The wait for football appears to be over, with players on Monday reportedly scheduled to vote in favor of accepting a proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement approved by owners last week.
The Seahawks could begin talking to their own free agents about contracts and sign undrafted rookie free agents on Wednesday, and then go after other players around the league once free agency officially opens, tentatively scheduled for Saturday.
Seahawks’ players currently under contract can report to the team’s facility for voluntary workouts on Wednesday, with training camp scheduled to begin at week’s end, giving Seattle a little less than two weeks to prepare for its first preseason game, a nationally televised contest at San Diego on Aug. 11.
“We’ve had a good amount of time to spend on early opponents in our schedule,” Carroll said about the compressed time schedule. “And we’ve had a great opportunity to orchestrate a camp that’s going to meet up to the criteria based on the time we haven’t had. And hopefully we do a masterful job once we get a chance to start coaching our guys up.”
After making nearly 300 roster moves last year, don’t expect as much turnover this season, as Carroll and Schneider begin to settle on a solid nucleus of young players they hope will eventually lead them to consistently compete for NFL West division titles and Super Bowls.
However, unlike last year, the Seahawks are primed to make a big splash in free agency. Seattle pursued Brandon Marshall, but lost out to the Dolphins. Instead, they picked up an impact player in the reclamation of Mike Williams, and through trade with the New York Jets (Leon Washington), Philadelphia (Chris Clemons) and Buffalo (Marshawn Lynch).
This year, Seattle has some money to spend in free agency, with ESPN reporting the Seahawks are $39 million under the proposed salary cap of $120.4 million for the 2011 season.
The Seahawks also could create even more cap space by restructuring the contracts of veterans who have not performed up to the level of salary they are scheduled to make this season, including linebacker Lofa Tatupu, cornerback Marcus Trufant and linebacker Aaron Curry.
Positions Seattle will look to address in free agency include quarterback, defensive tackle, offensive line, fullback and tight end.
Of course, what happens with veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will be the most prominent storyline this week.
The Seahawks offered the veteran quarterback what they consider a fair contract before the lockout began in March, but Hasselbeck chose not accept the deal in order to see what better offers he can get on the open market. Once free agency begins next week, Seattle’s offer might not still be on the table. Hasselbeck, 35, reportedly has interest from Tennessee and Minnesota.
Seattle would like to bring back soon-to-be free agent defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Other potential players the Seahawks could target once free agency begins include Minnesota receiver Sidney Rice and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, Oakland offensive guard Robert Gallery and Denver tight end Daniel Graham.
We take a closer look at some of those free agent targets here.
Justin Bannan, DL, Denver Broncos
The skinny: At 6-3, 310 pounds, Bannan started 16 games at left defensive end for the Broncos in their 3-4 defensive scheme last season, finishing with 35 tackles, a sack and four pass deflections. Denver released Bannan, 32, in March after he refused to take a pay cut. He likely would serve as depth behind Red Bryant at defensive end for Seattle, but also could slide inside and play defensive tackle if Brandon Mebane does not return. Bannan reportedly was on Seattle’s radar last year.
Tyson Clabo, OL, Atlanta Falcons
The skinny: Undrafted out of Wake Forest, the fifth-year pro made the Pro Bowl last year, developing into a productive right tackle for the Falcons’ run-oriented offensive attack. But the Seahawks already have a right tackle, right? They drafted James Carpenter in the first round, and Carroll said he’ll start there this season. True, but Clabo, at 6-6, 331 pounds, played right guard his first year in Atlanta for guess who – that ‘s right, Tom Cable when he served as offensive line coach for the Falcon’s during Jim Mora’s tenure. So Clabo, 29, could serve as Seattle’s left guard and mentor for young line learning Cable’s version of the zone blocking scheme. Or he could play right tackle and the Seahawks could move the versatile Carpenter to the left guard, giving the Seahawks the dominant run-blocking tandem they covet.
