Seattle has so far not been too active in the NFL free agent signing period, but history shows that's been the Seahawks' way.
Anyone hoping for the Seahawks to make a major splash in NFL free agency may be in for a rude awakening, based on the early results of the two-day “legal tampering’’ period.
While Seattle wasn’t reported to have agreed to sign any outside free agents as of Wednesday morning, it did see two of its own high-profile unrestricted free agents — tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Paul Richardson — agree to terms with other teams, each expected to sign almost immediately when the new league year begins at 1 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
Richardson, Seattle’s first pick in the 2014 draft, reportedly agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal with Washington while Graham is expected to sign a three-year contract with Green Bay worth $30 million.
The two departures mean Seattle has parted ways with five players who were starters at the beginning of the 2017 season in the past six days — defensive lineman Michael Bennett (traded to the Eagles) and cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane (each released) the others. Seattle also has released cornerback DeShawn Shead, though the team hopes to bring him back.
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Those losses have so far been offset only by the re-signing of safety Bradley McDougald and placing a tender on cornerback Justin Coleman.
And the team’s relative lack of inactivity led to some restlessness among Seahawks fans on social media wondering what the team is up to.
Maybe that will become more fully revealed as Wednesday rolls on.
But it’s also worth remembering that the Seahawks rarely delve much into the opening wave of free agency.
Seattle, in fact, hasn’t made a signing on the first day of free agency since 2011, the year of the lockout when everything was delayed until July, and has always been selective in its free agent signings, preferring instead to build through the draft and retaining its own players.
Last year, Seattle didn’t make its first official signing in the free agency period until two days into it, inking Luke Joeckel to a one-year, $8 million deal (though he did reportedly agree to the deal on the day the new league year opened). But even Joeckel agreeing on the first day of the period was somewhat rare.
In 2013, the last time Seattle really dipped heavily into free agency, Cliff Avril signed two days into the period (agreeing one day into it) and Bennett three days later.
The release of Sherman and trade of Bennett and other moves that could occur down the road to open up salary cap space had created an expectation that the Seahawks might alter that philosophy this year.
But while Seattle had created some room, its effective cap space (the amount it would have when signing at least 51 players to its roster, was just over $24 million, 20th in the NFL, according to OvertheCap.com, and that was before accounting for the three-year, $13.9 million contract of McDougald. Granted, it’s expected that the team could soon make a move with Avril to clear up $6.5 million or so (accounting for the probability that he might have to be owed a $1.15 cap charge for injury protection should he never play again).
So, the Seahawks have some room. But for a team that has some of its own players it still wants to re-sign, and some extensions it may want to get to sooner rather than later (Earl Thomas, Duane Brown) it also shows why Seattle may once again be erring on the selective side.
And maybe the Seahawks still have something to unveil when the clock strikes zero at 1 p.m. tomorrow.
But the pickings were already growing slim.
Of the top 14 players on NFL.com’s list of the 101 best free agents, only four had yet to agree to a contract by Tuesday night.
One of those is Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who appears ready to hit free agency and test the market with no indications at the moment that he will reach an agreement before hand with Seattle.
Of course, there remain 100s of free agents available and the Seahawks may just be waiting to for more economical options once the first wave of signings is completed, as has been their usual course.
But one thought is also that the Seahawks were happy to sit out the early chaos and gain compensatory picks in 2019. The signings of Paul Richardson and Graham each appear likely to net Seattle either third (Graham) or fourth (Richardson) round picks in 2019 while Sheldon Richardson, assuming he signs elsewhere, might also get Seattle a third or a fourth.
Any free agents signed can cancel out losses, depending on the length and price of the contracts, and Seattle appears willing to load up on picks (which have even more value now that they can be traded).
Still, the loss of Graham and Richardson leaves a hole in the offense that the Seahawks will have to fill in some way.
Seattle is known interested in free agent tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a former UW and Gig Harbor standout, though it was also reported that the Saints will pursue him aggressively after losing out on Graham.
There were also several reports that Seattle could be interested in veteran Packer receiver Jordy Nelson, who was cut by the team Tuesday to clear out cap space needed to sign Graham.
But if we know what Seattle has lost so far, what it gains remains largely yet to be seen.