Welcome to a free-agent signing period that figures to be unlike any other for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks over the past decade have often been something of an afterthought team in free agency, spending most of their money on re-signing their own players and waiting until the second or third phases to try to fill a few needs by bargain hunting.
But this time, the Seahawks not only have more cap space than all but one other team but also an obvious need at the game’s most important position — quarterback.
Unless, that is, you buy that they really think Drew Lock can be the answer.
If they actually do will be determined over the next few days as we see what moves the Seahawks make — or don’t make — to replace Russell Wilson.
Will they make a play at trading for Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson? Will they sign a free agent such as Marcus Mariota?
That’s among the key questions facing the Seahawks as the free-agent signing period begins this week.
So, with the “frenzy’’ officially upon us, here’s a little Q&A to get you prepared.
What is the timeline for free agency?
First, a quick refresher on how this works. Beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, teams can officially begin negotiating with the agents of players whose contracts run out Wednesday and become unrestricted free agents. While contracts cannot be signed until the new league year begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday, many top players will reach agreements quickly once the negotiating period begins, the so-called first phase of free agency.
Who are Seattle’s free agents?
The Seahawks have 15 players who can become UFAs Wednesday: free safety Quandre Diggs, left tackle Duane Brown, running backs Rashaad Penny and Alex Collins, tight ends Will Dissly and Gerald Everett, defensive end Rasheem Green, offensive tackles Jamarco Jones and Brandon Shell, cornerbacks D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones, center Ethan Pocic, quarterback Geno Smith and defensive linemen Al Woods and Robert Nkemdiche.
It’s worth remembering the Seahawks can continue to talk with their own players until the negotiating period begins Monday.
They also have two players who are unrestricted free agents and will become UFAs Wednesday if they are not signed or tendered a qualifying offer — cornerback Bless Austin and offensive lineman Kyle Fuller.
The Seahawks kept one restricted free agent in the fold Saturday when they placed an original-rounder tender on guard Phil Haynes, meaning he will get a $2.54 million salary in 2022 if he makes the team and can match any offer he might receive and receive compensation if he signs elsewhere in the form of a fourth-round pick, the round Haynes was taken in 2019.
Are the Seahawks really making a run at Watson?
The Seahawks were prominently mentioned as a candidate to trade for Watson on Friday after it was revealed he would not be indicted on sexual assault and harassment charges.
But as the weekend progressed, the Seahawks appeared to be more on the periphery with other teams considered more likely landing spots, notably the Panthers (thought all along a favorite to get Watson, who played at nearby Clemson), the Saints and the Browns.
A report late Sunday from the Pro Football Network Sunday night, in fact, portrayed the Saints as “an extremely serious contender” for Watson.
However, one rumored suitor — Tampa Bay — is no longer in the picture after the stunning news Sunday afternoon (OK, maybe not that stunning) that Tom Brady is un-retiring. And if, as had been rumored, the Vikings had any thought of moving on from Kirk Cousins and might get involved with Watson, those went out the window when Cousins agreed to a new deal with Minnesota.
The NFL Network reported Sunday that the Saints and Panthers have each made offers for Watson, with the Texans said to want a package that would include three first-round picks in return.
A report from the Pro Football Network said the Texans are expected to soon give permission to Watson talk with interested teams “about his fit and their vision for him.’’
Watson has a no-trade clause as part of a four-year, $156 million contract a new team will inherit and can veto any move.
Watson is due a $35 million salary in 2022 with Seattle already on the hook for a $26 million dead cap hit for Wilson. So, adding Watson would mean the Seahawks would have $61 million of their total $208.2 million salary cap devoted to the quarterback position in 2022. That would mean Seattle would surely look to rework Watson’s deal to push out the cap hit some into future years.
Do the Seahawks really view Lock as a candidate to start?
From the minute the trade was made the thought has been the Seahawks view Lock as having more untapped potential than his three years in Denver might have revealed. He was 8-13 as a starter with a 25-20 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Sunday that the Seahawks indeed do not view Lock as a “throw in,’’ stating, “There’s a belief among some with Seattle that Lock’s issues in Denver were a byproduct of a revolving door of offensive coordinators and a defensive-minded head coach’’ and that he is a “viable fallback option.’’
That the Seahawks also have been a team with something of a revolving door in offensive coordinators — three since 2017 — and a defensive-minded coach didn’t escape notice of many on social media Sunday.
The Seahawks enter free agency with only Lock and Jacob Eason, though it is expected they will likely also re-sign Smith.
Just how seriously the Seahawks view Lock as a candidate to start in 2022 will become clearer by how aggressively they pursue a veteran over the next few weeks.
What are the Seahawks’ top free-agent priorities?
The Seahawks have almost $46 million in cap space, according to OvertheCap.com, fourth-most in the NFL.
That, along with the five picks acquired in the Wilson trade, gives them a lot of ammo to make moves over the next week or so.
The Wilson trade obviously makes it less certain what direction the team is heading, though few feel Pete Carroll — at age 70 — is thinking of anything other than doing whatever it takes to win now.
How the Seahawks address the free-agency period might give an answer to what path the team thinks it’s on heading into 2022, as well.
Before the Wilson trade, the biggest priority appeared to be re-signing Brown, Diggs and Penny, with the departures of any creating big holes they will have to fill somehow else.
A report from ESPN on Sunday stated the Seahawks hope to re-sign Diggs before Wednesday, which would answer one big question.
How the market might develop for Brown will be one of the biggest mysteries entering free agency as he turns 37 before next season. But the Seahawks don’t have an obvious replacement for him on the roster.
Penny also played his way into a significant payday at the end of the season, and it remains unclear what they can expect out of Chris Carson in 2022 after he had neck surgery last season.
Also worth wondering is if the Seahawks make a significant move to replace Bobby Wagner, or really consider that Cody Barton can fill that role (and also if they view the linebacking spot differently now with the potential of using more 3-4 looks next year, which somewhat devalues the middle linebacker position).
Everett seems a likely goner now as the Seahawks acquired Noah Fant from Denver as part of the Wilson trade.
As a position, edge rusher appears the top need. The Seahawks acquired Shelby Harris to add to the pass rush mix in the Wilson trade but will undoubtedly do more.