Much of the foundation of a team’s offseason often begins to take shape during the combine. With that in mind, here are five key issues facing the Seahawks this offseason.
For all the media coverage the NFL combine receives, an amount that seems to increase each year, it could be argued that the real action is relatively unseen.
The obvious purpose of the combine are the workouts of the 332 draft-eligible college players who attend. They are timed in the 40-yard dash and do other drills, and they meet with the media and team officials.
But as the rising or falling stock of players is endlessly dissected, teams are meeting with agents of veteran players. Those discussions can go a long way toward establishing what will happen when the free-agent signing period begins March 9.
When, where: Wednesday-Monday, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis.
What: 332 draft-eligible players will participate in workouts and meet with NFL coaches and team officials and media members.
Local participants: Washington linebackers Travis Feeney and Cory Littleton, Washington State offensive lineman Joe Dahl, former Puyallup High offensive lineman Josh Garnett (Stanford), former Bellevue High linebacker Myles Jack (UCLA) and former Mariner High defensive back KeiVarae Russell (Notre Dame).
Notable: Seahawks GM John Schneider will speak at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday and coach Pete Carroll at noon Thursday.
Teams can negotiate with their pending free agents at any time, and it was at the combine a year ago that the Seahawks put together the framework of the deal that running back Marshawn Lynch signed a couple weeks later. And during the 2014 combine the Seahawks revealed they were cutting ties with veterans Red Bryant and Sidney Rice.
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Negotiations with agents of free agents from other teams officially are not allowed until three days before the signing period. But those inevitably happen at the combine as well, meaning much of the foundation of a team’s offseason often begins to take shape during the week in Indianapolis.
With that in mind, here are five key issues facing the Seahawks this offseason:
1. Remake the offensive line
Left tackle Russell Okung and guard J.R. Sweezy are nearing free agency. Their value on the open market could become clear at the combine and help the Seahawks determine if they can re-sign either. Okung is a particularly interesting case, because he is representing himself and recently had left-shoulder surgery. He said he will be fully healthy for the start of the season.
Assessing the talent at the combine (position coaches usually meet with all possible draftees here) also could influence the Seahawks’ decisions on their free agents. They also will get a sense of what the market could be for other teams’ free agents.
2. Plug holes on the defensive line
The Seahawks are facing decisions on free-agent defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin, with some speculation that Rubin might be more likely to return than Mebane. If Mebane leaves, the Seahawks would need to find a replacement through the draft and/or free agency.
This draft is considered one of the deepest for defensive tackles, and getting a first-hand look at all of the players here figures to further inform the Seahawks regarding their decisions on Mebane and Rubin. The Seahawks likely will come away from here feeling they want to add to their defensive line regardless of the Mebane and Rubin situations.
3. Find a replacement for Bruce Irvin
It’s almost a certainty that strongside linebacker Bruce Irvin will depart via free agency, but that also could become more clear during discussions the Seahawks have here. This draft also is considered as pretty good for outside-linebacker/rush-end types, and getting an enhanced sense of that group figures to give the Seahawks an even better idea of how it might replace Irvin.
4. Addressing the contracts of Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor
Bennett recently parted with agent Drew Rosenhaus. What that means has yet to become clear (though it’s almost certain the team has an idea of that). Bennett thought about holding out last season before reporting. The defensive lineman had a Pro Bowl season that probably makes him more eager to redo the remaining two seasons on the four-year $28.5 million deal he signed in March 2014.
Chancellor held out, missing the first two games, and like Bennett has two years left on his contract. Though the strong safety returned to play out the season, nothing apparently was resolved, and it remains unclear where things stand between Chancellor and the Seahawks.
5. Add running-back depth
The only big move that has happened for the Seahawks this offseason is the retirement of running back Marshawn Lynch. They have an able replacement in Thomas Rawls but need to add depth and find someone to fill the third-down/two-minute role held the past few years by Robert Turbin and Fred Jackson.
The Seahawks recently signed free agent Cameron Marshall from the CFL, but he is the only other tailback signed, with Christine Michael a restricted free agent. Michael is expected to return.