The Seattle GM also talked about the decision to release Richard Sherman and trade Michael Bennett.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett are gone.
Whether Cliff Avril or Kam Chancellor will ever be healthy enough to play football again remains uncertain at best, if not considered unlikely.
And the Seahawks don’t bother denying that they would consider trading Earl Thomas for the right price.
But if the potential loss of five key pieces of the best defense in team history — not to mention the departures of the likes of former Pro Bowlers Jimmy Graham and Sheldon Richardson in free agency — has the look and feel of a team rebuilding, Seattle general manager John Schneider said Monday that isn’t the plan.
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Instead, in what were his first comments to the media since the trade of Bennett and release of Sherman as well as a slew of other moves, Schneider said at the NFL League Meetings that all of the moves are simply in keeping with what has always been his goal of keeping the Seahawks at a level where they can compete for each season without ever taking a big dip in the standings.
“It’s just always very, very hard to make those decisions to move on from people, but that’s what we have to do in order to be a consistent championship-caliber football team,’’ Schneider said. “We don’t want to be having these major rebuilding years. We want to be able to have little re-sets, if you will.”
Asked if the team is rebuilding, Schneider said “no, no’’ and then talked of all that remains on the roster.
“Bobby Wagner, Duane Brown, Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson, there’s a pretty cool group of guys, and I’m leaving guys out, I know,’’ he said. “It’s not like 2010 (when Schneider and coach Pete Carroll each arrived) when we felt like we had to make these sweeping changes. We’ve been here since 2010, and it feels like we’ve just constantly been doing this every single year. It’s not like we have this, ‘OK, season’s over, now we’re going to do A, B and C.’ We’re working all the way through the year.”
The decisions to trade Bennett and release Sherman, he said, were merely part of that plan, even if the team understood that the legacy of each player means that their departures elicited a strong reaction from fans.
The release of Sherman, Schneider said, was simply a salary-cap move — he was owed $11 million in 2018 and at age 30 will be coming off of an Achilles tendon injury.
“It just became clear to us that at some point, Richard was going to be what we categorize as a cap casualty, because he had a pretty good-sized contract,’’ Schneider said, saying that the decision to release Sherman five days before the free agent signing period began was done as a favor to Sherman.
“We had so much respect for Richard, and he was representing himself, so he wanted to get out there into free agency as quickly as he could, and we weren’t going to just hold onto him until we signed other players, then let him go,’’ Schneider said. “We have so much respect for him that we were going to let him out into free agency as quickly as we could and not just hang onto him until we signed other players, then he had to do his deal. He has done so much for the organization that it wasn’t fair for us to just sit and wait forever to see who we were going to sign or not sign. So that’s why we went ahead and did it, as hard as it was.”
Sherman has said he called the Seahawks before signing with the 49ers to allow them to match the offer he received – a one-year deal that includes heavy incentives that could pay him as much as $13 million but included just $3 million guaranteed at signing.
Asked about that, Schneider indicated the Seahawks had not offered to potentially match any offer Sherman received, saying only “Yeah, I spoke with him several times that afternoon.”
Sherman, in fact, said later the Seahawks did not offer him to take a pay cut, and that now appears to be the case — that the Seahawks simply released Sherman and were not looking at options for re-signing him once they did.
As for Bennett, Schneider confirmed that the Seahawks began talking to teams at the combine about a trade and also indirectly confirmed a report that the Patriots later also gave an offer after the one that Seattle accepted from the Eagles of a third- and a fifth-round. The Seahawks received a fifth-round pick and receiver Marcus Johnson for Bennett while also giving up a seventh-rounder.
“When I was at the combine, I talked to a number of teams,’’ Schneider said. “There were several teams interested. Philadelphia was the strongest team to come at us, and I gave my word to them, so we went with it.”
Schneider also said the Seahawks did not know that Bennett was under investigation for an alleged felony assault on the elderly for which he was charged last Friday.
As for Thomas, as he did at the NFL Combine a few weeks ago, Schneider said the team has to consider all options.
“Earl’s under contract for another season, and if we’re not listening to everybody we are not doing a very good job,’’ he said. “So we have to listen to everything that’s going on all the time.’’
Intriguingly, Schneider said the team is not currently talking to Thomas or his representatives about an extension beyond the 2018 season.
“No, not at this point, no,’’ Schneider said. “There are a number of guys that we have coming up that have one year left. Earl, this would be his third contract and he is a great, great player.’’
So what does it mean that the Seahawks are not currently talking to Thomas?
Schneider declined to say when pressed if that meant the team would be willing to have Thomas play out his contract in 2018 with Seattle — Thomas has said he would consider holding out if he does not have a long-term extension before the season.
“I don’t like talking about people’s contracts,’’ Schneider said. “That’s something that’s just between the agents and myself and (Seattle vice president of football administration) Matt Thomas.’’
So if that doesn’t necessarily clear things up, that may also be the point — all options appear still on the table with the team again declining to take the chance to say Thomas will not be traded.
