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Seattle Seahawks: Exploring Free Agency Methods and the Draft

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Otto Greule Jr

Though I've been looking backwards and stuck in the past in my posts recently (that will continue), like many, I'm also a constant browser of free agency and draft stuff. Without trying to be all serious sounding - what happens in free agency and the draft is really very important. This offseason and next offseason are hopefully the final years of building what looks on track to be a solid foundation for this franchise. I definitely care about what happens in March and April. I mean, don't we all care around here? It's a good thing. So, here are some thoughts I've been holding in for a while; as recent as from yesterday, or as far back as the fall. Just preparing you.

The Lineage Factor

Unlike last offseason, free agency happens first (like it usually does). We've heard Marshawn Lynch, Red Bryant and David Hawthorne (to name a few) express a strong desire to be back. There is a sentiment Seattle will try and re-sign a good portion of their guys (while attempting to better every position on the roster). It's always encouraging to hear guys want to stick around to build something; a testament to the "system" working because the organization is attracting players it inherited and new players it recently traded for or signed. So right off the bat, one thought is - 'do more high profile players look at Seattle as a possible destination after seeing the change in culture have an on-field effect, especially in the second half of the season?' Maybe.

But, what I'm not saying is that I'm expecting Seattle to go free agent crazy; not at all. Davis quoted John Schneider in his Green Bay Model series part IV; "If we put together a nice Draft this year, [add] a couple nice free agents, re-do some of our guys together, then yeah, we'll be on our way. [Next year, we'll] add another Draft to that and we'll be on our way to the motto we had at Green Bay, where we don't have to go outside the house."

Lineage was a huge factor during free agent acquisitions last year because of the lockout and coaching turnover; Seattle was finding "their" guys. The potential for continuity after almost no offseason was king, pursuing certain players at key positions so their familiarity within the system would potentially trickle to other guys on the daily, instead of pursing players with higher potential and the ensuing task of transitioning/fitting a key player into a new scheme if he did not come in as a sure "fit." The organization valued creating team wide chemistry and trust (perhaps more than normal) because of the missed months.

The Seahawks used free agency to bring in Tarvaris Jackson, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, Jimmy Wilkerson and Atari Bigby; this group, each player with a tie to Schneider or a coach/coordinator, was intended to be more than 1/3 of the starting offense and a few small, potentially key pieces on defense. They took risks on players with injury histories or potential red flags in some cases, but hoped for the high ceiling to be a reality.

Wilkerson missed the entire season; only three (Jackson, Miller and Bigby) played in 15 games; Gallery continued his trend of missing at least four games in a season for the third year in a row and Rice failed to play in 10 games for the second year in a row and ended the year on IR. Admittedly, I was not optimistic Rice and Gallery could stay healthy (sorry for starting in negative town, but...I remain conflicted), cautiously optimistic about Jackson and Bigby, and actually pretty pumped by Wilkerson and Miller. In terms of their performance, I think they got a mixed return on the investment thus far (and it certainly depends on what you expected from the acquisitions in the first place), but analyzing how last year's class turned out is for another time (at least for me).

I'm curious about what's coming up for this organization, starting a month from today. We've already seen Breno Giacomini receive a two year deal (like the re-signing of on-the-rise/nasty/versatile depth here) and presumably a solid portion (my initial instinct is around half, give or take a few on either side. Confusing, yes.) of the 16 unrestricted free agents will be brought back before free agency starts. Has the potential for lineage-based signings diminished because the player pool in that regard has shrunk (though, I can't say for sure if the pool has indeed shrunk). Does a player of that ilk, such as former Tom Cable project turned dynamic H-back/fullback Marcel Reece, fit into the equation?

Where does a guy like Wilkerson, a free agent they had expectations for heading into the year, or Matt McCoy, an emerging piece that was re-signed on a one year deal for 2011 and got hurt early on, still fit? On a different but related line; how many "Moruskell" era players are retained? Does lineage/connection to the coaches/franchise still play a major role, or has that window passed and the organization decides to put more emphasis on building their house with new guys?

Take a chance on integrating the "misfit" star?

(Quick note; I perceive misfit to have multiple meanings. It's not solely referring to a player who acts out or whatever. We are going for; for whatever reason, the player doesn't fit.)

