The Seahawks and the 2013 NFL Free Agent Bargain Basement …Thrift Store Shopping with the Hawks
We’ve talked at length thus far about many of the top/elite level free agents that we’d like to see the Seahawks go after (Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker, Michael Bennett, Henry Melton, etc) … but the truth is there is only so much money to spend. Part of the problem with many of the names that have been mentioned thus far is that they’ll either be pricey (as they’ll be drawing a lot of interest from other teams) or there is a high likelihood that those guys will receive the Franchise Tag. And while the Seahawks do have some $18.6 Million in Salary Cap Space, they will also have many of their own free agents to think about coming up here over the next couple of years (i.e. Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, etc.).
But Seattle obviously does want to improve in several key areas this offseason, namely (in no particular order) …
1) A back-up QB (if Matt Flynn gets traded as expected).
2) A Wide Receiver who can stretch the field and put opposing defensive backs on their heels.
3) Another pass catching Tight End to compliment Zach Miller.
4) An Outside Linebacker to upgrade Leroy Hill’s spot.
5) Defensive End/Tackle(s) to upgrade the pass rush and improve the run defense.
6) Another Cornerback who can play the Nickel spot.
Are there decent options out there in Free Agency that wouldn’t bust the piggy bank? Let’s go thrift store shopping and take a look at a few possible alternatives to some of the high priced ones that some have suggested …Quarterbacks …
Quarterback is an area that I’d honestly look for the Seahawks to address through the draft. That said, there are a couple of names who could potentially draw interest … QB – Tavaris Jackson (6’2” 225 Pounds)
Yes, the back-up QB of the future for your Seattle Seahawks could very well be their starter of the past. Jackson (who turns 30 in April) believe it or not, could potentially be a decent option for the Seahawks as a backup quarterback IF they end up trading Matt Flynn this offseason. In fact, he may very well be the best option available out there in free agency. We know that Jackson is extremely familiar with the bulk of Darrell Bevell’s offense … and that he has the utmost respect of many of the players on this Seahawks team already (playing with a torn pectoral muscle will tend to do that). We know that he’s got a strong arm, that he’s mobile, and that he is a reasonably accurate passer. The market for Jackson isn’t exactly going to be hot and heavy, so he’s not going to be expensive. As a back-up, the Seahawks could do a lot worse.QB – Matt Moore (6’3” 216 Pounds)
(Will turn 29 in August) is the only other QB out there in free agency who I would argue could make some sense for this team. The former Oregon State Beaver has got excellent arm strength and can make all the NFL throws. He has a quick delivery and doesn’t tend to make bad decisions in where he throws the ball. When things are going well for him, he is a good overall quarterback. The problem comes when he’s pressured, in that he doesn’t pick up the blitz well and that he can get rattled. He also has a tendency at times to lock in on his primary receiver, which has lead to interceptions in the past. He made $2.75 Million last season, so is fairly reasonably priced. The Dolphins would love to have him back next season, but with the emergence of Ryan Tannehill as the undisputed starter, he could very well want the chance to start somewhere else. If he doesn’t end up with a team like the Jets or the Jaguars, perhaps the Seahawks could come in to play if he lingers out there in Free Agency. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends …
Turning our attention to Wide Receivers, the Seahawks appear to be really in need of a guy with speed – someone who has an ability to get deep, who will make opposing DB’s back off because they need to respect that speed, and who will in turn make the other receivers around them better because of it. The names that have been thrown around the most thus far have been Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, and Dwayne Bowe. Are there other names out there that could interest the Hawks? Here are a couple of intriguing options that won’t be as expensive as those guys …WR – Brian Hartline (6’2” 199 Pounds)
