The Seahawks had a busy first day of free agency, saying goodbye to three Super Bowl stalwarts, watching their 2012 draft class continue to get paid, retaining another starting defender and celebrating their first Super Bowl quarterback as he retired.
It was no surprise that Bruce Irvin, J.R. Sweezy and Brandon Mebane signed elsewhere (even though we expected Mebane to be back). In fact, the Seahawks already were busy trying to replace Irvin and Mebane as former Hawk Chris Clemons reportedly was coming for a visit and Seattle reportedly showed interest in the Eagles’ Cedric Thornton and the Steelers’ Cam Thomas.
A return by the 34-year-old Clemons would be poetic, since he mentored Irvin through his first two NFL seasons. Clemons played with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in 2013, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks didn’t try very hard to keep Irvin or Mebane, knowing Irvin would be too expensive and declining to pay Mebane as much as they gave Ahtyba Rubin ($4 million a year) the other day. Irvin ended up getting $9 million a year from Oakland, while Mebane also headed to the AFC West, getting $4.5 million a year from San Diego. Sweezy received a $6.5 million average from Tampa Bay.
The big deals by Irvin and Sweezy, plus Jaye Howard’s two-year, $12 million contract, reflect the excellence of Seattle’s 2012 draft. The Seahawks already have paid Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, and they gave Jeremy Lane a four-year deal Wednesday. That’s six of 10 draft picks who have cashed in, and Jermaine Kearse, an undrafted free agent, also figures to get paid this week.
There was no way the Seahawks were going to keep Irvin, who was Seattle’s eighth- or ninth-best defender and got a contract that would have made him No. 3. As we have said before, Seattle probably will replace him with Frank Clark in the pass rush and (unsigned) Mike Morgan or Kevin Pierre-Louis at linebacker. Clark apparently is down 20 pounds, a possible sign that he is going to focus on playing outside this year and maybe work at linebacker.
Both Irvin and Sweezy benefitted from Seattle coaching, converting to other positions, and the Seahawks will see some return on the investment next year when they receive comp picks — probably a fourth-rounder for Irvin and a fifth for Sweezy. Mebane is currently projected to net a sixth, and Kearse and/or Okung could factor in as well, giving Seattle the maximum four comps in 2017.
The Hawks apparently tried hard to keep Sweezy and Okung, but there’s no way they were going to pay the guard $6.5 million. Second-year guard Mark Glowinski seems poised to replace Sweezy, and the Hawks could look at any of the vets who have been released: Jahri Evans, Louis Vasquez, Ben Grubbs, Zane Beadles.
The Seahawks reportedly put up a “strong” offer for Okung, and there was no word on Day 1 of other teams with any interest. Of course, that is not surprising, considering he has no agent for reporters to contact. He is representing himself and that — combined with a shoulder injury — could hinder his value, especially because surprisingly few teams are looking for left tackles.
If Okung stays on the market into next week or senses little interest, it seems likely that he will end up back in Seattle on that one-year deal we talked about. Of course, any Seattle offer surely will include per-game bonuses for the oft-injured tackle (e.g., a $7 million base and $2 million in “availability” bonuses).
While the offensive line is still a work in progress, the Seahawks have done as well as they could on defense — keeping Rubin and Lane while losing Irvin and Mebane, whom they were not willing to pay much. They return most of the league’s record-setting No. 1 scoring defense, which will look to be the stingiest unit for the fifth straight year.
It remains to be seen what the Seahawks paid Lane (John Clayton expects it to be around $4 million a year), but they obviously wanted to avoid the secondary issues they experienced through the first half of last season. Seattle has a deep stable of young corners behind Richard Sherman and Lane: DeShawn Shead, Marcus Burley, Tye Smith, Mohammed Seisay, Tharold Simon, George Farmer, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Trovon Reed.
Too many people are concerned about RFAs Christine Michael and Alvin Bailey not being tendered. It’s no surprise; neither was worth $1.67 million. The Hawks will bring one or both back for the minimum salary or find upgrades (the latter is preferable).
Also, a lot of people are really into the paper chase. First, alarms went off regarding Burley being omitted from a report about tendered ERFAs over the weekend. Now folks are reading too much into the fact that Marshawn Lynch’s retirement papers have not yet been submitted.
It is unfortunate — though not unexpected — that Mebane is leaving after nine years in Seattle. He was the longest-tenured Seahawk; and, if Jon Ryan is not re-signed, the Seahawks will not have any players who predate Pete Carroll. Mebane leaves as the No. 18 guy in games played for the Seahawks; his 131 were seven behind Matt Hasselbeck, who retired from the NFL Wednesday as Mebane left the Seahawks.