The Seahawks announced Wednesday afternoon that they have signed starting center Max Unger to a multi-year contract extension. This move locks up another key veteran for the next couple of years, and comes on the heels of defensive end Chris Clemons' contract extension earlier this week. The Hawks have started to take care of the major pieces for the 2013 free agency period a year early and it's worth looking closely at the wording in each respective signing by this front office -- GM John Schneider said in a press release today, "Pete and I are excited to lock up a young core leader on our offense. Max's consistent and professional approach to his job transcends the locker room and the huddle," and in the press release following Clemons' signing, Schneider said, "Pete, myself, and the entire Seahawks family are very pleased to reward a player that has been a consistent difference maker since we acquired him."
Difference maker. Professional. Consistent. Core leader. From day one, John Schneider has talked about creating a culture and identity that rewards strong contributors and core leaders, keeps that nucleus of players in the building, and makes Seattle a place that players want to stay. So far, Schneider, John Idzik, and Pete Carroll have successfully re-signed and retained almost every one of the core free agents or soon-to-be free agents they've heavily pursued -- Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, and now Chris Clemons and Max Unger.
Davis Hsu noted in his series on the Green Bay model of roster building that the Packers have stocked the back end of their roster with a host of young, first-contract players, and have done so by drafting 9 or 10 guys a year and dropping mid-level veterans and overpaid former stars instead. They then use the money saved on running with their glut of draft picks to re-sign their core free agents as they come due. "The stocking of the roster [with cheap mid- to late-round picks] frees up money to pay free agents - but only your free agents - not other team's free agents. My guess is that signing another team's free agent is risky because you have less information on that player in terms of: character, leadership, injury history, practice performance, fit in your system and a host of other factors. By only signing your own team's free agents, you may miss out on some opportunities on other great players, but you also mitigate tons of risk. This system also does wonders for your continuity and unity as a team. Too much turnover is bad."
Now, John Schneider has brought parts of this model to Seattle -- Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson's mentorship of Schneider still shows up in a lot of actions-- and though the Seahawks have ventured out into other teams' free agency for Zach Miller and Sidney Rice, this signing does demonstrate a commitment to retaining core players at key positions, to establish identity and culture, and continuity and leadership.