The frenzy that is NFL free agency gets underway next Wednesday. Here's a look at what the Seahawks might do.
The NFL, which likes to make as big of a deal as it can out of everything, has given what is about to unfold its own officially sanctioned name — Free Agent Frenzy.
The “frenzy’’ gets underway Wednesday at 1 p.m. when players whose contracts ran out after last season — such as Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright and J.R. Sweezy — are free to sign with other teams.
In actuality, it begins Monday at 9 a.m.. when teams can begin negotiating with agents (though if you think such talks haven’t already started already, I’m here to tell you that it never snows in Seattle).
To get you ready for the frenzy, here’s a primer on free agency and the Seahawks.
Which Seahawks are going to be free agents?
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Seattle has 13 players whose contracts run out Wednesday: safety Earl Thomas, linebacker K.J. Wright, cornerback Justin Coleman, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive end Dion Jordan, cornerback Neiko Thorpe, offensive linemen J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker, running back Mike Davis, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, safety Maurice Alexander and quarterback Brett Hundley.
Four more players are restricted free agents, meaning the Seahawks can keep them with a written tender (tendered players can still get offers but Seattle would have the right to match or get compensation), which means a minimum of at least just over $2 million next season. The deadline to offer a tender is also Wednesday at 1 p.m. Offensive lineman George Fant seems likely to be offered a tender. Seattle signed another on Friday, agreeing with defensive back Akeem King on a one-year contract.
Players not tendered become unrestricted free agents. Besides Fant and King, the other restricted free agents are running back Tre Madden and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson.
The Seahawks also have 13 exclusive-rights free agents. These are players who are bound to the Seahawks if they get a qualifying offer but become free agents if they don’t. As with restricted free agents, the deadline to offer ERFAs is Wednesday at 1 p.m.
Seattle’s key ERFAs include running back J.D. McKissic, center Joey Hunt, cornerback Kalan Reed, linebacker Austin Calitro, receiver David Moore, offensive lineman Jordan Simmons, defensive lineman Branden Jackson and safety Shalom Luani.
What are the Seahawks looking at in terms of salary-cap space?
According to OvertheCap.com, the Seahawks have a cap-space number of just over $31 million, 14th in the NFL.
But one word of advice on the cap is to never take it too literally. Teams can always figure out a way to manipulate it to get in contracts of players they really want by backloading deals or cutting other players or restructuring contracts of existing players, etc.
While Seattle’s cap space may sound like a lot, it can go quickly. The Seahawks have a rookie pool of $4.2 million it will have to devote to its draft picks, according to OvertheCap.com. The practice squad would also mean at least $1.4 million. Then there’s money that needs to be set aside for players who go on injured reserve. So that’s maybe another $2-3 million. Let’s say that’s all about $8 million. So that’d take it to $23 million. Tendering Fant would take it to $21 million, and then re-signing some of their own players such as Sweezy and Fluker could put a quick dent into it (maybe $5-6 million combined), as well as potentially setting some aside for extensions for players whose contracts run out next year (Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Jarren Reed).
While the Seahawks have more available than in recent years and will definitely do some things in free agency, they may still not be huge players.
Which of their free agents will the Seahawks retain?
It appears as if all will hit the market, with the Seahawks not appearing on the verge of any significant extensions before Wednesday (though you never know).
Thomas, the biggest name on the list, is as good as gone.
The other big names on this list are expected to test the market and see what they can get, with the Seahawks seeming willing to “keep in touch’’ and see how things develop.
If Wright and Coleman get offers anywhere close to the $8-9 million some have speculated they’ll receive then they are probably gone, too.
Davis also may be gone if he gets much more than the $1.35 million he signed for a year ago when Seattle’s tailback situation was much more uncertain than it is now.
The Seahawks may not have much desire to bring back Stephen, Janikowski (the Seahawks already have another kicker on the roster in Sam Ficken, and they are expected to add another at some point) and maybe Jordan.
The two key ones to watch are Fluker and Sweezy, who each made $1.5 million last year but could want at least double that this year, and over multiple seasons as opposed to the one-year deals each took last year.
Coach Pete Carroll has said several times he wants both back to keep the offensive line intact, and the Seahawks also seem to be hoping that maybe each will realize their best fit is with Seattle and that maybe the market for them won’t be as big elsewhere.
One thing to remember is that while free agency starts Wednesday, not everything will happen all at once.
Free agency tends to go in waves with the really big-ticket guys taken care of first and some of the lesser-expensive players going later.
Just how active will the Seahawks be in free agency?
As noted earlier, the best guess is a little bit but not overly so, which would largely keep with Seattle’s recent history.
The Seahawks haven’t made a huge splash in free agency since signing Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril before the 2013 season.
Last season, the Seahawks were a little more active than expected, though their biggest contract was still just a three-year, $10.7 million contract handed to tight end Ed Dickson. Still, the moves Seattle ended up making proved enough to not allow the Seahawks to get any compensatory picks for losses in free agency. Seattle may want to play the game of getting comp picks this year (the picks would be for the 2020 draft) especially with Thomas potentially getting the kind of deal elsewhere that would net the Seahawks a third-rounder, the highest possible.
In 2017, the biggest free-agent deal went to offensive lineman Luke Joeckel (one year, $8 million) and in 2016 it was offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb (two years, $5.75 million).
How active Seattle is may depend in part on which of its own players it re-signs. If Wright gets away, the Seahawks might need to go get a linebacker, depending on what it thinks of its other in-house candidates. Same for Fluker/Sweezy.
Then there are the two areas where Seattle seems to need some help — defensive line and receiver. The draft is exceptionally deep on the defensive line, and the Seahawks could bank on that, especially with Frank Clark having been franchise tagged. But a veteran reinforcement or two up front seems a given.
Seattle could also use some depth at receiver, specifically a big receiver.
Any names to pass along as potential targets?
This is as big of a crapshoot as trying to figure out who they are going to draft.
There are a few former Seahawks who are free agents such as Bruce Irvin, Golden Tate and Jermaine Kearse who, for obvious reasons, are worth monitoring. But the guess here is that the Seahawks may not go back to the past as much as, well, they have in the past.
Here are five others who could be fits at spots where Seattle has needs:
WR Tyrell Williams: Williams, formerly of the Chargers, would be a fairly big splash. Spotrac estimates his market value at $9.6 million a year. He might be the top big receiver available, listed at 6-4, 205. And at 27 years old the Salem, Ore., native has a lot of football left.
DT Danny Shelton: The former UW and Auburn High star hasn’t quite lived up to his first-round billing — though he did just win a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots — but has been productive as a run-stuffing tackle, something the Seahawks could use, and he may not be overly expensive.
DL Christian Covington: A native of Vancouver, B.C., Covington emerged as a solid pass-rushing tackle for Houston last season, rated by Pro Football Focus as the 19th-best pass-rushing DT in the NFL. A former sixth-round pick, he also might not cost a ton.
S Tre Boston: Just how confident the Seahawks are in their young safeties will be told by the moves they make over the next two months. You wouldn’t expect Seattle to spend a ton a safety. If they’d really wanted to do that they could just keep Thomas. And maybe Boston — who played last year at Arizona for $1.5 million but figures to get a hefty raise — would be out of their price range. But it’s a deep free-agent safety group, and there could be someone available that Seattle will bring in to add competition.
DE West Horton: Horton, 29, played at USC under Carroll. He had just 1.5 sacks last year for Carolina but had 5.5 two years ago and could be a relatively inexpensive rotational pass-rusher both inside and outside.