MIKE SALK

What are Seahawks doing in free agency? 3 possible explanations

Mar 15, 2024, 12:37 AM

Seattle Seahawks Leonard Williams...

Leonard Williams of the Seattle Seahawks prior to a 2023 game against San Francisco. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

Does anyone understand what the Seattle Seahawks are doing? If so, I’m all ears. Because I confess that I do not.

Seattle Seahawks Offseason Tracker: Free agents and more

That isn’t to say that I think what they are doing is bad. Far from it. In fact, I am relatively happy with each of the individual moves they’ve made thus far this offseason. But taking them all as a group and trying to determine what it tells us about their future plans? I could sure see this going in a few directions.

As we finish up the first week of free agency, the Seahawks have re-signed two starting players (defensive lineman Leonard Williams and tight end Noah Fant), signed two new assumed starters (safety Rayshawn Jenkins and linebacker Tyrel Dodson), and signed/traded for four assumed backups, albeit key ones (tight end Pharoah Brown, quarterback Sam Howell, and offensive linemen George Fant and Nick Harris).

There have been some other moves around the periphery with contract tenders and, of course, all of the players who were released, but that’s the crux of what they’ve done.

Unfortunately, there is no obvious thread running through those decisions other than my assumption that these players better fit both general manager/president of football operations John Schneider’s view of how to apply the salary cap resources and new head coach Mike Macdonald’s style of play. But it’s fair to say that this group represents an attempt to get a lot of complimentary and depth pieces rather than marquee, building block talents.

If we can agree on that generality, the next question is why?

I have three possible answers.

1. The Seahawks believe they are really close to contending for a Super Bowl.

In this scenario, they believe in a championship nucleus that was held back by its coaching staff, especially the coordinators over the past few years. They believe their young talent will flourish with new leadership and that quarterback Geno Smith is good enough to distribute the ball to the playmakers around him.

If indeed the Seahawks see themselves as close to the top, the moves they’ve made serve to fill in the missing depth pieces they need to take the final step while still leaving a little dry powder in reserve for post-cut and in-season additions and adjustments.

There is reason to believe this is their plan. They have kept their top talent, played to their quarterback’s strengths without adding his obvious replacement, and spent serious money on an older player (Williams) who makes a difference right now.

2. The Seahawks don’t believe they can contend in 2024 and are readying for 2025 and beyond.

We’ve all seen how quickly turnarounds can happen in the NFL. With the right young quarterback, a good draft class, and some open cap space, even a moribund Texans franchise appears to have gone from league embarrassment to legitimate contention in just over 12 months. Would the Seahawks be willing to follow this model?

If so, they would still need to fill out their roster, because they really didn’t have enough players to get to 53, but without long-term commitments. Well, none of the deals they signed have been for longer than three years and a good portion of them are really more for just one or two. They are giving themselves an opportunity to test these players in the system and see who is deserving of a larger role once the window truly opens. And it’s worth mentioning that the major cuts they made at the start of the offseason (Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Will Dissly, etc.) were all designated pre-June 1, meaning the entirety of their dead money cap implications would be felt in 2024 rather than pushing half to the following year.

On the other hand, this certainly doesn’t feel like a team looking to strip itself down to the studs trying for a top pick in an upcoming draft. There is still plenty of talent and high quality players that could be dealt to add draft capital.

3. This is just how John Schneider prefers to handle free agency.

This is largely unsatisfying because it doesn’t offer us much in the way of a roadmap, but his philosophy has always been to stay away from megadeals in free agency, and this year appears no different.

We can argue about its merits, but it is Schneider’s way. Last season, Dre Jones became maybe the only first-wave, top-tier free agent of the Schneider era, and it’s hard to say after one year that that the return on that investment would convince him to follow that path again.

Even in seasons when cap space was bountiful, Schneider has seemingly preferred five nickels to one quarter. Remember 2020 when he passed on tackle Jack Conklin in favor of linemen Mike Iupati, Cedric Ogbuehi, BJ Finney, Brandon Shell and Chance Warmack? The 2024 group seems a lot younger and more talented, but the history is still on the side of spreading the wealth rather than paying for premium talent in free agency.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, I believe all three of these potential explanations could be true, though admittedly the third could be paired with either of the first two to explain this approach to team building. Frankly, I would be pretty excited about either of the first two options because they would represent a clear vision for where this franchise needs to go.

Perhaps we’ll get more clarity in the upcoming weeks and through the draft. But for now, I remain curious and optimistic that changes are being made.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Why did Seahawks trade for QB Sam Howell? GM Schneider explains
Bobby Wagner reuniting with former Hawks coaches on Commanders
Huard: Free agency showing why Seahawks won’t trade DK Metcalf
With Lewis gone, Bumpus expects Seahawks to draft UW lineman
Seattle Seahawks lose Jordyn Brooks to Miami, Damien Lewis to Carolina

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