Seattle will first take care of players who are now free agents but eventually could also look into extensions for Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.
The disappointment of a 24-22 wild-card playoff loss to Dallas won’t go away easily for the Seattle Seahawks.
But while they will spend the offseason ruing the plays that got away in a game they know was there for the taking, they also said Sunday as they cleared out their lockers that the defeat won’t wash away the optimism generated by their surprising run to a playoff berth.
“We’ve got great things in store,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said to reporters as teammates signed and exchanged jerseys and packed away shoes and other equipment before holding their last official team meeting of the 2018 season. “I always said the best is ahead and I really believe that.’’
But before the Seahawks will take the field again in eight or so months the team will have to answer a number of significant personnel questions.
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Seattle has 14 players who can become unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins March 13, including six players who ended the season as offensive or defensive starters (defensive end Frank Clark, linebacker K.J. Wright, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, offensive linemen J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker and nickelback Justin Coleman) as well as kicker Sebastian Janikowski and injured free safety Earl Thomas.
Thomas isn’t expected back and the Seahawks are widely considered likely to place a franchise tag on Clark if they cannot sign him to a long-term contract, which would keep him with the team in 2019 and allow the two sides to continue working on a multiyear deal.
Wright wants to be back but indicated after Saturday’s game he is fully prepared to hit free agency and see what happens.
Fluker has said repeatedly he wants to be back, and Sweezy also said Sunday he hopes to return.
“I would love to be a Seahawk until the end of it, you know what I mean?’’ Sweezy said, a hint that he’d love to play the rest of his career in Seattle.
The Seahawks can sign their own potential free agents at any time.
And if the Seahawks follow their usual routine, they will initially concentrate their offseason efforts on assembling their roster for the 2019 season.
That could include hitting outside free agency harder than they have in some time — according to OvertheCap.com, the Seahawks have an effective cap space number for the 2019 season of just over $54 million, the ninth-most in the NFL.
But at some point in the offseason, the Seahawks could also turn their attention to securing the future of their two most important players — Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
Each has just one year remaining on his contract, and the Seahawks could look to reup each before they enter the final season on their deal. That’s what they did when first, Wilson, and then Wagner, each agreed to extensions within a span of about 48 hours of each other in 2015 on the week training camp opened.
“To be the franchise quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks is a special thing,’’ Wilson said. “So we will see where that goes. I don’t like talking about my contract or anything like that but I think that, you know, I think good things will happen.’’
Wilson, though, said he’d be OK with entering the season without a new contract and playing out the final year.
“Oh, yeah, if that’s what I’ve got to do,’’ Wilson said. “It’s business and everything else and I know essentially after this season I could potentially be a free agent, that kind of thing. I don’t think that way — I see myself being in Seattle. I love Seattle, special place for me. I also understand it’s a business world and everything else.
“I think for me, to be honest with you guys, I love the game of football, I really do. And what I do know is a few things — my work ethic, I think the way I love the game and everything, that I want to lay it on the line every day, that’s going to be there every day no matter what happens. And I hope it’s here, I really do. But those decisions are way over my head and everything else. We’ll see what happens.’’
Wagner confirmed he is serving as his own agent, and like Wilson said he hopes he can remain in Seattle long term.
“Would I like to be taken care of before the season? That’d be great,’’ Wagner said. “If I don’t, then that wouldn’t be the end of the world. I understand this is a business and I’m prepared for anything that happens. If they sign me before then, cool. If they don’t, cool too. I want to be here. This is where I want to be for my career. This is an amazing city, amazing fans, an amazing organization and so I would love to be here. We’ll make sure business takes care of itself.”
Here are a few more notes from locker clean out day:
WILSON SAYS ‘I THINK WE COULD HAVE’ PASSED MORE AGAINST COWBOYS
Much of the post-game debate about Seattle’s loss centered on the team’s offensive play calling and whether the Seahawks should have passed more with the running game largely ineffective. Dallas held Seattle to 73 yards on 24 carries, the second-lowest total of the year for the Seahawks.
Seattle had a run-to-pass ratio of 23 to 16 before passing on its final 11 plays of the game in an ultimately futile effort to catch up.
Wilson chose his words carefully when asked if he thought the Seahawks should have taken to the air more often, but made it clear he would have been fine if they had done just that.
“You know I think that when you reflect back on it, we were throwing it pretty well in the game and I think we could have kept doing that some more,’’ Wilson said. “But also you want to stay true to running the ball, too. So I think that like I said this game was kind of similar to the Carolina game I felt like, a little bit. They did a pretty good job stopping us on the run and in that game we had to throw the ball and make some plays and I think this game was kind of similar in that sense. If we could have done that a little bit more maybe earlier… but I think also, too, we could have been better, we could have been better on some of the runs and some of the things we were doing. That’s part of the game.’’
(Seattle coach Pete Carroll will hold his season-ending news conference Monday morning and did not talk to the media Sunday).
SWEEZY PLAYED WITH CHIPPED BONE IN FOOT
Sweezy started and played the entire game despite suffering a foot injury on Dec. 23 against the Chiefs that he confirmed on Sunday was a chipped bone.
“It’s not like a break down the middle, it’s more like a chip,’’ he said. “But it’s technically still broken.’’ Sweezy said he won’t need surgery, saying “it will heal perfectly on its own. Just time is all it needs.’’
Carroll said Sweezy would need a month or so to recover and called it “an excellent effort just to pull that off’ and be able to play.
Sweezy said the foot was sore Sunday but nothing he can’t handle.
“Playoffs, man,’’ he said. “Win or go home. I’d do it again. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s just how I am. No regret about that.’’
WAGNER SAYS DALLAS OFFENSE JUST MADE PLAYS DOWN THE STRETCH
If the offensive game plan figures to be second-guessed all offseason, Seattle took a 14-10 lead before the defense then allowed drives of 67 and 63 yards to allow Dallas to take control.
The Cowboys, in fact, had 131 yards on 21 plays in the fourth quarter. Dallas finished with a 68-52 edge in plays and an easy thing to wonder is if the Seattle defense simply got worn down — Dallas had 70 of its 164 yards rushing for the game in the fourth quarter on 16 attempts.
Wagner, though, said he didn’t think fatigue was an issue.
“I think at this point in the season you are so well conditioned that it shouldn’t be a factor,’’ Wagner said. “So I would never make an excuse on that. If we are out there we need to make the plays.’’
And to Wagner, that’s all that happened down the stretch.
“They just made plays,’’ he said. “They made plays and we didn’t. We needed to execute better, especially towards the end.’’
That was most notable on what might have been the key play of the game, a 16-yard run on a quarterback draw by Dak Prescott on a third-and-14 play that took the ball to the 1 and set up a Prescott TD that put Dallas ahead 24-14 with 2:08 left.
“It’s sucks,’’ Wagner said of that play.”To let him have a third-and-14 and allow him to get that close to scoring is bad. But you know, I’ll see him again.’’