In searching for clues, an example that has intrigued me for the past year or two - because of John Schneider's association and the Packers' title run - is the signing of a disgruntled Charles Woodson to a seven year, $52.7-million dollar deal (according to Wikipedia) back in 2006. But, how it happened and the progression I find a bit interesting, culminating in his signing of an extension before the Super Bowl season:

Woodson came to Green Bay as an unrestricted free agent before the 2006 season, but he wasn't enthusiastic about the move at the time. After publicly feuding with coach Bill Callahan, then missing most of the 2005 season after breaking his leg, Woodson didn't have many other offers on the table. So he went to the Packers.

He acknowledges that he didn't have a positive perception of the town or the team coming in, but he came around eventually. ‘It was a gradual thing,' Woodson said. ‘I think probably the more people that I met around here in the community and just throughout Wisconsin and just playing here with the guys that we have and the organization and the way they are with their players and the way they take care of their players, it was a gradual process. Once I realized what I had here in Green Bay, then it was a done deal from there.'

One thing that stands out here is how Woodson talks about the organization treating players well; it's no secret the Seahawks have a first class facility and are trying to build a championship team. It stuck out to me last pre-draft season when (now a Patriot) Ryan Mallet said on the radio he walked away feeling the ambition of this organization. Brandon Browner recently spoke about how he thinks his clear communication with Carroll and belief in himself during tryouts helped earn him a chance. The smaller point I'm trying to get at here; this organization is willing to work with players to help maximize their human potential, period, and that rubs off.

Back to Woodson; John Schneider saw that play out, up close and personal. My memory has me thinking he has previously said he's willing to be a bit more aggressive than former boss Ted Thompson in free agency. When it comes down to a big signing, will the potential of the misfit outweigh the need for continuity now that we are a year further into the re-build and not dealing with the lockout?

Where's the line between not panicking and missing out on the big move that could have been?

We don't have a normal offseason to go by - offseason one was the beginning of the rebuild and last year was normal by no regards - so I personally think we are still learning the methods of how this front office attacks acquisitions.

So with that in mind; with the in house mentality being built into the culture, is this type of signing something they would even consider? In a way, it could show this organization, now in the third year of the regime, is nearing a position where the true character of their methods could become a bit more evident through the pursuit of a "touchdown" maker (or perhaps a touchdown thrower...translating to the other side of the ball, a sack artist or another elite defensive player) that doesn't have ties to the organization.

The other side of the coin says such a move by the Seahawks kind of goes against the grain. I think the clip of John Schneider talking about the need to not "panic" at quarterback, because it can set an organization back, displays this other side. My inclination is the 'don't panic' mentality is something Schneider learned from mentor Ron Wolf, as Wolf believed in full reflection and contemplation before a decision rather than rash action (to be less vague, when he re-built the Packers in the 1990's, Wolf did nothing rash in the beginning and, according to Wolf, he took heat for the slow, yet methodical process that eventually worked. He did that because it was the only way he felt comfortable doing it. And it worked. Yes, he found Brett Favre and Mike Holgmren. Anyway...). I perceive this train of thought to say panicking can be worse than doing nothing.

We saw the Seahawks bring in Jackson and create as favorable an environment as possible, lifting him into a position where he could seize and run with the leadership role; the organization knows Jackson is a competitor and from the "treating players well" perspective, has earned himself an offseason of trying to further his leadership. I think they trust he will work hard to get better.

Anyway, I'm not trying to dive into the quarterback situation specifically. I'm just using it as an example to further imply that panicking is not a preferred tenet of this organization. Whether or not they bring in a big time/potentially risky free agent like Mario Williams, Cliff Avril, a premier linebacker or a quarterback (yes, I'm proactively lumping Peyton Manning into here because, well, it adds to the fun) will depend on a number of factors. Let's not forget that Seattle was near the top in remaining cap space last year and potentially have room to make a big move, depending on what happens with re-signing their guys (Davis put together a snapshot of Seattle's current cap situation, here).

It's possible we see a confluence of talent, risk, "misfit" and unfamiliarity with the Seahawks' prize of the 2012 free agency class. Free agency could be relatively quiet, opting for veteran depth in free agency to supplement big time potential or an unexpected change - moving up (seems less likely) or down, even a few times, if the board falls poorly - in the draft. After all, we know building through the draft is a preferred method for this organization; free agency feels more supplementary, except for unique cases (Mario...Manning...cough...not Mario Manningham).

