Seattle hosted two free agents Thursday who could fill holes up front --- Shelley Smith, recently released by Miami; and Stefen Wisniewski, a starter the past four years for the Raiders who became an unrestricted free agent this week.
At about the same time Jimmy Graham was holding an introductory teleconference with Seattle reporters Thursday, Max Unger was saying goodbye to Seattle.
Unger, silent since Tuesday’s blockbuster trade, took to Twitter to thank Seattle fans, calling his time with the Seahawks “what a ride,’’ and changing his title to “Center, New Orleans Saints.”
Graham, meanwhile, passed a physical Wednesday — reported to the world via Twitter late in the night by Seahawks owner Paul Allen — then told reporters Thursday that after the shock of the trade wore off, “I realized I was going to the best team in football.’’
By then, the Seahawks already were well into the next steps of the offseason, one that now includes replenishing an offensive line that not only has lost its leader in Unger but also starting left guard James Carpenter, whose signing with the New York Jets became official Wednesday. Carpenter started 39 games after being drafted in the first round in 2011, and Unger started all 67 in which he played since being taken in the second round in 2009.
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Seattle hosted two free agents Thursday who could fill holes up front: Shelley Smith, recently released by Miami, and Stefen Wisniewski, a starter the past four years for the Raiders who became an unrestricted free agent this week. Each has played guard and center; Wisniewski was Oakland’s starting center the past three years after playing his first year at guard.
A signing of either, though, was not regarded as imminent, as it’s thought the Seahawks are willing to take their time to find the right players — and at the right price — up front. (Smith also was reported to be headed to a visit with the Denver Broncos on Thursday.)
Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have both made it clear that they think there are players already on hand who can step in if needed.
Carpenter’s backup last year was Alvin Bailey, who started three games at midseason when Carpenter was injured, including the win over the Giants when Seattle rushed for a team-record 350 yards. Bailey also filled in at left tackle for Russell Okung in the game at Arizona when the Seahawks gained a team-record 596 total yards.
If the Seahawks played today, the center would be Patrick Lewis, who the team signed in October and ended up starting four games in place of Unger — including the win at Arizona — and finished the season as Unger’s backup.
“We’ve got depth, and we’ve got guys that we know can play,’’ Carroll said after the trade of Unger. “We played a lot of games with these guys last year, so we’ll look forward to everybody contributing.”
Seattle’s other three offensive-line starters are all under contract — right guard J.R. Sweezy and tackles Okung and Justin Britt.
The visits by Smith — who started three games for Miami last year — and Wisniewski show the Seahawks are searching for reinforcements.
But both Carroll and Schneider have indicated the team might not rush. Carroll noted in an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle on Thursday that it is a “very, very good draft’’ for offensive linemen. As he said that, Schneider was at the University of Oregon’s pro day. Among the players participating was center Hroniss Grasu, considered among the top five players available at that position.
Schneider also has mentioned that the team might wait to see what other players could become available as free agency progresses and players are cut to make way for new ones.
In fact, on Thursday the Cardinals released center Lyle Sendlein, who has made 109 starts since 2007, indicating how the pool of available bodies can change this time of year.
“We are going to continue all throughout this process,’’ Schneider said Tuesday. “We have a long ways to go here. It’s early. And we are going to try to address every position as we move forward … every day that waivers come out. Every day we are talking to different agents and different teams. We are not going to stop. We are not going to (start) approaching anything any different than we have since the first day that we walked into the building.’’
• O’Brien Schofield, a backup defensive end for the Seahawks the past two seasons, signed Thursday with the Atlanta Falcons, where the coach now is Dan Quinn, Seattle’s defensive coordinator the past two years.
Schofield is the fourth of Seattle’s unrestricted free agents to sign with another team since the signing period began Tuesday, joining cornerback Byron Maxwell (Philadelphia), Carpenter and linebacker Malcolm Smith (Oakland).