Seahawks thus far have played it conservatively in outside free agency

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As teams spend big money in free agency, the Seahawks wait in the shadows.

The Seahawks have been rumored suitors, in one way or another, of S Ryan Clark, DE Jared Allen, PR Devin Hester, DT Vance Walker, DT Henry Melton, Everson Griffin, DT Jason Hatcher, WR DeSean Jackson, TE Jermichael Finley, WR Steve Smith, WR Kenny Britt, DE DeMarcus Ware, and a few other big time names, including their own in CB Walter Thurmond, WR Golden Tate, CB Brandon Browner, and DT Clinton McDonald. They reportedly made offers to several of these players, including Allen, Melton, Hatcher, and Allen*, and thus far haven't gotten much play. This tells me it's likely Seattle's offers have been on the lowball side.

*I accidentally listed Allen twice, but it works with how the annoying courtship went, so I'm leaving it.

For reference, as for Seattle's own free agents: Golden Tate signed in Detroit for a face value of $31M, Red Bryant in Jacksonville for $19M, Chris Clemons for $18M, Brandon Browner for $15.5M, Clinton McDonald for $12M, and Walter Thurmond for $3M. Tate's deal was in the ballpark of what Seattle could have reasonably done. Clemons will average $4.5M, which isn't crazy. McDonald's $3M per would've been a bargain.

In addition, the Seahawks released veterans in DT Red Bryant and DE Chris Clemons, and restructured TE Zach Miller, all in cap-savings moves.

Seattle hasn't been completely inactive, obviously. They re-signed DT/DE Michael Bennett, which was my absolute #1 priority going into this thing. They brought back DT Tony McDaniel, K Steven Hauschka, TE Anthony McCoy, C Lemuel Jeanpierre, S Jeron Johnson, and QB Tarvaris Jackson. Those moves are underrated but important for depth. They've also brought in WR Taylor Price, WR Chris Matthews, CB Phillip Adams, TE Travis Beckum, SS Terrance Parks, OL Stephen Schilling, LB Mike Taylor, and OL Greg Van Roten. Will any of these players develop into key contributors? It will be interesting. Regardless, outside of Bennett/McDaniel/Hauschka and maybe McCoy, Seattle's moves have been the back-of-roster competition variety.

Because of this, the Seahawks currently sit with about $14.9M in cap space, per the NFLPA's tracker. This isn't exactly the number you want to operate with (you have to factor IR, practice squad, incentives, and dead money), but it's a good benchmark for their breathing room.

By my tally, that gives Seattle the 8th most cap space in the NFL. The Browns lead the way with with $30.8M in room, followed by the Jets with $28.6M, Jaguars with $25.1M, Bengals with $24.7M, Eagles with $20.4M, Dolphins with $16.6M, and Packers with $16.1M. As far as NFC West foes, the Rams sit currently with $7.9M in space, the Cardinals with $4.4M, and the 49ers with $3.8M.

Will they spend it on outside free agency? Well, there's not a lot out there at this point, except for DeSean Jackson. Jackson is getting some interest from multiple teams and so far the rumored interest from Seattle has been just that: rumor. More likely, the Hawks will use this surplus of money to extend Earl Thomas and possibly work on a new deal with Richard Sherman, plus roll cash over to next year. They'll look to plan ahead for when they have to try and pay Russell Wilson, K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, Bobby Wagner, and a few others.

But, because of this, depth will be tested. Seattle can no longer lean on experienced, veteran backups like Clint McDonald and Walter Thurmond (and even Brandon Browner) to come through in the clutch when players ahead of them get injured or suspended. The Next Man Up methodology will be interesting to watch this year when untested players like Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill, Deshawn Shead, and possibly Benson Mayowa are thrown into the fire.

Realistically, you can look at it in a couple of ways:

1), Seattle's front office is showing a lot of restraint and discipline in sticking to their salary cap model when it comes to free agency, and at the same time, showing a lot of trust and belief in their back-of-roster players; John Schneider noted that for free agency this year, "The way it's gone is how we projected it with our model, as far we expected some attrition." He name-checked Greg Scruggs, Tharold Simon, Malcolm Smith, and noted that "two of our most explosive players, Percy Harvin and Christine Michael, didn't even play last year."

Conversely, 2), Seattle is getting steadily getting worse depth-wise with the losses of Golden Tate, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Chris Maragos, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Clint McDonald, O'Brien Schofield (maybe), and a few others, and have no real outside additions to bolster that.

At the end of the day, though, this offseason building is far from over. The Draft is approaching, secondary free agency is still in process, and roster cutdowns after the preseason are always an interesting time to add key depth at necessary positions. It's still too early to judge the offseason.

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