We’re counting down the top Seahawks free agents as the NFL's free-agent period approaches.
The NFL free-agent signing period typically is bitter (losing some players) and sweet (signing new players) for teams.
The ratio of excitement-to-bitterness essentially depends on how much money a team has to spend, how good a team has been. The good teams hate to see some of their players go.
The Seahawks likely will enter the free-agent signing period, which begins Wednesday, with around $30 million in salary-cap room, which is in the middle of the pack (the numbers change constantly this time of year as personnel moves are made).
The Seahawks also will enter free agency with 17 unrestricted free agents, many of whom were key parts of teams that played in two Super Bowls.
We’re counting down the top five Seahawks free agents as the free-agent period approaches:
No. 5: Receiver Jermaine Kearse
2015 salary: Made $2.356 million after signing a one-year qualifying offer as a restricted free agent.
Seahawks role: Kearse again was one of the Seahawks’ top receivers, ranking third in catches with a career-high 49 and second in yards with 685. He again was a valued member of special teams.
Free-agent outlook: ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Kearse “does not plan to return to Seattle and is looking forward to finding a new home.’’
Kearse said at the end of the 2015 season that although the former Lakewood and Washington standout would love to stay here, he would see what the market bears.
“I grew up in the state of Washington,’’ he said following the season-ending playoff loss to Carolina. “I would love to be here. But there are going to have to be some decisions that have to be made, and we’re just going to have to see when that time comes.”
Kearse’s statement through Schefter could mean he has received indications that the Seahawks can’t or won’t match expected offers from other teams.
The class of free-agent receivers is not considered deep, and Kearse is considered among the top five available.
It’s also not considered a good NFL draft for receivers this year, meaning Kearse’s timing might create a strong market for himself and he could receive a life-changing contract.
One possible offer could come from Atlanta, which on Wednesday released Roddy White. The Falcons are coached by former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
The Seahawks undoubtedly hoped to keep Kearse, who had a good relationship with quarterback Russell Wilson and was known for his blocking.
Even if Kearse leaves the Seahawks would have a fairly proven receiving corps.
Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett were Seattle’s other two starting receivers last season (with a three-receiver set the team’s primary offensive formation), and both will return in 2016. It is expected that the Seahawks could extend Baldwin’s contract, which runs through the 2016 season and pays an average of $4.3 million. He could move into the $6 million to $7 million salary range.
The team also expects Paul Richardson to be healthy after he was limited to one game in 2015. Former UW receivers Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams also are set to return.
Also, tight end Jimmy Graham — who lined up roughly 40 percent of the time in 2015 as a receiver — is expected to return, and Luke Willson (another tight end who often lines up as a receiver) is back.