Here is what Schneider said on a variety of other topics:
On not re-signing Sheldon Richardson: “Sheldon was difficult. It was very difficult, because he can play multiple positions, so he was a difficult guy to figure out where we should be coming from. We were never going to franchise (tag) him, we knew that. But we didn’t know necessarily where to start. We didn’t know what the basement was and what the ceiling was, so basically it got too far into the free agency window, and he chose to go with the team he felt he was more comfortable with.”
On not re-signing the likes of Graham and Paul Richardson: “Going to miss Sheldon, all these guys, when you lose them it’s a hard deal. They’re all super quality individuals. You spend so much time with these guys, our coaches spend so much time with them, it’s always hard when you move on from people. Luke Willson’s like a little brother, Jimmy’s a really good guy, was awesome in the locker room, obviously Sherm, it goes without saying. Paul Richardson was our first pick that year (2014).’’
On if there is anything new with Chancellor and Avril: “No. I know you guys probably get tired of it but we are hoping and praying for both of them. As soon as we know from a scan standpoint and the experts and all the doctors and what they say we a going to go with. Both total professionals that obviously we didn’t see this coming. You can plan for a lot of things but that’s not one of them, both those guys, their situations you can’t plan for, especially Malik’s (McDowell) too. Summer accident like that on an ATV. ‘’
On if there is anything new on Malik McDowell: “Same (as Chancellor and Avril), we are just waiting for more scans.’’
On signing free agent D.J. Fluker and if he will play guard: “Yeah. (New Seahawks offensive line coach) Mike Solari coached him with the Giants. Ethan (Pocic) has done a nice job this offseason, he’s like 322 pounds right now; he’s getting bigger. We’re going to be a little bit more power. So we’re excited about (Fluker). He’s all football. When he came out, everyone knew he was an all-football guy. If you look at all the guys we’ve signed and re-signed, we know they all have a chip on their shoulder, they have something to prove, and they’re all football guys, so we’re excited about it. All these guys, every single one of them we signed.”
On if there is a theme of the guys brought in: “Just the way we started. Smart, tough reliable guys that love football and have a chip on their shoulder. Personally I think we need to do a better job on the personnel side of bringing guys in that aren’t necessarily in awe of the Earl Thomases and the Kam Chancellors. They want to compete with them And then from a development standpoint we need to put those players out there and let them play like we did with Maxwell and Sherman and Earl and Walter Thurmond and those guys. They’ve got to go play and we have done it before so I am excited for these guys that you guys don’t necessarily know all that well.’’
On re-signing safety Bradley McDougald: “That was a very big deal for us. We felt like we were super excited to acquire him last year and he played a vital role for us last year in filling in for Kam and we are expecting the same this year. A very good football player in my opinion one of the more underrated players on our team and throughout the national football league. … He played corner in college. He can play, strong. Free. Those guys are pretty unique.”
On if the Seahawks are still talking to free agent cornerback Byron Maxwell: “We are still talking to his guys, yeah. We are definitely talking to Byron.’’
On signing free agent safety Maurice Alexander: “So he can play strong safety. He started 20 something games for the Rams. We feel like he can play will linebacker in a pinch as well. Just a real fast, tough all football guy. St. Louis, we loved him coming out he played with Bobby so we feel like we have a really good feel for him. … We kept recruiting him throughout the process so he had (shoulder) surgery and we brought him in and he passed his physical so here we go. We’ve got another fast, tough all football guy.’’
On re-signing Mike Davis after not tendering him as a restricted free agent: “Again all ball. That was just all about being very careful with our cap situation. Our cap situation has been very fluid pretty close up against it. Kind of get on a bunch of web sites and look at stuff but it’s not as realistic as the way we look at it because we have to model all the way through so we were pretty tight so we feel blessed that we were able to rework his deal and get him back. But in my opinion he’s a real instinctive, tough football player as you saw at the end of the year.’’
On the new-look D-line and how he feels about it: “Excited, really excited. (Free agent signees) Tom Johnson, Shamar (Stephen), (Barkevious) Mingo, we’re going to let him rush a little bit, we’ve got Marcus Smith back, who played kind of beat up last year (it was revealed Monday he played last year with a torn ligament in his foot), so he’s going to put his hand down a little bit too. We’re excited about those guys, and we’re still in the process of addressing this thing all the way through.”
On keeping Dion Jordan: “Dion, he’s a real big deal for us, because he played real well when he was out there. we just have to keep him healthy and making sure we can help him take care his body as much as he can.”
On acquiring receiver Marcus Johnson from the Eagles: “Marcus can fly so he was like a 4.3, 4.4 guy, good upside, 6-foot and a quarter. Just a guy that we loved his speed and his size and the guys in Philadelphia that we know have always spoke very highly of him and his ability to go high-point the ball and get upfield as soon as he catches it so we are excited about him.’’
On if the Seahawks considered signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who on Monday instead signed with the Rams: “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t, so yep we sniffed around that a little bit.’’