The Seahawks saw three players depart via free agency while they kept to their habit and didn't sign anyone as the first day of the legal tampering period came to a close.
On Day 1 of the NFL’s free agent “legal tampering period,” the Seahawks saw one of their former defensive backs reset the market at his position — though maybe not the one you were expecting — and saw one of their former running backs get a new contract paying him three times what any of the running backs the team has left on its roster will make in 2019.
As for the Seahawks themselves, they didn’t officially do anything, sticking to their habit of laying in the weeds as the big money gets spent early in free agency, waiting to pounce later.
Here’s a recap of the four things you really need to know about the first day.
HELP FROM WITHIN TO REPLACE JUSTIN COLEMAN
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Seattle saw three free agents leave Monday — cornerback Justin Coleman, running back Mike Davis and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen. More on Davis and Stephen below.
As for Coleman, he got a four-year deal worth a reported $36 million from the Detroit Lions, making him the highest-paid nickel corner in the NFL. He made just under $3 million last year with the Seahawks, who had acquired him for a seventh-round pick in 2017 from the Patriots. Detroit, desperate to turn things around in 2019, was aggressive on the first day, also signing defensive end Trey Flowers, who like Coleman also played for Detroit head coach Matt Patricia when Patricia was the defensive coordinator with the Pats.
Coleman was a valued player in Seattle’s secondary the past two years, no doubt, but the Seahawks were not going to come close to offering what Detroit did and anticipated long ago he would likely be gone. That’s one reason they made sure last week to re-sign cornerback Akeem King, who could have been a restricted free agent, to keep the needed depth in the secondary.
Seattle could make a move to add a nickel corner, but it likely won’t be a significant one. Seattle has seen other cornerbacks who were successful here leave and not have as much success elsewhere — Byron Maxwell being the most notable example — while usually being able to replace those who have left with young players on the way up, such as Coleman.
Seattle appears poised to try that again, likely giving King a shot at a major role next season as well as Kalan Reed, a player who spent the last two months of the past season on the 53-man roster after the Seahawks promoted him when another team wanted to sign him off the practice squad. The 5-foot-11, 199-pound Reed, who played in seven games for the Titans in 2016 and 2017, has been groomed by Seattle as a nickel corner. Seattle returns starting left corner Shaquill Griffin and right corner Tre Flowers, each mid-round draft choices playing on rookie deals.
Reed is an exclusive rights free agent and along with a handful of other ERFAs was given his official tender by the team Monday, keeping him with Seattle for the 2019 season.
Seattle also could add a cornerback in the draft, though it has never taken a corner higher than the third round since Pete Carroll became coach in 2010. That might not change this year as the Seahawks might again count on being able to find a diamond in the rough they can groom, worrying down the road if that player might then go off to find riches elsewhere.
DAVIS TOO PRICEY TO KEEP
Mike Davis, who was the team’s second-leading rusher last season with 514 yards on 112 carries, agreed to a deal with the Bears reported to be two years for $6 million base with a chance to earn up to $7 million, according to the NFL Network.
Davis is another the Seahawks got off the scrap heap who now gets rich elsewhere — Seattle claimed him off the waiver wire from the 49ers in the spring of 2017.
Davis re-signed with the Seahawks last year on a one-year deal that paid almost $1.3 million. But that was before Seattle drafted Rashaad Penny and knew Chris Carson would recover fully and show that he indeed can hold up and gain more than 1,000 yards in a season.
With Carson now proven and Penny in the fold, the Seahawks simply weren’t going to pay much to keep Davis, who now is making basically three times more than both of those players is due to make in 2019. In fact, according to OvertheCap.com, Seattle’s entire spending on its running back position for 2019 is just over $4.5 million, in the bottom half of the league. Seattle wasn’t going to pay Davis more than 50 percent of that total.
But Seattle’s challenge now will be to adequately replace the job Davis did as the primary third-down and two-minute back last season. As with the nickel corner spot, they might look mostly from within. The enigmatic C.J. Prosise remains on the roster and will get one more shot at showing if he can fulfill the promise that compelled the team to take him in the third round in 2016 and J.D. McKissic also will be back. The third-down back role also is one Penny can fill at times. Bo Scarbrough, signed late last season, also returns as a depth player who could be the No. 3 “early down” back behind Carson and Penny.
DT MERRY-GO-ROUND CONTINUES
Shamar Stephen became the third Seahawks free agent to leave when he agreed to a three-year deal with Minnesota, per numerous reports. Financial details were not immediately available.
Stephen played one year with Seattle, having been signed as a free agent a year ago after four seasons with the Vikings. Seattle also signed veteran Minnesota DT Tom Johnson last spring to, in part, help replace Sheldon Richardson, who signed with the Vikings.
Now, a year later, Johnson and Stephen are each back in Minnesota — Johnson re-signed with the Vikings when Seattle surprisingly cut him after the first game last year, hoping to re-sign him but then seeing the Vikings swoop in and take him back. And Richardson, who signed just a one-year deal with the Vikings, appears headed out of town.
Stephen started 15 games for Seattle last year as a tackle, playing almost solely on running downs. But the Seahawks struggled to stop the run or get an interior pass rush — Stephen had just two sacks — and Seattle is high on Poona Ford, who came on late last season as a rookie and who if the season started today would figure to start at that tackle spot alongside Jarran Reed. Nazir Jones and Quinton Jefferson also return and Seattle could add to the tackle spot in the draft and free agency.
EARL THOMAS PLAYS THE WAITING GAME
Maybe somewhat surprisingly, one Seattle free agent who was not yet spoken for as of early Monday night was free safety Earl Thomas.
Thomas was reported by the NFL Network to be asking for a two-year deal worth $30 million, which would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The NFL Network and others reported that for now, Dallas — which has long been thought Thomas’ preferred destination — doesn’t want to pay more than $8 million to $10 million per year for Thomas.
Also, it’s known the Rams apparently were ready to make a big offer to Thomas before last week when Eric Weddle was released and Los Angeles moved quickly to sign him, instead.
While Thomas waited, two other safeties agreed to big deals — Landon Collins with Washington and Tyrann Mathieu with Kansas City, each for a reported $14 million a year.
Thomas is going to want more than those two got, and Houston might now be a possibility (it had been thought the Chiefs would be interested in Thomas) as well as maybe the 49ers. And who knows? Maybe Dallas gets back into the picture somehow.
Thomas, though, appears to want what he wants, and as the Seahawks found out last year, he’s willing to go to great lengths to try to get it.