The Seahawks may not have been overly active since the free agent signing period began three weeks ago.
But Seattle general manager John Schneider said Monday that doesn’t mean the team hasn’t been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. Instead, he said the relative inactivity — signing just two players from the outside — was part of a strategy to focus instead on re-signing some of its own key players as well as loading up on compensatory picks for the 2020 draft.
“Just being able to be a little bit more selective in how we are approaching free agency,” Schneider said Monday in an interview on the Brock and Salk Show on ESPN 710 Seattle during which he also helped promote his annual fundraiser for Ben’s Fund, which raises money to assist families impacted by autism. The fund is named after the first son of Schneider and his wife, Traci. Ben Schneider was diagnosed as autistic shortly after he turned 3. (Details on an online auction and other events are here).
Schneider said the team was more active in free agency last year — when the Seahawks signed the likes of Ed Dickson, Barkevious Mingo, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen and Jaron Brown — to make up for players it had lost, such as Kam Chancellor, Jimmy Graham and Cliff Avril. That resulted in Seattle getting no compensatory picks for the 2019 draft and, when combined with trading away three picks, leaves Seattle currently with just four picks when the draft rolls around April 25-27.
But this year, Schneider said the goal during free agency was designed to keep the team’s current core intact and load up on picks for 2020 — Seattle has all of its seven original picks and at the moment would also be awarded four as compensation for the loss of free agents such as Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman and J.R. Sweezy.
Schneider joked that he spent the weekend looking at their 2019 draft board with just four picks saying “not cool.”
So this year, he said the team is “being a little bit more selective with the cap guys” to try to maximize comp picks. Players whose contracts run out count toward the comp pick formula if signed before May 7. After May 7, anyone can be signed with no impact on the comp pick system. So Seattle is obviously keeping a few players in mind it may be hoping it can wait to sign until after May 7.
Schneider confirmed the general thought that the one free agent the team hoped to keep — knowing that players such as Coleman and Mike Davis were going to get offers they wouldn’t want to match — was Sweezy. But Schneider said “that happened so fast for him, we just weren’t ready to pull the trigger.”
Here is a bit more of what Schneider said:
KEEPING WILSON, WAGNER AND CLARK CAN BE DONE
Schneider wasn’t asked a lot of specifics about the contract situations for three key players who can be free agents following the 2019 season — quarterback Russell Wilson, linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive end Frank Clark. But he did say that the team has a timetable for when to deal with extensions and that it has not arrived yet — the team typically handles those in the late spring/summer, following the draft.
And when asked a general question about the task of keeping all three while still fielding a competitive team, he said “it’s challenging because then you’ve got to compensate (by not paying as much) in other areas.” But he noted that many wondered back in the beginnings of the Legion of Boom days if the Seahawks would be able to keep that team together long enough to make a significant run, which he said the Seahawks did.
“We just continued to work our process and worked through it and worked out (then) and I see it happening the same way (now),” Schneider said.
Schneider deftly evaded a question about if there is a percentage of the salary cap that a team can’t go over in spending on a quarterback to keep the rest of the team competitive.
“It’s a blast (trying to figure that out) because it’s like a huge puzzle right?” he said.
But Schneider repeated what he has often said, that the two most important people on an NFL team are the head coach and a quarterback. And when listing off a few of the team’s priorities to keep, he said “obviously our franchise quarterback is one of them.”
BALDWIN’S UNCERTAINTY DOESN’T ADD TO WR URGENCY
The lingering uncertainty over receiver Doug Baldwin’s health might make one think the Seahawks have more of a need at receiver than they did a few months ago. Baldwin is expected to undergo a sports hernia surgery this month in Philadelphia after having had earlier surgeries this offseason on his knee and shoulder.
But Schneider said the team likes what it has in some of its younger receivers, specifically mentioning Amara Darboh and Malik Turner, and can still go get a veteran free agent if it needs to down the road.
“To a point, yeah, to a point,” Schneider said when asked if Baldwin’s situation leads to more urgency to address the receiver spot. “But not drastic. Not any different than it would any other year. It’s a solid draft class. There are some good unrestricted receivers still out there. We messed around with (free agent receiver) Jordy (Nelson) a little bit. Had him in for a great visit and everything. He just decided to retire back to Kansas. But there are some young guys in that group that we had — Turner is in there, getting Amara back from his chest injury.”
SEAHAWKS WANT TO ADD PICKS
If Seattle really picks just four players, it would be the fewest in any draft in the team’s history.
Few expect that to happen because the Seahawks would ideally like to add more players and, under Schneider, have shown a willingness and ability to trade down to amass more picks.
Schneider repeated what he said at the NFL combine that the team would like to have more than four picks. But as might be expected in the cat-and-mouse game that is the run-up to the draft, he also said the team could well stay put and use its first-round pick at No. 21.
“It’s safe to say (the team will look to trade down),” he said. “But it’s a darn good draft, so I could see a very good player being there for us at 21.”
And Schneider said trading down isn’t as easy as may be assumed.
“You have to find a partner, you have to negotiate within a specific amount of time,” he said. “So it’s not like an easy thing just to move back. So yeah, we’d like to pick more than four times. It’s just how you do it. It’s going to be a challenge this year because like I said, the depth (of the draft) the way we see it is pretty good.”
And that’s particularly true of defensive linemen, which is also a specific need for Seattle. Schneider said he thinks it’s as good of a draft for defensive linemen as he can remember in his 27 years working in NFL front offices.
“I haven’t seen it (this deep),” he said.
Schneider also said the team has whittled down its draft board from 1,200 to 300 and will get that down to 150 by draft day of players that we know “these are Seahawks.”