As the league year dawns, the Seahawks already have lost six players and seem set to lose at least one more. None of it is unexpected though.
The Seahawks have long made it obvious they didn’t want to pay Earl Thomas or K.J. Wright, and they were never going to spend much on any of their other UFAs either.
The Seahawks already have roster replacements for Justin Coleman, Mike Davis, Brett Hundley and Thomas. So the club’s top priorities should be to re-sign D.J. Fluker, add a pass rusher and replace Shamar Stephen and Wright (assuming he leaves, too).
Some people were surprised J.R. Sweezy departed, but they shouldn’t have been. It was always 50-50 he would find a team that wanted to pay him more — Arizona apparently was that team.
So now the Hawks need to keep Fluker, who on Tuesday seemed disappointed in the offers so far. John Schneider and Matt Thomas (Seattle’s chief negotiator) reportedly are still talking to Fluker’s agents. The Hawks should offer the big guard an incentive-driven deal that could be worth $5 million a year — but likely will be worth $3 million or $4 million, based on his injury history.
If Schneider cannot come to an agreement with Fluker, the GM will need to look elsewhere, because Seattle cannot count on the disappointing Ethan Pocic and injury-prone Jordan Simmons as starters. (That isn’t to say they might not prove themselves, but the team would be dumb to rely solely on them at this point.)
Among the cheaper UFA guard options: John Miller (BUF) and Quinton Spain (TEN). Or Seattle could check on street free agents Mike Remmers and T.J. Lang (who might retire). Yeah, not a lot of great options.
If the Hawks had to add one of those guys, they probably would prioritize the position in the draft — targeting linemen such as Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom, N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury and Oklahoma’s Dru Samia.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have to be on the high lookout for a veteran pass rusher to pair with Frank Clark. Justin Houston, Nick Perry and Vinny Curry are street free agents who wouldn’t affect the COMPetition. Robert Quinn (Miami) also is likely to be released. And Minnesota might end up cutting Everson Griffen, too.
Houston, Quinn and Griffen would be worth pursuing. And the Hawks would need to be somewhat aggressive in doing so. Otherwise, they will be betting on their own inexperienced young guys — Jacob Martin, Rasheem Green and a rookie. And they don’t want to do that.
Stephen got a surprising $4 million a year from Minnesota, but Seattle should have plenty of veteran options to replace him. Schneider’s MO is to add a cheap run stopper, which could mean Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Bennie Logan, et al.
If they have to replace Wright, the Hawks could go after recently cut Jamie Collins, Mark Barron or Zach Brown. Darron Lee could be an option, too (if the Jets part with the former first-rounder). Otherwise, there are few decent UFA options (Mychal Kendricks seems likely to be in prison in 2019), so the Hawks would end up going with their young linebackers — Austin Calitro and Shaquem Griffin. And that wouldn’t be ideal either.
Schneider has the flexibility to pay a couple of impact newcomers. He can’t just go conservative, thinking he has to “save up” for extensions for Clark, Russell Wilson, Jarran Reed and maybe Bobby Wagner. Schneider needs to be cleverly aggressive as he fortifies and improves those four key positions.
And he can start any time.