Which Seahawks' unrestricted free agents have the best chance to return in 2017? Here's our rating.
The NFL never really sleeps anymore.
But what has been at least a little bit of a lull in activity in the two weeks since the Super Bowl will soon end.
The NFL Combine is set for March 1-6 in Indianapolis, followed by the beginning of the free agent signing period March 9. The Combine has typically been conducted a little bit earlier, and that it now merges so closely to free agency means there could be more news — and certainly more rumors — emanating out of Indy than ever before.
Which makes it a good time to review Seattle’s free agent situation before the storm hits.
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The good news from a Seahawks’ standpoint is that they have few players whose playing time last season was significant that they are in danger of losing in free agency, in contrast to a year ago when the likes of Bruce Irvin, Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy and Brandon Mebane departed. And what might have been the biggest question has already been settled — the fate of the kicking position. Seattle last week signed Blair Walsh as an apparent preemptive move to replace Steven Hauschka, who is one of the team’s 14 players who will become unrestricted free agents and now appears unlikely to return.
Hauschka and the other pending unrestricted free agents will be free to sign with other teams beginning March 9. Until then, any potential UFA can sign with their current team.
Here’s a refresher on Seattle’s pending free agents, listed in order of my guess as to their probability of being re-signed by the Seahawks.
Safety Kelcie McCray: McCray filled in ably as a starter for four games at mid-season when Kam Chancellor was injured. A later injury to Earl Thomas only reinforced the value of depth in the secondary, which would seem to make McCray a player Seattle would want to keep around. His 284 special teams snaps were also the third-most on the team.
CB Neiko Thorpe: Another special teams standout, Thorpe would add depth and competition at a spot where Seattle suddenly has some issues with DeShawn Shead unlikely to be ready for the start of the 2017 season.
TE Brandon Williams: Williams was also a key special teams player — he had the second-most snaps (Cassius Marsh had the first) — and the Seahawks would figure to want to keep him in the fold for tight end depth with Luke Willson’s future hazy (more on which in a minute).
DT John Jenkins: Jenkins played just 33 snaps after being claimed off waivers at mid-season. But you can never have enough big bodies up the middle of the defense and he shouldn’t cost much to retain.
FB Marcel Reece: Reece played well after being signed in December and was a particular standout in the wild card win over Detroit. He will be 32 next season, but there also aren’t a lot of fullbacks out there.
SLB Mike Morgan: Morgan is the only official position starter who can become a UFA. But he was sort of a starter in name only as the Seahawks played nickel roughly 70 percent of the time in 2016, meaning the strongside linebacker was used roughly 30 percent. Due in part to missing eight games due to a sports hernia, Morgan played just 138 snaps in 2016. Morgan has been with Seattle since 2011 but the Seahawks could look to get younger at this spot in 2017.
TE Luke Willson: The Seahawks would undoubtedly love to have Willson back — but only at the right price. And that will be the sticking point here. Willson has made clear he intends to test the market and might well use the three-year deal with $9 million guaranteed that his former college teammate, Vance McDonald, received fro the 49ers. With the Seahawks paying Jimmy Graham $10 million next season and Nick Vannett on the rise, the price to keep Willson could be too rich for Seattle.
OL Bradley Sowell: Sowell lost the starting right tackle job late in the season after earlier losing the left tackle position when he was injured and Seattle decided to stay with George Fant. But the Seahawks might be willing to bring him back as competition for the veteran minimum, or close to it.
DT Tony McDaniel: McDaniel was surprisingly productive after returning in August when the Seahawks ran into injuries on the defensive line. But he is now 32 and Seattle could look for other options up front.
SS Jeron Johnson: Johnson was re-signed late in the season to add depth, but the Seahawks could look to younger, more inexpensive options to fill out the safety corps.
FB Will Tukuafu: Tukuafu ended the season on Injured Reserve due to a concussion and is now 33, possibly having finally hit the end of an interesting road with the Seahawks.
DE Damontre Moore: Moore played well in four games before suffering a knee injury and then being charged with DWI (he recently pled not guilty and has a pre-trail hearing next week). If not for the legal issues he’d seem a decent bet to be back.
PK Steven Hauschka: The signing of Walsh logically means the team is moving on from Hauschka.
Returner Devin Hester: Hester said after the playoff game against Atlanta that he intended to retire.