(who turns 27 years old in November) is a guy that I would contend that the Seahawks should do their due diligence on. We’ve talked about the fact that Seattle really would like to have a guy who can be that deep threat for him, and Hartline could be a receiver who fits that bill. Though he only runs a 4.52, he is a guy who can get deep on you. The former Ohio State wide receiver was a real key to the Buckeye’s National Championship in 2008. During his Junior Year and final season at OSU, he showed himself to be a deep threat to be reckoned with, averaging 22.8 yards/catch. Hartline didn’t exactly tear up the league in Miami prior to this year (because until last year he had no one to really get him the ball) … but he showed that when given a competent quarterback he can make plays. He clearly demonstrated that he is a downfield threat this year, as Hartline finished the year with … 74 receptions, 1,083 Yards (14.6 Yards/Catch) … and 14 Catches that went for 20 Yards or more. Hartline made only $1.3 Million in 2012 with the Dolphins, so is certainly in line to make more in 2013. The question the Dolphins are facing right now is whether or not to franchise tag him … but in the end, I don’t believe they will. The Dolphins are $35.8 Million under the Salary Cap right now, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with him. Hartline checks in at #47 on NFLTradeRumors.com’s list of the Top 100 Free Agents.WR – Kevin Ogletree (6’1” 198 Pounds)
(who will turn 26 in August) is another potentially low-cost guy whom I believe could intrigue Seattle for what they’d been looking for. We’ve talked about how the Seahawks really need speed … and coming out of the draft he was a receiver who certainly had that. Ogletree’s had been clocked at 4.36 in the 40 … and he’d actually been recorded as fast as 4.30 – so this is a guy who can run. Russ Lande noted
at the time he was drafted that he had good hands, excellent concentration, and made tough catches … but also was a bit raw and that his routes weren’t sharp, that he had a tendency to drop passes, and that he was a bit inconsistent in his blocking. He is the only receiver in Virginia history to have two 50 catch seasons, so he’s certainly got talent. It’s interesting to note that his tendency to drop passes seems to have really disappeared, as he dropped only 3 out of 35 catchable passes this year (a 91.4% catch rate, which ranked 2nd among Cowboys receivers last year). Ogletree averaged 13.6 Yards/Catch during the regular season for the Cowboys, but lost playing time as the year went along to Dwayne Harris. He made $615,000 last season with Dallas and his return is fairly doubtful. Could this be a potential diamond in the rough?
As far as Tight Ends are concerned, players like Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook will get the bulk of the attention this offseason, there are another couple of lower cost guys who may interest Seattle … TE – Fred Davis (6’4” 247 Pounds)
is a name that has been mentioned by some out there as a possibility for Seattle. As a former USC product, the Pete Carroll connection will naturally get drawn, but from a raw physical tools standpoint, he could really interest the Seahawks. Davis won the Mackey Award (given to the nation’s top Tight End) back in 2007 – the first USC TE ever to win the award. He has good hands, excellent quickness, is a precise route runner, and is a decent blocker to boot. Davis was lost for the season after Week 7 after he tore his Achilles Tendon in the Redskins loss to the Giants on October 21st. Prior to his injury however, Davis was an integral part of the Redskins Offense, being targeted 31 times before he got hurt. He caught 24 passes, averaging 13.5 Yards/Catch and had 4 of those catches go for 20 yards or more. In 2011, Davis caught 59 passes for 796 yards (again averaging 13.5 Yards/Catch). Due to his injury, I believe this is a guy who probably won’t command the big dollars. At only 27 years of age … Davis could turn out to be a real steal for someone if he proves he’s healthy. TE—Brandon Myers (6’3” 256 Pounds)
is another name that I believe Seahawks fans should file away in the back of their minds as a low cost/potential basement bargain. Myers was the Raiders leading receiver this past season, catching 79 balls for 806 yards, including 9 passes that went for 20 or more yards. Myers checks in at #78 on TradeRumors.com’s Top 100 Free Agents
for a reason – he’s shown he can obviously play. The former Iowa Buckeye has good size, average speed for a tight end (4.75 in the 40), good hands, and is an excellent blocker. As it stands right now, the Raiders are $4.5 Million OVER the Salary Cap, so might have some difficulty retaining him. The salary cap number for tight ends for this next year is slated to be around $4.8 Million, so it’s possible the Raiders could fit him in for next year after they clear out some salaries. They DO want him back, but the question is, “Is Myers really worth that kind of money?” With other teams being more focused on some of the bigger names, Myers is a guy who could honestly slide in under the radar and shouldn’t cost a ton. Could he be just like Miller and follow Cable to Seattle? At just 27 years of age, he could potentially be a real FA steal.
