After Seattle finished the 2016-17 season the same way they ended 2015-16 (with a divisional round loss to the eventual NFC Champion and Super Bowl runner-up), this year they are not standing pat, rather they are making calculated moves to reload and re-inforce their roster in hopes of a bigger and better finish in 2017-18.
Steven Hauschka’s time in Seattle is officially over, giving way to the Blair Walsh era in the Emerald City. After Walsh signed a deal in February, the assumption from many fans was that team brass was simply giving veteran place kicker Steven Hauschka a nudge to help him out of his 2016 slump. One of the NFL’s most accurate kickers from 2011-2015, Hauschka struggled with the new distance on extra points in 2016, resulting in six extra points attempts missed and four field goals, accounting for 18 points lost. After scoring just 22.1 points per game as the #18 offense in 2016, there was plenty of blame to go around and it appears the Seahawks and Hauschka will mutually benefit from new scenery and a blank slate.
Hauschka signed with the Buffalo Bills, who play their home games just one state line and a few hours west of his hometown of Needham, Massachusetts. A consistent and high quality teammate on and off the field, Hauschka appeared in all 117 games played by Seattle in his six years with the team, and along with punter and place holder Jon Ryan provided consistency and a reliability on special teams. Hauschka finishes his career in Seattle as the number two point scorer in franchise history, behind former kicker Norm Johnson.
One of the key factors in Seattle’s inconsistent offense last season was their below-average offensive line. Hoping to sign a veteran, Seattle did just that in adding Jacksonville lineman Luke Joeckel, the former number two overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. While his short career has been blasted for inconsistent play and injuries, Joeckel has the height, size, and talent to be a top lineman in the right situation and that will hopefully be the case in Seattle.
If you were among the fans hoping to see former Seattle LT Russell Okung return and provide stability to the offensive line, those hopes , after he signed a 4-year deal with the LA Chargers.
Thomas Rawls is the only proven running back on the roster, leaving Seattle with the need to add depth behind him or to bring in a veteran who can compete for the starting job. Seattle will be taking hard looks at Jamaal Charles, who has spent his entire career in Kansas City and has been a star in the league, but has had his share of injuries, and Eddie Lacy, a young and bruising runner who was drafted by Green Bay in 2013 after a standout career at Alabama. Lacy has struggled with conditioning when healthy and has missed 15 games in four seasons with the Packers. In his first two seasons Lacy posted back to back years with at least 1000 yards and nine touchdowns, but has only run for a combined 1100 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Either player could help Seattle but having one or two injury prone backs on the roster may not help much.
Two running backs who have not been linked to Seattle (but they should consider signing) are Adrian Peterson and Legarrette Blount, both of whom could be a short-term answer to the Marshawn Lynch-sized hole that has been on the roster for a year and change as Seattle has struggled to keep an explosive and healthy starter at the position.
Movement in the division:
Seattle wasn’t the only NFC West team making moves on Thursday, as the Rams look to make short work of their rebuild process. Former Bills WR Robert Woods will start catching passes in Memorial Coliseum again (this time from USC rival and former Cal QB Jared Goff) in 2017, as Woods signed a 5-year deal worth $39M. Woods had a great career in LA at USC, and could provide the Rams with a top notch talent on the outside if he can re-ignite his pro career where his collegiate career ended.
The Rams also brought much needed help to their offensive line with former Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth, a three time pro-bowler who was the rock of Cincinnati’s offensive line, appearing in 168 games with 164 starts since 2006, providing protection for pro-bowl QB’s Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton. LA still needs help on the offensive line, and will look to other free agents to assess their needs as they do not have a draft pick until #37 as a result of their trade with Tennessee in 2016.
The Cardinals are working out a new deal with pass rusher Chandler Jones, but lost star DE Calais Campbell to Jacksonville. Arizona also re-signed TE Jermaine Gresham, and brought in former San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson. The Cardinals re-signed center A.Q. Shipley and brought in veteran safety Antoine Bethea after Tony Jefferson left for Baltimore.
San Francisco has made a few moves to help new head coach Kyle Shanahan jump-start the offense, beginning with re-signing leading receiver Jeremy Kerley and cutting WR Torrey Smith, who signed with Philadelphia. The 49ers also signed WR Pierre Garcon, WR Marquise Goodwin, QB Brian Hoyer, and FB Kyle Juszczyk .
With day one of NFL Free Agency in the books and plenty of quality players still looking for new deals and new homes, there will be a crazy amount of enough movement in the next couple of days. If you are looking for your team to make a big splash and get the right players to get them back on track, stay don’t lose hope, there will be many more signings to come.