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Seattle Seahawks free agency primer

After narrowly missing back-to-back Super Bowl titles, the Seattle Seahawks enter a critical offseason looking to add depth and solidify themselves as NFC favorites once again in 2015.

This year’s draft will be particularly crucial for Seattle, as the team needs an infusion of young talent ready to contribute soon to replace any potential free agent losses in the next couple of years. Free agency hasn’t been as important in the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era and the team has to be careful with money, but the Seahawks still have a few things to accomplish in that area.

The Seahawks are projected to have over $22 million in cap room according to Sportrac.com, despite giving out some big extensions recently. That means the front office will have some room for re-signings and additions, even with Russell Wilson‘s massive contract looming.

Extension Candidates

The most interesting thing to watch in Seattle this offseason will be Marshawn Lynch‘s contract situation. Multiple reports surfaced last week stating that the Seahawks would like to extend Lynch’s contract, with Pete Carroll saying the team “has been in the midst of negotiations for a long time.”

At this point, nothing with Lynch would be surprising. The Seahawks could give him an extension, try to have him play out his current contract, or he even could retire without causing much of a shock. Given how well Lynch played in 2014 and the money the Seahawks have, it seems unlikely that they will just unload him to save $7 million against the cap, as was rumored early last year.

As well as Lynch is still playing, it’s hard to imagine this front office giving a 29-year-old running back a five or six-year deal. Most of Seattle’s big contracts are backloaded, so a shorter deal with something approaching $10 million per year might make sense.

The Seahawks can also start negotiations for extensions with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, both of whom will be among the highest paid players at their respective positions. Seattle won’t let either of them come anywhere close to free agency, so expect those deals to get done well before the season starts.

Other players who can be extended for the first time this offseason include Bruce Irvin, Robert Turbin, Jeremy Lane and J.R. Sweezy. While all are important parts of Seattle’s team, they are the types of players who could eventually be lost in free agency due to cap concerns. Sweezy is the most likely to be extended of the four.

Restricted free agents

The following Seattle players are restricted free agents, meaning the Seahawks could tender them, match any offer for them or receive a draft pick as compensation:

Jermaine Kearse, WR; Bryan Walters, WR; Mike Morgan, OLB; Greg Scruggs, DE; Stephen Schilling, G.

It seems likely that Seattle will try to keep Kearse, at least for the short-term. Kearse is more suited for a No. 3 role, but he’s been a solid contributor for the past two years and will still have a place even if the Seahawks heavily address wide receiver in the draft.

Morgan has also played well, particularly on special teams, and could be brought back at a reasonable price. The other three restricted free agents are unlikely to be offered.

Scruggs could be an interesting player, but has been held back by injuries early in his career. The Seahawks will likely turn to the draft to add some depth to the defensive line.

Unrestricted free agents

The following Seattle players are unrestricted free agents:

Tarvaris Jackson, QB; Will Tukuafu, FB; Anthony McCoy, TE; Tony Moeaki, TE; Lemuel Jeanpierre, C; Byron Maxwell, CB; Kevin Williams, DT; O’Brien Schofield, DE; Demarcus Dobbs, DE; D’Anthony Smith, DT; Malcolm Smith, OLB; Heath Farwell, MLB; Jeron Johnson, S; Clint Gresham, LS.

The most interesting and important decision is going to come with Maxwell. He’s Seattle’s only unrestricted free agent that can’t be replaced adequately, but is also going to earn $7-8 million per year in free agency and keeping him might require a cap casualty.

One potential player who might be that cap casualty is James Carpenter. Guard is surely a priority in the draft, the Seahawks have a decent backup in Alvin Bailey and Carpenter hasn’t played well enough to warrant him sticking around for the long-term.

The Seahawks are set to lose some pieces on the defensive line, hence why it will be one of the positions of need in the draft. Seattle will likely look for more production than Schofield offered at the LEO position and someone younger than the 34-year-old Williams at defensive tackle.

Johnson has been a solid backup and will probably move on for a chance to start somewhere. Smith, the Super Bowl XLVIII MVP, has fallen out of the rotation and is unlikely to be retained.

Photo credit: Scott Eklund / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.
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