Turning our attention to the defensive side of the ball, there are several names that I believe COULD really interest the Hawks. Let’s take a look at some of the conceivable options that might not necessarily drain the pocket book … Linebackers …
Outside linebacker is one area that I’d look for the Hawks to make a real concerted effort to upgrade. One reason that teams really found success moving the football in those short to middle zones (and found it increasingly easier to run the ball) as the season moved along was because Leroy Hill simply doesn’t have the speed and quickness he used to have anymore. I actually believe that this is area that the Seahawks will most likely look to address through the Draft. For the purpose of this piece however, I’ll focus on Free Agent Targets.
If he actually pops free, OLB – Paul Kruger (6’4” 265 Pounds)
would be a very attractive option for a Seahawks team looking to improve its pass rush and run defense. In fact, I’d actually go so far as saying he’d be the #1 Seahawks target. However, the buzz surrounding the Ravens is that Kruger will likely draw the franchise tag if the Ravens can get a deal done with Joe Flacco. Kruger wants to stay with the Ravens, so it’s probably unlikely that he ends up somewhere else. The Ravens spent big money invested in Terrell Suggs, so they may not want to go there with Kruger. They also face a decision over what to do with Dannell Ellerbe (who is also a free agent), so there may not ultimately be enough cookies to go around in Baltimore. Still, given the fact that Kruger wants to stay and the level of interest elsewhere, I’m doubting he ends up in Seattle. OLB – Anthony Spencer (6’3” 250 Pounds)
is another LB who the Seahawks could look in to. After recording 11.0 Sacks and 7 Tackles for Loss last season, it’s very easy to target him as someone of interest. Given that the Cowboys are currently $18.2 Million OVER the Salary Cap, it’s going to be hard for them to franchise him again, as the franchise tender for outside linebackers was $8.8 million in 2012 … and is slated to be higher this season. Given that he played in a 3-4 Defense and that he’s going to draw the interest of a lot of teams, so certainly won’t come cheap. He made $8,856,000 last year and certainly stands to make around that number in 2013 as well.
So, are there OLB options out there in Free Agency who could help the Seahawks that won’t cost a mint? I’ll suggest a couple … OLB – Antwan Barnes (6’1” 251 Pounds)
is one guy who might possibly fly under the radar that I’d be very interested in if I’m Seattle. The value of an Antwan Barnes will probably be a bit lower than it should be, as he had just 3 Sacks and 9 Tackles in 11 games and ended the season on Injured Reserve with a hamstring issue. In 2011 though, Barnes was among the NFL’s leaders in Sacks (11.0). Coming out of Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference, Barnes was incredibly productive, with 15.5 Sacks and 38 Tackles for Loss in just 2 years of college. Like Bruce Irvin, he has been very much a situational pass rusher – so for a team like the Hawks who seemingly couldn’t buy a sack, he could be a potentially attractive commodity. He turns 29 in October, so if Pete gives him the typical Rah-Rah, he just might dance to that tune for pennies on the dollar. OLB – Phillip Wheeler (6’2” 240 Pounds)
is another Raider free agent to keep an eye on given their Cap Status. He led the Raiders last year in tackles (109) and had 6 passes defensed last year playing Strong Side Linebacker (though he can play any of the 3 positions). At 28 years of age, he may not command the kind of dollars in free agency that some of the top guys might get. Coming out of Georgia Tech, he was considered to be one of the top blitzing linebackers in the country. In 3 years of college, he recorded 19.5 Sacks and 35 Tackles for Loss. He hasn’t done that in the pros yet though, as prior to this year he had recorded a mere 2 Sacks in 4 years with the Colts. I’m the Seahawks, and he at all lingers out there in Free Agency, he’s one that I pick up the phone and call his agent on.Defensive Linemen …
Now on to what most of us would agree is perhaps the Seahawks greatest need – improving the Front Four. As the season wore on, it became increasingly easier for opposing teams to run the ball against this defense and Seahawks sacks became rarer than platinum. If we’re talking premium pick-ups, guys like Henry Melton, Michael Bennett, and Michael Johnson are the crown jewels that the Seahawks (and a ton of other teams) are going to be looking at in Free Agency. All 3 of those players are realistic candidates to be Franchise Tagged or else could command more than the GNP’s of some small countries if they do come available.
