The primary NFL free agency market period has come and gone and we now sit in tier-2 territory. The remaining unsigned players are patiently feeling out their options and teams seem to be taking a pretty cautious approach with a cold market. The perceived market value of certain positions differs greatly between players/agents and teams at the moment, and it's created almost a stalemate of sorts. There are some pretty big-name guys still out there - John Abraham, Dwight Freeney, Antoine Winfield, Charles Woodson, and others, and each side is waiting out the other in the hopes someone will budge.
As far as 'big name' players, the one we haven't heard much of this offseason until lately (because he fired his agent), is Alan Branch. Branch has started all but one game for the Seahawks over the past two seasons, but remains unsigned, evidently unsatisfied with the offer Seattle (theoretically) has offered him.
Instead, Seattle has kicked the tires on or shown interest in several players in Branch's mold - DTs Desmond Bryant, Ropati Pitoitua, Tony McDaniel, and Vaughn Martin, for example. Bryant, 6'6, 310 pounds, signed with the Browns after seeing interest from Seattle, and John Schneider indicated a sort of regret in a recent interview that Cleveland was able to get that deal done. Pitoitua, 6'8, 315, signed on in Tennessee but not before getting overtures from Seattle, and just today, Vaughn Martin (6'4, 327) agreed to terms Miami while reportedly en route to Seattle for a visit.
Now, according to DT Tony McDaniel's agent Drew Rosenhaus, "There's a pretty good chance that [McDaniel] is going to sign with the Seattle Seahawks here in the next couple days."
McDaniel, at 6'7, 305 pounds, has played in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 and end and tackle, and certainly fits the profile of the body type Seattle seems to be looking for at their 3-tech position, as evidenced by the names listed above. McDaniel is a tough, versatile lineman that can play either on the inside or at 5-technique on the outside, and I've heard good things about him thus far - BigCatCountry's Alfie Crow was a big fan of McDaniel while he was with the Jags (as was Eric Stoner) and notes that the big lineman was traded to the Dolphins for a 7th round pick at the time of a regime change because of an arrest, for which he served a one-game suspension. Before McDaniel left Jacksonville though, as Alfie noted, he played well against the run, offered a limited amount of pass rush, and outplayed starter John Henderson at times.
ESPN's Mike Sando put together a great table that shows a side-by-side comparison of Alan Branch vs. McDaniel HERE, and it's interesting to see how efficient McDaniel has been over the past few seasons while seeing far fewer snaps than Branch has played.
This profile Seattle covets is interesting for a few reasons - first, it appears, Seattle is looking at 3-4 defensive end types with great length and good speed on their line in their 4-3 system. Second, if they are indeed looking for a 3-tech to replace Branch, this profile does go away somewhat from what Pete Carroll has typically done in the past with his defenses, which featured, as Eric Stoner put it, "short, quick stumpy guys; Mebane types" at DT. There aren't many players with length, size, and speed in the Draft this year, so it makes sense Seattle is looking to fill that role in free agency.
Regardless, I'm not going to assume McDaniel gets signed until it's officially reported. The Hawks might be using him as leverage against Branch as Seattle looks to lower Branch's asking price, and let's be honest, it's in everyone's best interest to take what Drew Rosenhaus says with a grain of salt. I'm certainly intrigued with the idea of what McDaniel would bring, and I'm not even certain that McDaniel would play inside, frankly. Perhaps he's being looked at as potential competition for Red Bryant? Who knows.
Nonethless, it's something to monitor.