If these five predictions for 2017 NFL Free Agency came true, the Seattle Seahawks would be significantly closer to keeping their championship window open.
After falling two rounds short of the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks have some work to do. It became apparent throughout the 2016 campaign that a few glaring holes exist in their roster. Thankfully, 2017 NFL free agency will provide an opportunity for the team to fill said holes.
With that being said, there will be some hurdles to overcome. The Seahawks aren’t expected to have a ton of cap space to work with when the new league year begins on March 9. According to Spotrac.com, Seattle only has about $27 million to work with this offseason.
Some moves could be made in the next month to open up some room under the cap. The opportunities, however, are limited with a short list of potential cap casualties available on the current roster. Still, I’m sure GM John Schneider will find a way to make things work.
So what can we expect from the Seahawks in the coming months? Even without a ton of spending power, I’d expect them to make some big moves to solidify their status as a contender in 2017.
With that in mind, here are five moves I’m predicting the Seahawks will make as part of the 2017 NFL Free Agency festivities.
Right now, the Seahawks need cornerback help. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily have a ton of cap space to make numerous big moves this offseason. Seeing as its not their biggest position of need, they’ll likely have to settle with signing an under-the-radar option. Enter D.J. Hayden, a former first-round pick who flamed out with the Oakland Raiders.
After the Raiders made him the No. 12 overall pick in 2013, Hayden has done little more than disappoint. A regular liability in coverage, the Houston product struggled to keep opposing receivers at bay when he wasn’t battling injuries. That wasn’t often, as he finished two seasons on Injured Reserve and played all 16 games in only one.
Still, there’s some upside remaining in the young cornerback. At the start of the 2016 campaign, he played his best football and wasn’t half bad. Unfortunately, his game unraveled as the season went along before he eventually succumbed to a hamstring injury.
Maybe a change of scenery could get his career back on track. Expectations were always so high in Oakland, especially after the Raiders reached to nab him in the first half of Day 1. In Seattle, though, he could settle into a backup role with the potential to excel alongside a stronger supporting case.
I know—not the boldest of predictions, right? The signing of Blair Walsh on Thursday (via ESPN’s Field Yates) essentially signaled the end of Steven Hauschka’s time with the Seahawks. Still, it’s a noteworthy move nonetheless.
Last season, Hauschka was one of the better kickers in the NFL. Although he missed an unnecessary amount of extra points (six), he converted on 89.2 percent of his field goals. He’s always been fairly reliable for the Seahawks, and continues to be one of the most accurate kickers in the league (outside of PATs).
That, however, may be why Seattle is willing to let him walk. Hauschka already made $2.85 million in 2016, and may very well ask for more this offseason. With the Seahawks a little light on cap space, it’s understandable for them to be hesitant to spend big bucks on a kicker.
I’m not entirely sure they’ll be happy with Walsh, though. The former Minnesota Viking has one of the NFL’s strongest legs, but seems to crumble under pressure and is wildly inconsistent. The Seahawks know that all too well after watching him shank a game-winning gimme during the 2015 playoffs. It won’t be easy letting Hauschka walk. However, it’s essentially a financial move for the Seahawks. They likely just aren’t willing to pay the price he’s put on himself.
Heading into 2017, the Seahawks could use some added depth and pass-rushing ability along the defensive line. More specifically, an interior rusher seems like something Seattle could target this offseason.
One guy who I believe will be an underrated add for whichever team signs him is Karl Klug. The Titans’ utility defensive lineman has spent the last few years making a big (albeit understated) impact for the Tennesee defensive front.
Now, Klug is no star. Again, the Seahawks don’t necessarily have a ton of cap space to spend this offseason. Plus, I’m saving what space they do have for another signing to be mentioned later. Still, Seattle would be getting plenty of value with the addition of Klug.
It is worth mentioning Klug torn his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2016 campaign. Chances are he won’t sign until he’s proved he’s back to full health. However, once that happens, I’d imagine several teams will be interested in bringing aboard his well-rounded talents. I mean, it’s no secret he can make an impact on every down, even if the stats aren’t stellar.
This assumes Klug actually leaves Tennessee. He re-signed with them after his first trip to free agency in 2015. If the Seahawks are patient, though, I would guess they can sway him to part ways with the Titans and head west.
As I’ve mentioned a number of times already, the Seahawks have a cap issue to address this offseason. As a result, plenty of folks have speculated on the future of Jimmy Graham in regards to said cap issue.
One of the possible routes to take would be to simply release Graham, which would save the Seahawks $10 million in cap space. Obviously that wouldn’t be ideal, especially after he put together a bounce-back season in 2016. Also, Pete Carroll alluded to his return shortly after Seattle’s departure from the playoffs (via ESPN).
The second option would be to let him play out this season at his current $10 million cap hit. This would be a wait-and-see tactic, especially considering how injury-prone Graham has been at times. That approach also comes with some risk, though, especially if he escapes via free agency or has a huge season and demands even more money.
The final option is to extend his contract now. That gives them the option to lock him down past 2017 while spreading his $10 million cap hit out a bit. In that situation, the Seahawks get some long-term stability at tight end will giving themselves some breathing room this offseason.
My guess is they go with the latter option. It’s the best move for the present and future, assuming Graham can stay healthy and keep performing at an elite level.
Their cap situation may be limiting, but the Seahawks do have enough room to make at least one splash. Seeing how dire the need is for offensive line help, it only makes sense to make that aforementioned splash along the front five.
One of the top talents scheduled to be available this offseason is Andrew Whitworth. The Bengals’ outstanding blindside blocker is coming off another monstrous season. Although he’s no spring chicken at 35 years old, the 2016 campaign proved he can still play at an elite level.
Whitworth is open to re-signing with the Bengals, and his agent allegedly opened discussions with Cincinnati this past week (via Bengals.com). However, the team has had a knack for letting their top free agents walk in recent years. If talks don’t go as planned, Whitworth could easily hit the open market on March 9.
If that’s the case, the Seahawks need to swing for the fences. They simply can’t afford to allow their starting tackle duo to consist of George Fant and Garry Gilliam. Adding Whitworth to the equation would an immeasurable upgrade for Russell Wilson’s protection. The veteran tackle would undoubtedly also be a huge asset for Thomas Rawls and the running game.
One way or another, the Seahawks need to revamp their offensive line in 2017. If Whitworth is actually available when free agency begins, signing him would be a great start. And still, it would only be checking off one of many boxes on Seattle’s offseason to-do list.