Is there a way that the Hawks could look to pump up this Front Four without either getting suspended for PED’s or ending up in the poor house like Randolph and Mortimer from Trading Places
? Here are a few names I would suggest … DE – Osi Umenyiora (6’3” 255 Pounds)
– OK, this is someone we’ve talked about quite a bit already … but I listed him here because he’s one who looks like he could be had at a bargain rate. Umenyiora only had 6 Sacks and 3 Tackles for Loss, leading some out there to wonder whether or not we’ll ever see the same level of production from him again. Umenyiora’s numbers were affected a bit this year by the fact that he missed 4 games due to sprained ankle. He’s had 2 operations in his knee in the past 5 years, so that in and of itself could keep some away. Still, history says that physical specimens like him continue to be productive even until their late 30s (Reggie White posted 16 Sacks at age 37). So if I’m the Hawks, Umenyiora’s agent is definitely one I’m getting on the horn with come the start of Free Agency. DE – Dwight Freeney (6’1” 268 Pounds)
is another name that has been bandied about by some as a possibility for the Hawks. Honestly, I’d say that it’s an option that should be considered. Some will look at Freeney and say that for a player that turns 33 in February, he’s far from an ideal fit here in Seattle. After all, his numbers in 2012 took a real nose dive from where they were at just a year prior. Regarding Freeney, one factor that I would argue should be considered is the fact that Chuck Pagano moved him to Outside Linebacker in the Colts 3-4 scheme this season. That’s a position that Freeney isn’t all that accustomed to playing. I could definitely see those numbers rebounding in Seattle if he finds himself once again as a rush end. Given his age, his lack of productivity this past year, the crop of linemen that will be available in free agency, and what looks to be a strong draft for defensive linemen, I highly doubt he’s going to be making the big bucks next season.DE – William Hayes (6’3” 272 Pounds)
is a name that I threw out there a few days ago who really intrigues me. Hayes was originally drafted in the 4th Round by the Titans back in 2008 ... was signed by the Rams this past offseason to a 1 year deal ... and responded by having a career year with the Rams (7.0 Sacks and 7 Tackles for Loss). He is once again a UFA. For a DE, he has good size (6'3" 272 Pounds) and extremely impressive speed for a big man (he's been clocked at 4.59 in the 40). He's 27 years old (will turn 28 in May) and one reason that he's never really broken out prior to this year is that he's played 2nd fiddle to some fairly talented DE's (like Jason Babin and Jevon Kearse) -- i.e. he's had a lot of competition for playing time. Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus ran an article back in June
in which he called Hayes a "secret superstar", so I'm not the only one high on William Hayes. Hayes’s forte has always been against the run and PFF ranked him the 9th Best DE in the league in terms of stopping it. Obviously he added to his resume last year when given more playing time. Hayes only made $900,000 last season, so if John Schneider is truly looking for bargain basement options (which he undoubtedly is) ... I submit that he is an excellent candidate (to put in the rotation) that probably won't break the bank.DT – Desmond Bryant (6’6” 311 Pounds)
(who turns 28 in December) is another stealth bomber who could go undetected by many. After Richard Seymour went down with a season ending injury, Bryant took over as the starter for the last 8 games of the Raiders season. He had 0 sacks through Week 13 … but finished the season with 4.0 Sacks and 6 Tackles for Loss. Although he went undrafted in the 2009 Draft, this highly intelligent Harvard graduate appears to know what he’s doing, as he’s developing in to a solid pass rusher and run defender. He made $1.927 Million last season, and stands to improve upon that as the Raiders view his re-signing as a priority this offseason. As stated above though, that could be easier said than done, as the Raiders are currently $4.5 Million over the Salary Cap. Given the perpetual disarray of the organization, a team like the Seahawks could be a more attractive alternative for him. DT -- Vance Walker (6’2” 304 Pounds)
