Re-calibrating the Seahawks offseason: Stay the course, keep not signing high-priced free agents

Something that Seahawks fans have gotten used to in recent offseasons is that the Seahawks have been in on some of the most high-profile signings and other offseason transactions.

They’ve handed high-dollar free agent contracts to Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, re-signed Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, and Max Unger, and traded for Percy Harvin in recent offseasons. And while I’d love to see them sign players like Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas to extensions, I don’t know that the team’s best option is to play the rest of the offseason out like offseasons of the past.

So far the Seahawks have cleared cap room and avoided using up a bunch of their cap room as a result of the following moves:

  • Golden Tate signed with Detroit for five years, $31.5 million ($13.25 million guaranteed)
  • Breno Giacomini signed with the New York Jets for four years, $18 million ($7 million guaranteed)
  • Brandon Browner signs with New England Patriots for three years, $17 million (guarantees unknown at the time of this writing). Browner will miss the first four games of the 2014 season.
  • Seahawks released Chris Clemons ($7.5 million cap savings). Clemons signed with Jacksonville for four years, $18 million.
  • Seahawks released Red Bryant ($5.5 million cap savings). Bryant signed with Jacksonville (four years, $19 million)
  • Seahawks released Sidney Rice ($7.3 million cap savings)
  • Seahawks restructure Zach Miller ($3 million cap savings)

The Seahawks have cleared more than $23 million in cap space, but that doesn’t mean that they need to replace the players they’ve lost with high-priced free agents signed to long-term contracts. One of the advantages that Super Bowl teams have is that they’re often able to add veterans on short terms deals – veterans with a championship at the top of their list of priorities.

The other advantage that the Seahawks have in particular, is the ability of Pete Carroll and John Schneider to find elite and above-average talent in later rounds, in the undrafted free agent market, and to poach them off of other team’s scouting reports.

Some of that advantage is likely depleting. John Schneider doesn’t have intimate knowledge of any other team’s practice squad players the way he did with Green Bay’s players for whom he held some responsibility for them being in Green Bay to begin with. Secondly, Pete Carroll has had some scouting data of incoming college players – that being experience game planning with them in the case of USC guys, and experience game planning against them in the case of some of his college opponents. Even in the UDFA market, Carroll has had something of an advantage as there have been guys that perhaps he recruited, guys with whom he already had a relationship.

Having a brilliant front office, in pretty much any sport or business, is an enormous market advantage. If the Seahawks are able to find talent where other teams aren’t, it stands to reason that they’ll be more talented than other teams. Even though the gap is closing perhaps – at no fault of the Seahawks – the PCJS tandem should remain better than most front offices, even if their temporary advantages deplete.

With this in mind, while the Seahawks have been linked to some of the NFL’s top free agents, they’re probably better off saving their money, keeping their homegrown players, collecting compensatory draft picks, and continuing to build through their scouting advantage, their potential status as a newly attractive destination for veteran free agents, and their ability to adapt coaching schemes to players, and players to coaching schemes.