Barry Cofield, DT, New York Giants
The skinny: If Brandon Mebane leaves in free agency, then the Seahawks could target Cofield. At 6-4, 306 pounds, the 27-year-old had four sacks in 16 starts last year and could provide more pass rush inside for Seattle. Cofield is durable; a five-year starter for the Giants who has missed only one game in his career due to injury.
Aubrayo Franklin, DT, San Francisco 49ers
The skinny: The Seahawks could swap defensive tackles with San Francisco, with Brandon Mebane winding up with the 49ers and Franklin headed to the Emerald City in free agency. Franklin, 30, is credited with helping to keep dynamic linebacker Patrick Willis clean so he can make plays sideline to sideline. And with Seahawks front office executive Scot McCloughan in Seattle – San Francisco’s vice president of football operations when the 49ers traded for Franklin with Baltimore in 2007 – the Seahawks will know Franklin well.
Robert Gallery, OG, Oakland Raiders
The skinny: The 31-year-old is widely considered headed to Seattle because of his relationship with former Oakland head coach and current Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable. Drafted second overall by the Raiders in 2004, Gallery was expected to play left tackle, but never panned out there and moved inside to guard, becoming one of the better guards in the league. He started 91 games for the Raiders. Gallery could provide some veteran leadership for a young offensive line, filling a vacant spot at left guard next to Russell Okung.
Daniel Graham, TE, Denver Broncos
The skinny: Graham, 32, gives Seattle a blocking tight end to replace Chris Baker, who was released in March. Graham has ties to Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable. Graham played for Cable when he served as offensive line coach at the University of Colorado. Seattle could get some competition from St. Louis, with former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels now the offensive coordinator for the Rams.
Santonio Holmes, WR New York Jets
The skinny: I know it’s a reach because the Jets want him back and Washington will go at him hard, but the speedy Holmes would be the perfect complement to Mike Williams with his ability to stretch the field. One thing working against Holmes is the fact he was suspended for the first four games of last season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Another infraction would trigger a season-long suspension for Holmes.
Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Minnesota Vikings
The skinny: After backing up Brett Favre for two seasons, Jackson is looking for another chance to start, and could get that opportunity in Seattle. The 28-year-old already knows Seattle’s offense because of his time with Seattle’s offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Minnesota, and could come in and compete for the starting job with Charlie Whitehurst if Matt Hasselbeck does not return. Jackson is one of the quarterbacks Seattle will target in free agency.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
The skinny: Widely considered the top quarterback option on the market, the Seahawks would have to give up at least a first round pick as compensation through a trade with Philadelphia for Kolb’s services, along with pay him a lucrative contract. Arizona is the likely destination for the 26-year-old.
Vonta Leach, FB, Houston Texans
The skinny: The skinny: At 6-foot, 255 pounds, Leach served as the lead blocker for 2010 NFL rushing champion Arian Foster. Considered one of the best fullbacks in the league, Leach, 29, said the Seahawks a possible landing spot if he does not return to Houston.
Matt Leinart, QB, Houston Texans
The skinny: Leinart, 28, is looking for another opportunity to earn a starting job. After a year spent in Houston as the team’s third-string quarterback licking his wounds from a disastrous stint in Arizona, Carroll could give him a second chance in Seattle.
Deuce Lutui, OG, Arizona Cardinals
The skinny: Carroll is familiar with Lutui from his playing days for the Trojans, and could be a decent fall-back option is Seattle does not sign Gallery. Lutui, 28, has battled weight issues, but is a good run blocker with a nasty streak.
Ray McDonald, DE, San Francisco 49ers
The skinny: McDonald has served as a backup defensive lineman used as a pass rush specialist for San Francisco, but is looking for an opportunity to start in free agency. He would likely be a reserve again for Seattle. At 6-foot-3, 290, McDonald could be insurance for Seattle in case Red Bryant struggles in his return from a knee injury that cut short his 2010 season.
Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings
The skinny: The 24-year-old would give Seattle the home-run threat they covet offensively, pairing with Mike Williams to create one of the biggest receiver tandems in the league. At 6-4, 202 pounds, Rice’s recent hip injury could be a concern, but the Seahawks are targeting him in free agency, and having former Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in Seattle should help.