is another young Defensive Tackle (he turns 26 in April) who could be deserving of an extended look by the Seahawks. In a part time role with the Falcons (he played on 51.9% of their defensive snaps this year), Walker notched 3.0 Sacks and 2 Tackles for Loss. Those numbers don’t exactly going to set the world on fire, but Walker was considered an unsung hero
and a fairly integral part of the Falcons defense this year. In fact, head coach Mike Smith went so far as to call Walker the Falcons “most productive defensive tackle in terms of pass rush statistically.”
Walker’s job this season was to do the dirty work of taking up space by occupying more than one blocker – a job that he did very well this year. At Georgia Tech, Walker was considered an extremely good run stuffer and he demonstrated an ability to consistently get in to opposing backfields to disrupt and put pressure on the quarterback. He made $1.26 Million in the last year of his rookie deal and will certainly draw some interest from other clubs. Though the Falcons want him back, they will have other priorities in free agency like re-signing Strong Safety William Moore and Left Tackle Sam Baker. Walker could be just the kind of young defensive tackle that the Hawks might want to swoop in and carry back to their nest … and it realistically shouldn’t cost a wing and a talon to do it.Cornerbacks …
We’ve talked about it all season long – the Seahawks are in need of a corner who can come in and lock down the Nickel Corner spot. Luckily, with the way Free Agency looks to be shaping up, there could be a potential bumper crop to choose from. The franchise tag number for cornerbacks this year is expected to be quite high -- roughly $10.5 million in 2013. That, coupled with the number of free agents who will be out looking for jobs … and the prospects available in this year’s NFL Draft (Rob Rang says this is a deceptively deep draft for DB’s) could conceivably water down the market. Many Seahawks fans have been all atwitter over the past couple of days with word surfacing out of New York that the Jets are willing to listen to offers for All-Pro CB Derrell Revis. Though many Hawk fans would wet their pants over the prospect of such an addition, I’d submit that could have disastrous consequences for Seattle. Not only could Revis’s brash personality be an issue with prima donnas like Richard Sherman, but the $9 Million he’s owed next season would surely have Sherman and Browner holding out their hands for the brass (or should I say gold) ring once their turn at Free Agency comes around.
On the premium side, corners like Sean Smith (6’2” 215 pounds)
could be an attractive commodity … but it’s almost a certainty that the Dolphins will Franchise him. Others like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6’2” 182 Pounds)
, Aqib Talib (6’1” 205 Pounds)
, and Chris Houston (5’11” 178 Pounds)
could certainly draw the interest of the Hawks.
BUT, there are 3 other names that I’d like to suggest as less expensive alternatives – all 3 of which have experience at the Nickel Corner spot and have done a good job there …CB – Derek Cox (6’1” 195 Pounds)
– if you’re talking about guys who could be looked at as being diamonds in the rough, I’d submit to you that Derek Cox of the Jaguars is the very definition of that. Cox, who turns 27 in September, had 60 Tackles, 4 Interceptions, and 11 Passes Defensed for the Jags in 2012. Now why that may not sound all that impressive, given the team that he plays on – that most certainly is. In 2011, ProFootball Focus had Cox ranked as the 21st Best Corner in the game. Cox has good size, overall speed (4.47, but has run as fast as 4.38), and the quickness that you’d like for a corner. He’s a physical corner who really attacks receivers and is very good in run support (so much so that there was conversation about moving him to safety at the time he was drafted). Cox checks in at #57 on NFLTradeRumors.com’s list of 100 Best Free Agents.
