frustrating as the wait can be, the Seahawks have typically under-spent and over-performed compared to their peers. Many fans can, very fairly, take solace in that.
On the other hand, it’s perfectly understandable for some fans to feel a sense of urgency this offseason, especially with recent splash signings from both the Patriots and the Chiefs, the latter of whom snatched up coveted guard Joe Thuney on a five-year, $80 million deal. I’d be willing to bet that any one of these fans would say that 10-plus wins and a trip to the playoffs every year is great but not enough, and that free agency can be a way to find those missing pieces.
I don’t know that spending big in free agency can solve those problems, but it’s clear there are issues to be resolved: the Seahawks have won three playoff games since their Super Bowl XLIX loss and have won just one playoff game in the last four years.
Bill Belichick spending in free agency:
prior 10 years total: $359,886,620
first 3 hours of 2021: $146,000,000
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 15, 2021
Why haven’t the Seahawks tendered starting DT Poona Ford?
Defensive tackle Poona Ford is one of a few restricted free agents for the Seahawks.
First, a quick primer so you know Seattle’s options with Ford: accrued seasons are really the only difference between unrestricted and restricted free agents. Most of the Seahawks you’ll hear about this week – guys like K.J. Wright, Chris Carson, and Shaquill Griffin – are unrestricted free agents. Those players are free to sign anywhere they want starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Technically, negotiations between agents and teams can happen during the legal tampering period, which began Monday (that’s why you’ve been hearing about players agreeing to terms on new deals). Their most recent team only has two options if they want to retain the player: re-sign him to a new deal or use the franchise tag. There’s also the transition tag, though that’s less common.
Restricted free agents are players who have three accrued seasons but also an expiring contract. In this case, a restricted free agent like Ford can negotiate with other teams, but the Seahawks have the option to make one of three qualifying offers (called “tenders”): a first-round tender, a second-round tender, or an original round tender. These are all one-year contracts with fixed amounts. So, let’s say the Seahawks place a second-round tender on Ford (one-year, $3.3 million). Now, Ford can still negotiate with other teams, but the Seahawks have the right to match any offer he gets. If they don’t, the team Ford signs with must send Seattle a second-round pick.
The Seahawks have until Wednesday to apply the tender. If they don’t, Ford becomes an unrestricted free agent. With the lack of depth on Seattle’s interior defensive line, I would be surprised if the Seahawks declined to tender Ford.
TL;DR: I would expect them to tender Ford and they have until Wednesday at 1 p.m. to do it.