A case can easily made that no team in the NFL had more of an up and down season last year then the Seattle Seahawks. Starting the year 4-4 (and some would say 3-5 after the "Fail Mary" against Green Bay), rallying to finish 11-5, toppling Washington and Robert Griffin's knee in the playoffs and advancing all the way to the NFC Divisional Playoff against Atlanta, where they rallied from 20 points down after three quarters only to lose on a last second field goal. With a season like that, the offseason should be easy, right?
The Seahawks already have the keys in place at most positions. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are ready as ever, the entire offensive line returns, and nine of eleven defensive starters are under contract.
Priority #1: Retain Kam Chancellor and Golden Tate
Seattle comes into the offseason $13 million under the cap, though general manager John Schneider is not expected to go on any spending sprees. Retaining Tate and Chancellor would seem to be the highest item on the to-do list. Both Tate and Chancellor will be unrestricted free agents after this season, and locking them up early would clear early distractions, especially with how many of their current crop of starters are already locked up. Tate is the team's second leading receiver, and their most reliable possession threat with Sidney Rice as the speed option. Tate finished with 45 receptions for 688 yards and seven scores in his first full season. Chancellor locked down the strong safety spot, and has formed one of the best safety tandems with Earl Thomas. Getting both players a contract extension will be a high priority. Thomas may also be in the running for a new deal, as he becomes a restricted free agent after 2013.
Priority #2: Decide the fate of Alan Branch and Leroy Hill
The two defensive starters that are free agents are each enigmas in their own way. Branch has never really lived up to his potential as a high second round pick out of Michigan. Hill was a force at linebacker when the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl, but his production has fallen off recently, with injuries accounting for some of that decline. Neither Jaye Howard or Clinton McDonald look ready to take over for Branch, so he seems the most likely to return. Hill may be retained for a lower amount then he would probably like, and will likely test free agent waters. If he does, a veteran like Will Witherspoon or Larry Foote would be a good fit at his spot.
Priority #3: Decide the fate of Matt Flynn
Flynn really has had a bizarre year. One moment he was one of the most sought after quarterbacks after a sensational performance in the 2011 season finale and suddenly the face of a playoff team in the Seattle Seahawks, the next he was sitting on the bench the entire season watching Russell Wilson attempt to become the next Randall Cunningham. While he would count $4 million towards the cap if he left, he would count $7.5 million if he stayed, and that is money that Schneider likely does not want to spend on a backup quarterback. Finding Flynn a new home for the same value as the Seahawks gave up when they signed him will not be easy, if at all possible, but moving Flynn would free up valuable cap space to help give an extension to stalwarts like Russell Okung.