Jacksonville has $22.1 Million in available Cap Space, so there is a strong possibility Gus Bradley may want to let him go. That said, this Jacksonville team is bad and they may not end up employing the Franchise Tag in the end. Why? Because though he’s their best defensive player, he may not be worth $10.5 Million/year. You see Cox has a bad case of Walter Thurmond Syndrome, as he’s missed 17 games over the past 3 years. That, in and of itself, will keep his overall cost on the open market down should he get there. If he hits Free Agency, he’s a name I’m checking in on if I’m John Schneider.CB -- Bradley Fletcher (6’1” 200 Pounds)
Fletcher, who turned 26 in June, is a free agent who could really fly low under the radar and be a real coup for someone. He had 8 Passes Defensed last season with the Rams … and though he was regarded by many as perhaps the best corner on the team next to Janoris Jenkins … he received less playing time as last season wore on. NFL Trade Rumors.com
has him listed at #81 on their Top 100 FA List … and most certainly he should be – he’s got talent. Fletcher is a guy who going in to the 2009 NFL Draft was considered to be a real sleeper – someone who was considered to be one of the fastest risers shooting up draft boards. In fact, he was considered by some to have been the best corner at the East-West Shrine game that year. The former Iowa star is a very physical cornerback and a very hard worker (in fact, he earned the team Hustle Award his last 2 years at Iowa). He has excellent speed for a corner (4.46), leaping ability (his 38.5 inch vertical was 3rd best among corner prospects that year), quickness, and coverage skills. Fletcher regularly makes plays on the ball when he’s in there and has the stuff to be a shutdown corner. So if he’s all that and a bag of chips, what gives with the reduced playing time and why would the Rams want to let him go? Well, because in 2011 he appeared in just 4 games after tearing up his ACL (for the 2nd time in 3 seasons). There were rumors that the reason the Rams dropped him down to 4th on the depth chart was because they were looking to trade him – because he was an impending free agent and they wanted to get value for him. Now that he is, he’s a name that I’m certainly checking in on if I’m Seattle, as he could be a true basement bargain.CB -- Cary Williams (6’1” 190 Pounds)
is a name that Seahawks fans should file away in their memory banks for the start of Free Agency. Cary Williams is certainly an intriguing name and one who shouldn’t break the bank (even if Williams himself may want that). Williams had 17 Passes Defensed (among the league leaders) and 4 Interceptions in 2012 and was a real reason that the Ravens secondary tied the Seahawks for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed (15). Though he’s not a shutdown corner by any means, he is an excellent nickel cornerback who has shown the ability to keep up with smaller, shiftier WR’s. Williams hasn’t utilized a lot of bump and run and doesn’t exactly set the world on fire with his run support. NFL TradeRumors.com
has Williams listed at #67 on their Top 100 FA List. Cary Williams supposedly turned down a 3 Year/$15 million deal from the Ravens prior to the start of the 2012 season. That could turn out to be a mistake on his part, because I’m not sure he’s going to get that kind of money on the open market. Williams turns 29 in December and corners don’t typically get markedly better with age. He made $1.927 Million in 2012 with the Ravens last year and I don’t believe he’s going to make much more than that, as other teams are going to be pointing towards those weaknesses. Though the Ravens want him back, they have other priorities (i.e Flacco, Kruger, and Ellersbe), so probably will let him walk and test the market. Williams may not be an ideal fit for the Seahawks, but he could be an interesting option if he lingers out there in free agency. I’d consider him more of an outside shot … but one they’ll do their due diligence on.
Just a few lower cost options to keep in mind as we edge ever closer to free agency.