While reading about the Cullen Jenkins visit to Seattle this morning I began to ponder why the coaching staff would be interested in Jenkins. What role could Jenkins play for the Seattle Seahawks? It got me thinking about what it means to bring in a veteran. This sparked me to reflect upon past free agent signings and look for trends. That process led to this brief article on Seattle's pursuits in free agency and the what a veteran free agent can bring to a team.
What is a Veteran?
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First and foremost, one must acknowledge that we are discussing veterans. Veterans bring something unique with them. Presence, leadership, and experience.
Veterans will always bring a presence with them that is unique to those elder players in the league. Pete Carroll has had plenty experience with this kind of presence while coaching at USC. Remember back to those days playing ball in high school? Think about how much you looked up to those seniors when you were a lowly underclassman.
Along with a presence that demands so much respect from the younger players, veterans bring with them leadership. Although there may be times when veterans falter in a leadership role on other teams, the kind of free agent veteran that will interest Seattle's front office will possess leadership qualities. Look at Clemons and the defensive line unit. Clem is always getting talked up for being vocal at practice and pushing the d-line unit. Mike Rob coming in as a free agent, completely taking over the special teams units, and establishing a strong leadership role in the offensive backfield unit also comes to mind. Not to mention what Mike Rob is doing with the Real Rob Report. The locker room production has to be huge for team morale in addition to establishing somewhat of a leadership role for the team when it comes to the teams interaction with fans.
It is impossible to become a veteran without amassing experience over all those years playing in the league against premier competitors. Everyone has to make mistakes to learn. When a veteran is brought in they bring with them numerous mistakes that have been made, but they were able to glean wisdom from each mistake. A veteran is able to pass this wisdom down to younger players to help them navigate around potential downfalls and stay on a path to a successful career in the NFL. Perhaps one day they can become a veteran and help guide youthful players down the illusive road of success. (This is your opportunity to sing "Circle of Life" to yourself briefly before you continue reading)
All Teams Need a Veteran Presence
Veterans are the "seniors" of the NFL. Every team needs elder leaders to help younger players mature so they can one day take over those leadership roles as veterans themselves. The presence of a grizzled veteran is a universal commandment for respect from youthful and inexperienced players. The leadership of a veteran is the heart that pumps energy and inspiration through the veins of a team to the extremity that is each teammate. The experience of a veteran is the wisdom that guides a team through the dizzying array of external variables and allows a team to focus on what they can do to help the team win.
Pete Carroll needs his seniors to lead this youthful team full of young players down the path to success. He gets them through free agency. Perhaps Kullen Jenkins will be this kind of veteran for a defensive line that, although incredibly talented, is still the biggest hole in one of the best defenses in the league.
COST : POTENTIAL
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When it comes down to it, free agency is a game of risk and reward. This is where John Schneider and Pete Carroll excel. The ratio between cost and potential is vital for success in free agency and the Seattle front office has proven talented in determining an accurate ratio.
All of the free agent veterans will need to provide a level of moderate to high potential. This means they have the ability to start, but they will still need to prove themselves through competition to start. I like to think about the veteran wideouts we brought in last season. Owens, Edwards, and Bryant all had the potential to be a starter, which was proven with impressive workouts, before being signed. However potential alone is not criteria for signing.
The other half of the ratio is cost. When looking at the previous contracts given to free agents by this Seattle front office it becomes clear that the price must be right, and by "right" I mean low. The cost of a veteran free agent will be determined by two variables: the size of the contract and the length of the contract. John Schneider has shown he likes to sign small contracts over the span of one or maybe two years depending on the situation. Small price and short length means low cost.
So Why Do Veterans Sign With Seattle?
Although Seattle may occasionally compromise their ability to land a veteran of interest due to the cost restraints they abide by, Seattle offers something more for veterans than other teams can provide. The Seattle Seahawks are a very young team, have a superb coaching staff, and are pushing the threshold of being an annual contender. This must appeal to every single veteran free agent. All veterans want a chance to win the big game and I imagine it difficult to hang it up if you haven't won a Super Bowl. But more than that, free agent veterans that sign have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot on an elite NFL team. There is a reason the Seahawks low ball on contracts. Pete Carroll and John Schneider know they offer a greater opportunity for success to veteran free agents than just about any other team in the NFL. Greater opportunity and a smaller contract will only attract the kind of players Seattle wants to lead their young guys anyways.
Opportunity to Mentor
Lastly, when a veteran signs with Seattle they are almost always stepping into a role of mentor. This aspect of signing veteran free agents could arguably be the most important. It appears as though the Seahawks like to have someone capable of holding the role of mentor at each position. Big Sid is always being talked about by the younger receivers. Robert Turbin emulates Marshawn not only on the field but on the Real Rob Report too. Who knows how much Matt Flynn has helped Wilson.
You can tell Flynn and Wilson have a good relationship, and Flynn has spent a few seasons as back up to arguably the best quarterback in the present day NFL. Zach Miller is filling this role for the TEs. Chris Clemons has clearly taken Bruce under his wing. Mentors are going to be vital in the success of this team into the future. Each veteran free agent provides an opportunity to secure a quality mentor for all the young guys you are drafting. Although we frequently credit scouting for the recent success in the draft, I believe we should give just as much credit to the veterans and coaches that have guided these rookies to all the success. So what is it that mentors do that can aid these young players?
First and foremost one must recognize that each veteran has spent years upon years "perfecting his craft" as Russell Wilson has so eloquently put it. The depth of knowledge pertaining to techniques and strategy must be humbling to a young mentee. Ever wonder why Seattle rookies seem to be able to adjust quickly to the NFL? I wouldn't be surprised if the knowledge bestowed upon them by their veteran mentors had something to do with it.
One cannot speak of knowledge without speaking of wisdom. I have already touched on this earlier, but don't underestimate the potential impacts of having wise leaders on your football team. Wisdom permeates into all facets of the game.
In the end veterans are role models. We have all had role models in our lives and they have had a profound impact on whom we are today. The same goes for football players, if not more so. Having a role model that a young guy can emulate as he matures is crucial to whether or not he will be successful in the NFL both on and off the field.
The Seattle Seahawks may not make the flashy free agent signings you hear about on ESPN, but in the end they make the signings that are most important to the success, both now and in the future, of a flowering franchise.