On Friday, the NFL free-agency merry-go-round finally started to slow just a bit.
That’s usually how it works, though, as the so-called “first wave’’ of premium players tend to sign in the opening hours of free agency — which basically began Monday morning — with teams then taking a little bit of a breather to assess where they are.
The Seahawks may not have been as involved in free agency as some teams — and it’s worth remembering, they never really are — but they still made their fair share of moves over the last week.
Specifically, either through extensions, new signings or giving qualifying offers to restricted or exclusive-rights free agents, the Seahawks added 18 players to their roster for the 2019 season as of Friday afternoon. That brought the total number of players under contract and/or tendered to 66.
Teams can have a maximum of 90 on their roster heading into camp, so Seattle is far from done adding players, either through free agency or the draft, which will be held April 25-27.
The week of work also appeared to leave Seattle with about $11-12 million or so in available cap space, with $6-8 million or so needed to be kept in reserve for draft picks, practice squad and free agency.
But it’s also worth remembering that roster spots and cap space can always be found and numbers should never be read too literally — as the old saying goes about cap space, there’s always some that can be found for a player a team really wants to sign.
As the first week of free agency winds down, here are five thoughts on what the Seahawks did and where things go from here.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER WHO GOT AWAY
Of the six players to sign elsewhere — safety Earl Thomas (Baltimore), guard J.R. Sweezy (Arizona), cornerback Justin Coleman (Detroit), defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (Detroit), quarterback Brett Hundley (Arizona) and running back Mike Davis (Chicago) — the only one thought to be a player Seattle figured it would keep is Sweezy. The rest, Seattle knew would likely get offers they couldn’t or didn’t want to match (or in the case of Thomas, appeared to have just moved on from regardless).
Seattle wanted to keep Sweezy. But while Sweezy got a two-year deal with Arizona, Seattle essentially replaced him with Mike Iupati, who got just one year at a reported $3 million. Iupati played just 10 games last season but was a Pro Bowler from 2012-15, so the Seahawks appear to hope they can get the same kind of production they got from Sweezy — Iupati also is familiar with the system of offensive line coach Mike Solari since he played for Solari with the 49ers for five years — while taking a little less of a contractual hit.
MOST SURPRISING SIGNING
Nothing Seattle did so far has been truly earth-shattering. But two stand out — one as a pleasant surprise and the other as at least somewhat eyebrow-raising.
The pleasant surprise is the return of veteran linebacker K.J. Wright on a two-year deal worth up to $15 million. Wright detailed his contract in an interview on KJR-AM Friday, saying that he got a $5 million signing bonus, a $1.5 million salary and $1.5 million in roster bonuses for 2019 and nothing guaranteed in 2020, making it essentially a one-year deal and then a “we’ll see’’ from the Seahawks.
Some had speculated Wright might be able to get $9-11 million a year. That was maybe high given that Wright will be 30 next season and played just five games in 2018 due to a knee injury that required surgery. But it also seems like a small price to pay to keep one of the most respected players in team history around for at least another season and a chance to end his career as a Seahawk.
The mild surprise was the signing of kicker Jason Myers to a four-year deal worth a reported $15.45 million — the same Jason Myers the Seahawks cut last August in favor of Sebastian Janikowski when he was making just $705,000.
But Seattle needed a new kicker after Janikowski’s struggles on the field and with injuries in 2018, and Myers was available after a breakout Pro Bowl season in which he hit 33 of 36 attempts. Seattle will hope that season isn’t the outlier for Myers.
As is almost always the case with free-agent contracts, it also turned out the initial numbers were a little misleading with Myers getting $5.5 million guaranteed at signing and having to earn the rest, and the Seahawks able to get out of it fairly painlessly if desired after the 2020 season.
POSITIONS BEST SOLIDIFIED
The re-signings of Wright and Mychal Kendricks shore up the linebacker spot while the signing of Iupati, re-signing of D.J. Fluker and tendering of George Fant give Seattle a pretty set offensive line.
It’s also worth noting that the final accounting of Fluker’s two-year deal paints a similar picture as Wright’s — a contract the Seahawks can easily get out of next year if they want with the only guaranteed money a $1 million signing bonus and $5.15 million of the reported $9 million total tied up in roster bonuses and playing time incentives, with the Seahawks taking great pains to account for the fact Fluker has played in just 19 of 32 games over the past two seasons due to injury.
Kicker is also now off the table as a position Seattle needs to address.
POSITIONS STILL IN NEED
One somewhat under-the-radar move was giving defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson a fifth-round tender, meaning a salary of just over $2 million in 2019 — a nice raise from the $630,000 he made last year but also a good reward after playing the third-most snaps of any defensive lineman last season.
Seattle now has nine defensive linemen under contract (or franchise tag) for 2019 — Jefferson, Frank Clark, Poona Ford, Rasheem Green, Branden Jackson, Jacob Martin, Nazair Jones, Jamie Meder and Jarran Reed — all of whom you could easily see making the 53-man roster next season (teams usually keep 8-10 defensive linemen.) But don’t expect Seattle to stop there. The Seahawks need to add competition both at tackle and edge rusher and don’t be surprised to see Seattle sign a free agent or two as well as add one in the draft.
We’ll also add here that solidifying Clark’s long-term future also remains one of the top goals of the offseason. The five-year, $90 million deal Trey Flowers signed this week with Detroit, which includes $50 million guaranteed at signing, should give each side a base with which to renew talks on a long-term deal.
Seattle also has yet to add a receiver this offseason — a spot where the Seahawks could use both depth as well as someone to compete for the third-receiver spot, preferably a big receiver.
The secondary could also use a few more bodies.
WHAT’S THE COMPENSATORY DRAFT PICK SITUATION LOOK LIKE?
So far, so good. According to OvertheCap.com, Seattle’s free-agent losses as of now would mean the Seahawks would get a third-, fourth- and a sixth-round pick, as well as another late-rounder, as compensation in the 2020 draft. That the picks are tradable makes them more valuable than ever. Seattle didn’t get any comp picks last year, but usually has been among the NFL leaders in acquiring comp picks, leading to the idea the Seahawks will do what they can this year to get as many as possible.
It’s worth remembering the comp-pick formula only includes players who are unrestricted free agents, or those whose contracts expired this week.
That means Seattle can be as aggressive as it wants going after “street free agents’’ — players who were cut — without worrying about comp picks.
Two such players who stand out? Safety Eric Berry and defensive end Nick Perry, each cut over the past few days by the Chiefs and Packers, respectively. Perry in particular may be intriguing for Seattle as a potential edge rusher — he had 11 sacks in 2016 but has been bothered by injuries the past two seasons — and he also played for Pete Carroll at USC.