Here’s the list of unrestricted free agents as it stands right now. After signing QB Matt Hasselbeck and LT Walter Jones and franchising RB Shaun Alexander, the Seattle Seahawks have at least two major free agent decisions to make. Within their own stead, two of their biggest defensive difference-makers in 2004 are now on the open market – and for a defense that ranked 26th in the NFL, that can’t be a good thing. New Team President Tim Ruskell, returning negotiating consultant Mike Reinfeldt and the rest of the key players involved had better get ready for a few sleepless nights as they try to retain their own impact players, restructure a few deals, and maybe…just maybe…have enough left in the kitty to reach out to a linebacker or two.
Tie ‘Em Up – Now!
CB Ken Lucas
Tied for the NFC lead in interceptions with six, had 21 passes defensed, and provided veteran leadership in a young and potentially explosive secondary. The market for elite cornerbacks has been growing exponentially of late, and it will require all of Reinfeldt’s considerable acumen to get this one done. The Seahawks have an advantage in that Lucas is a bit under the radar, as well as the fact that other marquee CBs (Ty Law, Fred Smoot, Samari Rolle) are also available at least for the moment, slightly lessening the odds that Lucas will see a ridiculous offer that the Seahawks simply cannot match. If they retain him, the team has one of the best young secondaries in the NFL. If they let him walk? A major shift in their personnel thought process must ensue, as talent like his is not easy to replace.
DE Chike Okeafor
The Seahawks’ pass rush has hovered around mediocre for many years – over the last two seasons, the one reliable force has been Okeafor. Acquired as a free agent before the 2003 season, he has led the team in sacks both of his years in Seahawk blue. He’s not Jevon Kearse, but the Seahawks couldn't afford Jevon Kearse if he was available - they already bought Grant Wistrom!. Okeafor is, however, a quality DE whose productivity could be further enhanced by an entire season of a healthy Wistrom as his bookend.
C Robbie Tobeck
Tobeck is a savvy veteran center that the Seahawks need. Great at line calls, a total team player, and a unifying force in the locker room. The team has woeful depth at the position, so look for Tobeck to re-up – and look for a center pick in the draft as well.
OL Floyd Womack
With Walter Jones finally signed to a long-term deal and Jones' training camp holdouts a thing of the past, Womack can turn his attention to the interior offensive line from the word go. Lots of potential here, and finally a good shot at a reliable starting spot on the right side - most likely at guard.
OG Chris Gray
Gray is a decent guard, but he may be forced out if Womack takes the starting position. Could be a taker for a vet-minimum backup deal.
TE Itula Mili
The eternal maturation process of Jerramy Stevens continued through 2004, and once again, Mili was the Seahawks’ only reliable tight end. He didn’t make any friends with his pre-camp holdout last year, and Mike Holmgren’s strange patience with physically gifted young men who happen to have personal issues may be a factor here - advantage, Stevens. With Stevens and Ryan Hannam in the mix. Mili might be allowed to price himself out of town.
WR Alex Bannister
Injured for most of 2004, but a special teams Pro Bowler in 2003. Seattle ’s special teams were an exercise in frustration last year. Doing the math would lead one to assume that Bannister will receive a competitive offer from the Seahawks.
MLB Orlando Huff
Niko Koutouvides has the inside track on the starting MLB spot in 2005 (pending any draft/free agency changes in the atmosphere), but the Seahawks’ depth at linebacker is a very scary thing right now. Huff will likely be asked back for that reason alone.
FB Heath Evans
Recent reports have Evans’ agent calling the Seahawks with regularity regarding the continuation of a Seahawk career which has been distinctive in its lack of distinction. Reports also have the Seahawks happening to mention that there are bigger fish to fry at this time.
DL Brandon Mitchell
Mitchell can play end and tackle, and he might be doing so again for the Seahawks. Hasn’t done much in the past though…38 tackles and five sacks in his three years in Seattle tend to put him at the low end of the urgency list.
QB Brock Huard, P Tom Rouen and P Ken Walter will not likely be asked back.
Stay tuned to Seahawks.NET for free agency developments as they happen!