The Seahawks have 18 unrestricted free agents to consider re-signing or letting walk once the NFL's league year ends and free agency begins, and several restricted and exclusive rights free agents as well. Several of them are key players. Several of them are leaders. Several of them you've probably never heard of. Let's take a look at who they are, and whether or not they should be, and possibly will be, priorities for the Seahawks. Tip of the Cap to the readers of Field Gulls for putting this list together and discussing as well, make sure you head over there to join in.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
1. Kennard Cox, CB
2. Clinton McDonald, DT
An Exclusive Rights Free Agent is an 'NFL player who is not under contract, but has only two years of NFL experience. If his former club makes him an offer at the three year veteran minimum salary, then that's it, he has to take it or leave the NFL. These guys have no right to negotiate with other teams. They are "free" only in the sense that they're free to quit.'
Kennard Cox is a special teams ace whose one and only role is for just that - special teams. He was brought back to the team after being initially released, but after the Seahawks surrendered several big special teams returns, most notably at San Francisco to Ted Ginn Jr., he was brought back. That said, I think it will be a similar situation for him next year, and he'll likely have to beat out higher-upside players like Ron Parker and Byron Maxwell to retain his spot on the 53-man roster.
Should he be re-signed? Yes. A lot depends wholly on the development of the above-mentioned corners Parker and Maxwell and their ability to play that role. Will he be re-signed? Yes, but I doubt he will make the final 53-man roster.
Clinton McDonald was acquired for Kelly Jennings at the start of last season, and played a pretty large role in the defensive line rotation for Seattle this season. He's 24, and has a lot of upside. Simply put, he will be retained, as he should.
Restricted Free Agents
1. Roy Lewis, CB
2. Stephen Hauschka, PK
Restricted free agents may negotiate with other teams, but the Seahawks have the right to match any offers. Roy Lewis is a former UDFA out of Washington that is the primary nickelback for the Seahawks. He'll often replace an OLB in passing downs, and he acquitted himself well enough in that role this season. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Seahawks let him walk. Seattle has a stable of young, athletic and physical cornerbacks and with the eventual return of Walter Thurmond, Lewis becomes somewhat expendable. The exciting potential of Maxwell, Parker, Philip Adams, and most likely a draft pick or undrafted free agent next season means Lewis will have to play extremely well in camp to retain his job, if he re-signs.
Stephen Hauschka will likely be retained after connecting for 25 of 30 field goals this season. He's a solid kicker with some upside and he's still only 26.
Unrestricted Free Agents
1. Charlie Whitehurst, QB --
2. Marshawn Lynch, RB --
3. Justin Forsett, RB --
4. Michael Robinson, RB --
5. John Carlson, TE --
6. Breno Giacomini, T --
7. Mike Gibson, G --
8. Paul McQuistan, G/T --
9. Raheem Brock, DE --
10. Red Bryant, DE --
11. Jimmy Wilkerson, DE --
12. Anthony Hargrove, DE/DT --
13. David Hawthorne, LB --
14. Leroy Hill, LB --
15. Heath Farwell, LB --
16. David Vobora, LB --
17. Matt McCoy, LB --
18. Atari Bigby, S --
That leaves the 18 unrestricted free agents currently on Seattle's roster. Let's run through them.
Charlie Whitehurst may return, but gone is the idea that he's a potential quarterback of the future for this franchise. If he is re-signed, he'll take a modest contract with the idea that he'll be a designated backup. That said, I don't think he'll be back and I don't think the Seahawks should bring him back. I believe they'll Draft a QB or sign another young Free Agent with some upside, or both, and that Whitehurst will not have a spot on the team.
Marshawn Lynch earned himself some money this season by rushing for over 1000 yards and scoring 12 rushing touchdowns. He's the MVP of the Seahawks offense and is the cornerstone on which they built it this season. I believe the Seahawks should re-sign Lynch, and I think they will.
Justin Forsett had a rough season, and despite the fact he's a respected leader in the locker room, I don't think he should or will be back. I believe the Seahawks will look to continue to get younger, and Forsett's lack of upside will make him expendable. I could see Seattle drafting a RB in the mid-rounds to take his spot, or possibly picking up a young free agent.
Michael Robinson will be back. He loves it here, he's beloved by his teammates, and he doesn't seem like the type of guy to bolt for a little more money. The Seahawks will give him a modest contract, but fullbacks don't make a lot of money in the first place. Robinson has a place on this team and is a big part of the offense, and the team will reward him for his service the past two years.
John Carlson is definitely the wild-card. The Seahawks still proclaim that they have high hopes for the Zach Miller - John Carlson 2TE tandem in their offense and frankly, I believe them. I think that the two of them both provide legitimate dual-threat looks and would give offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell something very versatile to work with. That said, Carlson is likely able to start on another team so it may come down to how much he likes it in Seattle, and whether he can stand sitting behind Zach Miller. The Seahawks will try to hard-sell the "Gronk-Hernandez" combination or something along those lines but ultimately won't give him big money. I would love to see the Seahawks re-sign Carlson but I just don't know if it's in the cards. As of now, I don't see it happening.
Breno Giacomini played well as a backup right tackle in the early part of the season and held his own as starter when James Carpenter went down. I believe the Seahawks will look to re-sign him, and I think they'll get it done.
Mike Gibson was brought back as depth and as a backup center to Max Unger at the end of the season, after John Moffitt and James Carpenter went down. I doubt the Hawks will resign him, instead opting to rely on Lemuel Jeanpierre as depth at C and looking to develop or possibly draft another guard.
Paul McQuistan will likely be back. He's versatile, hard-working, and played at three positions along the offensive line this season. The Seahawks should, and will, re-sign him to a modest veteran contract. He'll stick with the team that believed in him.
Raheem Brock will probably not be back. He's not getting any younger, and the Seahawks will look to develop their young defensive ends in Dexter Davis and Jameson Konz. It's believed they'll look to draft a DE this season as well, possibly early. I figure that Brock's days are numbered here, but I've been wrong before.
Jimmy Wilkerson. I have no idea. He impressed in camp and apparently the Seahawks had big plans for him. He was on the injured reserve all season and he's also not getting any younger at 31. Again, I really have no idea if Wilkerson will be back. I kind of doubt it, but that's just a wild guess.
Anthony Hargrove provided a nice spark in the defensive line rotation for the Seahawks this year and is a leader in the locker room. I could see the Hawks giving him another year or two, but that's about it.
David Hawthorne will likely be re-signed. He's a leader, both statistically and in the locker room, and will likely come relatively cheap. I could see him giving the Seahawks a 'hometown discount' as well. He'll likely be back, but the Seahawks will need to start looking toward the future at MLB regardless.
LeRoy Hill is another huge question mark. He started for the Seahawks all year and played well. He's a veteran, and will likely too come cheap. I imagine the Hawks would look to sign him to a one, two year deal max so it's probably a case of how much he is looking to get paid. My guess is he'll leave.
Finishing up with some special teams contributors - Heath Farwell will be back. He's made some huge plays on special teams and the Seahawks front office takes this aspect of the game very seriously. David Vobora and Matt McCoy are probably mutually exclusive - if McCoy is willing to stay on a cheap veteran contract he'll probably have the advantage over Vobora but I could see both competing next season on one-year deals.
Atari Bigby will likely not be back, though I wouldn't mind him on another one-year deal. I figure the team will makes way for the development of Jeron Johnson, Chris Maragos, and Philip Adams. I could see the team drafting a young strong safety in the mid-rounds this year and likely pick up a UDFA or two at the position as well.
Well, that's my take. It will be very interesting to see which Seahawks' free agents the team brings back for next year.