JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Seahawks take step forward at LB, special teams after first week of free agency

Mar 15, 2019, 12:43 PM | Updated: 1:31 pm
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The Seahawks have a tough stretch of prime-time games in 2019. (Getty)
(Getty)

The first couple days of pre-free agency looked cloudy for the Seattle Seahawks.

By Wednesday, five of their 13 unrestricted free agents left for other teams. They were hit hard in the secondary, losing slot cornerback Justin Coleman and free safety Earl Thomas. The sixth to leave was guard J.R. Sweezy.

O’Neil: Why Seahawks losing Sweezy hurts more than Earl Thomas

As the first wave of free agency slowed down, the Seahawks were able to put a couple things in order:

• The offensive line came together with the re-signing of D.J. Fluker and the one-year addition of former Arizona Cardinal Mike Iupati. It was tough losing Sweezy, but there’s a chance the offensive line might be better with its new left guard. Iupati is only getting a one-year deal at around $3 million, and he can buy time to develop Jordan Simmons as a possible starting guard of the future. The Seahawks also have the option of continuing to develop George Fant as a potential right tackle.

Ultimately, the important thing is that they have Mike Solari as the offensive line coach. Solari likes big, powerful blockers to pound defenses with the running game. Fluker proved to fit perfectly last season at 340 pounds. Iupati is 333 pounds, and Solari helped develop him into a Pro Bowl guard while with the San Francisco 49ers.

• The linebacking corps came together with the return of K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks has a hearing in early April that will determine his sentence for an insider trading charge, but if he’s available in 2019, the Seahawks have four starting linebackers for three spots. Kendricks can also make things easier for Wright, who will be coming off a knee injury. Plus, Wright, Kendricks, Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo all have speed, which can help stifle the high-powered offenses they’ll be facing across the NFC.

• Special teams got better with the return of kicker Jason Myers. That gives the Seahawks three Pro Bowl special-teamers: Myers, punter Michael Dickson, and returner Tyler Lockett. Mingo is also a Pro Bowl-caliber special teams player. I still wonder if the Seahawks will bring back cornerback Neiko Thorpe, who is great on special teams and could challenge Akeem King for the slot corner job.

Where are the Seahawks at now?

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

After the three crazy days of free agency, the Seahawks still have a need in the secondary, defensive line, and may be thinking about adding a receiver. They also have four possible 2020 compensatory picks in the bank.

For the losses of Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, J.R. Sweezy and Shamar Stephens, the Seahawks would get a third-round, a fourth-round and two sixth-round picks next year. They would have the ability to trade them. By losing six free agents and adding two – Iupati and Myers – the Seahawks could sign a $4 million or $5 million player, but it could cost them a sixth-rounder.

Last year, they opted to take players and not compensatory picks, and it gave them enough players to get them back to the playoffs. This year, the Seahawks can choose which way they want to go.

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