USA Rugby player Hayden Smith.
The free agency free-for-all has slowed down to a crawl this weekend, with most of the high-profile players off the market. Curtis Lofton signed in New Orleans, leaving Seahawks' MLB David Hawthorne one less probable destination, and as Mike Sando pointed out this morning, leverage shifts from players to teams as NFL free agency moves along and at this point, Hawthorne is probably going to have to take less than he was hoping.
The Seahawks haven't made many big splashes this year - re-signing Marshawn Lynch, Red Bryant, and Michael Robinson - three core players and leaders on their team, then going out and grabbing DT Jason Jones and QB Matt Flynn on reasonable deals. They briefly pursued Peyton Manning and depending on who you talk to, Mario Williams, but declined to get into any bidding wars thus far and otherwise have mostly stayed out of things.
They added RB Kregg Lumpkin to the mix in the backfield as a bigger back with some receiving capability that could potentially replace Justin Forsett. It will be interesting to see how and if he's used in the Seahawks offense - assuming he makes the roster and beats out Tyrell Sutton, Vai Taua or any draft picks on the depth chart - Scott theorized that he might be there for the Pete Carroll "Stanley Havili role." Essentially, a more versatile running back/fullback hybrid that can be used to spell Lynch on any down and effectively hide or eliminate run/pass predicability and protect a young quarterback. Check out this highlight video of Havili from 2009 to see what Scott has in mind - and note that many of the highlights occur on 1st and 2nd down.
Something else that Scott would point out is that Carroll, over the years, has heavily favored a running-back-by-committee approach and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Seahawks do this more in 2012 - keep legs fresh and also protect Marshawn Lynch from the rigors of a full season of carries. It may be a guy on the roster or possibly a draft pick, but for reasons we'll hopefully see, this front office is high on Lumpkin, the former highly recruited tailback. Schneider and the Packers signed Lumpkin in rookie free agency after he went undrafted, he made the roster that year, stuck around on the IR, then when he was waived in 2010, Schneider and Carroll put a waiver claim on him for the Seahawks, which was trumped by Tampa Bay.
Apart from re-upping Heath Farwell for his special teams duties, the Hawks have remained silent in the linebacker market, letting both Hawthorne and Leroy Hill test the market. It's unclear if either will be back in 2012, but I do remember seeing that Pete Carroll mentioned there are 12 draftable inside linebackers with good grades that were hurting the veteran free agent market, and it's possible the Hawks will just look to fill their needs in the Draft.
Also, it's possible they're high on their young, unproven depth in Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Dexter Davis, Adrian Moten, Jameson Konz, and even Alan Bradford. It's unlikely that they'll rely on any of these guys as starting middle linebacker, but with the Draft and forthcoming roster cuts and cap casualties, the Seahawks might feel a little more comfortable in their linebacker situation than we do.
In terms of the touchdown makers that Pete Carroll mentioned in his post-season presser - that's another market that the Seahawks have largely avoided, save for bringing in a few free agent tight ends to have a look. Jacob Tamme is one - he signed in Denver. Visanthe Shiancoe has made a visit too but no word on whether he was offered a contract.
One interesting thing to keep an eye on and file under the Seahawks' "Mike Williams / Brandon Browner experiment projects" folder is former Rugby player Hayden Smith, with whom the Seahawks have an apparent interest. According to this article - which is written by his agent but is interesting nonetheless - Smith is a 26-year old Australian basketball and rugby player that is looking to make the jump to the NFL. He's 6'6, 265 and extremely athletic (watch workout here), and is being coached by renowned tight ends coach Tim Brewster, who is credited with helping Antonio Gates make the transition from basketball to football with the Chargers.
Brewster says: "The first thing I saw was a kid 6-6, 265 pounds. He's no longer 6-6, 220. I was really amazed at a couple of things. First, his ability to assimilate all the information I was throwing at him. He gets it. Football makes sense to the kid. Second, his work ethic off the charts. He's a way above average athlete for the position. I think the kid has an outstanding future in the National Football League."
On the comparison to Antonio Gates:
"Different kind of guy," Brewster said. "Gates is 6-2, 260 pounds. Just a different kind of guy. The thing about Hayden is he is going to be a true, three-down player in the National Football League. The tight end position now has become so down and distance specific. Your first and second down tight ends, your third down tight end and this kid at 6-6, 265 pounds, he's going to do a great job blocking the line of scrimmage on run down situations and then he's going to also have the ability to stretch the field and do some things in the passing game that are really unique. And he has outstanding hands."
According to that article, the Seahawks have expressed interest in bringing Smith in but right now he has a tight schedule with his rugby commitments. Something to monitor.
In terms of receivers, some big moves have been made this offseason - Vincent Jackson going to Tampa Bay, DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston and Reggie Wayne re-signing with their respective teams, Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan signing big deals in Washington, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal going to San Diego, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to San Francisco and New England signing all the receivers (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Dante Stallworth, Deion Branch, Matt Slater, and Anthony Gonzalez) - but the Seahawks have completely avoided all of that.
And, there's a reason for that. It's not coincidental that two UDFA receivers stuck with the Seahawks roster last season and are still a part of the team - Schneider and company heavily scout the later rounds and rookie free agency for capable receivers and sleepers at that position and it's been one of the most heavily churned groups on this roster since they took control.
Here's something that OurLads' Scouting Services Dan Shonka wrote on twitter today:
"I went over our WR stacks this afternoon. Usually around 33 get drafted. I could make an argument for close to 60. Only 30-35 receivers will be drafted so there will be some real priority WR free agents out there."
I don't doubt that the Seahawks will hit this group hard this year as they look to add talent to their receiver group. It's my sense that John Schneider inherited the Green Bay modus operandi where they're constantly looking to upgrade that group and churning the hell out of it. From 2005-2008, the Packers - in four straight drafts - took two receivers every year. They took Randall Cobb in the 2nd last year despite their already stacked positional group and it's just my feeling that PCJS place a lot of importance on finding playmakers there.
It's also my feeling that at this point that Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Sidney Rice are the only 'safe' players in the Seahawks' receiver group, and some would debate that Golden Tate is a lock.. Mike Williams should improve this year but is still an injury concern as he comes back from a broken leg. Deon Butler won't likely be back. Richardo Lockette and Kris Durham have potential but I certainly wouldn't list them as locks. After that, I think Ben Obomanu is on the bubble this year, as are virtual unknowns Isaiah Williams and Charly Martin. I'm very interested to see who the Seahawks sign or draft at receiver this year, and if they'll leverage the whole Doug Baldwin UDFA success story to get the most sought-after guys into camp.
That's what I got for this morning. Here's your open thread - anything else going on in free agency worth mentioning?