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Clayton: Where free agency’s early start leaves the Seahawks

DT Shamar Stephen is reportedly leaving the Seahawks for Minnesota. (Getty)

NFL free agency got off to an early start this week, and while it doesn’t officially begin until 1 p.m. Wednesday, it hasn’t been pleasant thus far for the Seattle Seahawks.

Seahawks’ biggest free agent loss might be most fixable problem

The Seahawks lost five players in the legal tampering period, including two starters (left guard J.R. Sweezy and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen) and a key slot cornerback (Justin Coleman).

Perhaps the only surprise was Sweezy, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. That puts more pressure on the Seahawks to get something done with free-agent right guard D.J. Fluker. Losing two guards ruins the thought of having continuity along the offensive line.

Sweezy’s departure was surprising because he had already had a big payday when he signed for $6.5 million a year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016 and loved his return to Seattle in 2018. The Seahawks’ O-line was physical and tough. It fit his style.

Sweezy had a market, though. There was rumbling over the weekend that Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons might have wanted him. Instead, they agreed to sign another former Seahawks guard, James Carpenter, who also was a consideration to come back to the Seahawks.

Here’s a thought on what the Seahawks could do to replace Sweezy. It’s not out of the question for them to give a second-round tender to George Fant and let him take over at right tackle, because while German Ifedi did well there last year, he could fill in at guard.

Ifedi’s in an interesting spot. The Seahawks can put the fifth-year option on him, but that would cost more than $13 million and I doubt they would do that. He would then hit the market in free agency.

Now that the Seahawks are losing five unrestricted free agents, they qualify for compensatory picks. You get a compensatory pick if you lose more free agents than you sign, and the league gives teams a maximum of four compensatory picks if they lose four more free agents than they sign.

The Seahawks could still lose safety Earl Thomas and linebacker K.J. Wright, so they can shop in free agency now and still be able to get some extra picks for next season. I’m wondering if they would show interest in Mike Iupati, the former guard for the Arizona Cardinals. Like Fluker, Iupati is a big run-blocker.

It’s not a surprise the Seahawks lost Coleman. Once Baltimore Ravens slot cornerback Tavon Young re-signed for $8.6 million a year, Coleman’s price shot up. He ended up getting $9 million – too steep for the Seahawks.

Quarterback Brett Hundley got a one-year, $2 million deal from the Arizona Cardinals, leaving Paxton Lynch as the current lone candidate to be Russell Wilson’s backup.

Running back Mike Davis got a two-year, $6 million deal from the Chicago Bears, which is right in the range I thought he would get. Davis is a very good second-string running back, but he was going to be No. 3 behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny so you figured he was going to leave.

Like Tom Johnson did at the beginning of last season, a Seahawks defensive tackle wasted no time going back to the Minnesota Vikings. That would be Shamar Stephen, who rejoins the Vikings to replace Sheldon Richardson, who went to the Cleveland Browns on a three-year, $39 million deal. Coincidentally enough, Stephen came to the Seahawks last year to help replace… Sheldon Richardson.

With the activity in free agency so far, the cost of getting deals done for Frank Clark and Bobby Wagner become tougher for the Seahawks.

Defensive end Trey Flowers got an $18 million a year contract from Detroit. That could get Clark to ask for $19 million or $20 million on a long-term deal. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley got $17.5 million a year from the Jets, so as one of the top two at his position, Wagner has the chance to get big money.

Seahawks 2019 free-agency tracker

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