The NFL free agent signing period begins Thursday afternoon. The Seahawks, though, haven't been all that active early in free agency the last few years.
If form holds, then Seahawks’ fans may want to temper their excitement for the opening of the NFL free agent signing period Thursday at 1 p.m. Seattle time.
Other than in the lockout year of 2011, when all transactions were delayed until July, the Seahawks have signed just one outside unrestricted free agent on the first day of the signing period since Pete Carroll became coach and John Schneider general manager in 2010 — cornerback Cary Williams in 2015.
Instead, the team’s usual M.O. has more often been to stay out of the initial fray — generally concentrating on its own players first — and let the market sort itself out and then pick up what it needs later on.
At the NFL Combine last week, though, Schneider insisted that doesn’t mean the Seahawks are intentionally staying on the sidelines early in free agency.
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“Actually, we are aggressive in free agency,’’ Schneider said. “We just don’t do a lot of deals lately. We try to pride ourselves on being involved in a lot of deals, and then deciding what our threshold is for those deals. Whether that’s our own players, and then what free agency looks like in terms of acquisition. But I would say, to answer the first part of your question, we’re constantly evaluating what we’re doing, and trying to reset and refocus.”
So could the Seahawks change course and make something big happen early?
It’s safe never to rule the Seahawks out of anything given some of the stunning moves made in past years (Seattle pulled off the trade for Jimmy Graham on the first day of free agency in 2015, as well).
But as always, one sticking point is the salary cap.
The Seahawks have roughly $25 million, which might sound like a lot until it’s matched up against the fact 11 teams have $40 million or more.
And a few initial moves Wednesday as the two-day negotiating period ended didn’t necessarily auger well for Seattle in that regard.
Ricky Wagner, considered one of the better right tackles available, was reported to have agreed on a deal with Detroit for an average of $9 million per year, which would for the moment would make him the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL (it also would is more than the $8.2 million Seattle paid its entire offensive line in 2016).
That deal only added to the idea that the Seahawks may not be able to get in the running for the top-flight offensive linemen available.
And a contract the 49ers gave to former Ravens’ fullback Kyle Jusczyk of $21 million over four years — more than twice as much per year than any fullback made in the NFL last season — illustrated fully that the teams that have a lot to spend apparently won’t be shy about going big to get who they want.
That doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t do things. Schneider said last week the team would definitely like to add some veteran offensive linemen, and while he didn’t say it, the thought is Seattle will try to do more than last season when the most it spent was a two-year, $5.75 million deal given to J’Marcus Webb.
From the minute it was known he would become available in free agency the Seahawks have been connected with former Seattle left tackle Russell Okung.
But while it’s known the Seahawks will try to contact Okung, he figures to have no shortage of suitors, including possibly returning to Denver. Pro Football Talk also reported Wednesday that some around the league have questioned if Okung’s advisor, Jimmy Halsell, has been in contact with the Los Angeles Chargers in violation of NFL rules (Halsell is no longer a certified agent and Okung is again officially representing himself, but can’t talk to teams until Thursday since he is an active player).
Regardless of the legality of that situation, it indicates the interest there is in Okung, rated by NFL.com as the third-best left tackle available after Cincinnati’s Andrew Whitworth and Detroit’s Riley Reiff.
Seattle also appears likely to try to add a veteran defensive linemen or two, one area where the Seahawks have almost annually spent money in free agency (Sealver Siliga last season, Athyba Rubin in 2015, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in 2013, Jason Jones in 2012, to name a few).
And then figure Seattle to also stay as light on its feet as it can to take advantage of whatever else might become available, especially as position markets set themselves and some players become more economically viable than had been thought.
One player that Seattle figures to wait on is running back Adrian Peterson, the subject of much attention on Tuesday when his father, Nelson, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Seattle could be an option along with Oakland and maybe New England and the Vikings, and that the Seahawks had expressed interest, as well.
But indications throughout have been that Peterson is far from at the top of Seattle’s to-do list, and the Seahawks would be more likely to wait to see how free agency unfolds and what else they can get done before turning to Peterson, or any other veteran running back, in a year when the rookie draft class is expected to be strong and teams feel they don’t have to spend big to get a good player at that position.