Sitting here at a month before free agency, we don't know the answers to these questions. But, they are fun to talk about and they will remain that way. How do you see the Seahawks attacking free agency?

The Draft

Anyway, I've already gone on more than I anticipated with free agency, so forewarning here; no talking your ear off going forward. But, digressing just for a quickie, because in this case I think it's necessary. One of the reasons I love this site is because of the amount of quality information that graces the front page, mostly coming from those who are simply contributing due to a love for the Seahawks. The varying perspectives and wide range of focus I think creates a pretty unique place for Seahawks and even just football fans to come to. Sure, I'm biased, but I bet I'm not the only one who feels this place is a great resource for all things Seahawks and football.

(I thought about putting "rec this article if you agree" here, but I refrained because taking credit for other peoples information or opinions is the OPPOSITE of what I'm trying to do right here. Instead, rec the comment below to give some props for the quality of draft/free agency analysis that has hit the front page in recent weeks. After all, it's the Hallmark holiday week of sharin' the love, right?)

We're shifting gears to 12 short thoughts to finish up:

--Since November (more specifically, since the Redskins game when the friend of mine who went with me asked what my #1 draft need was) I've wanted a dynamic, versatile front seven player that could create pressure and was capable against the run. I say front seven here because I'm not necessarily talking about a speed rushing defensive end or a pure pass rusher; a guy that could kick inside on passing downs, can play the run and/or drop in coverage (as we see Seattle do with their ends/tackles/rushers) is valuable to me. A penetrating, pocket pushing, solid defensive tackle could fit the bill, too. Something that matters to me here; hands up in passing lanes. (A side note: I'm curious to see where/if 2011 undrafted free agent signee Pierre Allen fits into this puzzle)

--Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw over Quinton Coples for me at this juncture.

--I've liked Kirk Cousins as a non 1st round QB to consider for a while. I'm not sure how I feel about Tannehill in the 1st round, but I like him in general and have for a while.

--Two attributes I'm looking for in regard to how this organization drafts: Length and general football savvy. K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman are examples of players from the 2011 draft that fit both profiles.

-- If a player has high football acumen, good instincts and is willing to learn, I think the organization is willing to take chances on players that may not seem to have a true role; drafting with specialization and versatility in mind, similar to Wright last year. They took him without really knowing where to put him.

--Derek Stephens spoke highly about Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David in the draft podcast series (calling him the best "traditional" outside linebacker in the draft); Nebraska coach Bo Pelini called him a coach's dream. He is a player I'm now really intrigued by. Undersized (6' plus, 225ish) but has speed, coverage ability, instincts, energy and is a sure tackler. 11.5 sacks (6, 5.5) over two years shows some consistency in his ability to attack and close on the quarterback. I've noticed he can get engulfed by lineman if he doesn't stay away from blocks, which can be an issue. More thought to be done here...he potentially fills the need for speed and athleticism at linebacker, but at what cost to his lack of size?

--Other front seven names that struck me from the podcasts (if you haven't listened yet, go do it. Great stuff. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) but I can't say to have researched much at all by myself, so more learning here too: Billy Winn, Bruce Irvin, Nick Perry, Shea McClellin, Josh Kaddu.

--Two under the radar players I'm intrigued by after initial discovery: linebacker Demario Davis and defensive lineman Chigbo Anunoby.

--Assuming we keep Lynch, I want a back complementary back to spell him; complementary not in the sense that he is opposite, rather a player that has a similar skill set (not necessarily as bruising, though) and gives the offense the capability to interchange backs without giving off a tell for the play based on formation or personnel.

--Could the Seahawks really pass on Trent Richardson if he falls? That's a tough one... (tough question to decide on right now, not implying they have to take him)

--Do the Seahawks target an Aaron Glenn type corner? Remember, Pete Carroll was the Jets DC from 1990-1993 and then Head Coach in 1994, when they took the 5'8" athlete with the 12th overall pick. Not necessarily saying at 12 here, though...any round will do. Just think, player X and Walter Thurmond inside...:)

--How aggressively does Seattle pursue offensive lineman in this draft, coming off of a "take one with your first two picks" performance in 2011? If they can re-sign Paul McQuistan and begin developing Jarriel King, there is already a lot of competition there. How much more is needed?