As the start of the league year fast approaches, we are starting to get an idea of how it is going to play out for Seattle’s top free agents.
Reports over the past two days indicate that Bruce Irvin and Jermaine Kearse aren’t going to be back. Irvin is expected to get around $10 million a year, with Jacksonville and Atlanta among the expected top suitors.
On Wednesday, Irvin told 710 ESPN, “If the money was close, I would definitely consider” signing with the Seahawks. But it won’t be close — Seattle can’t afford more than perhaps $6 million a year.
Meanwhile, Kearse reportedly is planning to sign elsewhere — a sign that the Seahawks have told him their limit (likely $3 million a year) and he knows he can get more elsewhere (maybe $6 million). Speculation has him replacing Roddy White in Atlanta, where former Seattle DC Dan Quinn is entering his second year as coach.
It’s no surprise Irvin and Kearse are headed out. Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy are likely to join them — drawing offers worth more than the Seahawks prefer to pay. To replace them, the Seahawks surely will be watching the waiver wire — guys like Jahri Evans, Will Beatty, Jermon Bushrod, Zane Beadles — before addressing the line in the draft.
There’s an off chance the Seahawks will go for a big gun in free agency — e.g., Keleche Osemele, Alex Mack, Alex Boone. They also might go for a mid-priced lineman — e.g., Stefen Wisniewski, Jeff Allen, Joe Barksdale. But, if John Schneider holds true to form, he will be more conservative — re-signing Patrick Lewis, adding one of the aforementioned cap casualties and drafting a couple.
Things look better on the other side of the line, where the Seahawks seem likely to bring back defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Brandon Mebane. With a lot of veteran options and a deep DT draft, it will be a buyer’s market — Rubin and Mebane surely understand that. Both played great last season and have plenty of gas in the tank. Mebane, 31, said he would love to finish his career in Seattle.
The Seahawks definitely will have two veteran D-tackles signed before the draft, and they won’t cost more than $5 million against the 2016 salary cap. Their options beyond Rubin and Mebane include guys such as Tony McDaniel (who played on their two Super Bowl teams and was cut last summer), Randy Starks, Nick Fairley, Haloti Ngata and Henry Melton.
While the markets for Irvin, Kearse, Okung, Sweezy, Rubin and Mebane are pretty easy to guesstimate, Jeremy Lane remains a big mystery.
The Pete Carroll-trained cornerback is talented, but he has missed 19 games over the past two years and faces a lot of market competition: Janoris Jenkins, Sean Smith, Antonio Cromartie, Casey Hayward, Leon Hall, et al.
Unless some team offers Lane a multi-year deal worth at least $4 million a year, he seems likely to end up back in Seattle on a one-year deal. Some think the Hawks would pay him as much as $6 million — the amount they reportedly offered Byron Maxwell last year — but that seems a bit steep for a team that knows it has a good, young stable of cornerbacks.
One thing is for sure: Lane will test the market.
If the Hawks keep Rubin, Mebane and Jon Ryan at about $7 million, they will have about $15 million to spend (more if they trade Kam Chancellor). That’s enough for about four mid-priced signings or one big addition and two others.
The deadline for ERFA and RFA tenders is Wednesday. The Seahawks are very unlikely to tender any of their RFAs. Patrick Lewis, Alvin Bailey, Christine Michael and the rest are not worth more than the minimum.
The Seahawks are expected to get comp picks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds this year. Next year could be even better if Irvin and Okung both get deals worth $10 million a year. If the Hawks don’t sign any big UFAs, they could end up with two third-round comps and a couple of other picks.