Following their disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks have some important decisions to make this off-season. While there is much discussion whether star players Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner will get extensions on deals that expire in 2020, there are several players who will become free agents sooner as in this coming March. Here’s a look at the Hawks upcoming free agents as well as some thoughts on whether they will return.
Unrestricted Free Agents (Players who can sign anywhere without the signing team needing to provide Seattle compensation)
S/LB Maurice Alexander – Alexander played in nine games making 10 tackles including 5 in two games against his former team, the Rams. (Figure he had some motivation?). Alexander started 20 games over 2 years with the Rams in 2016 and 2017 so it will be interesting if he seeks an opportunity to play elsewhere compared to his role on the Seahawks exclusively on special teams.
DE Frank Clark – Clark had his most productive season as a Seahawk making 14 sacks in 16 games. He has truly developed into one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL and was also much more effective against the run making 11 tackles for loss. Clark will get a big day but even if the team is unwilling to come to a long-term agreement he’s a likely candidate for the franchise tag.
CB Justin Coleman – Coleman was a restricted free agent who came back on a one year tender and was again productive making an interception against the Lions and returning a fumble for a touchdown against the 49ers. It was Coleman’s third defensive touchdown in two years as a Seahawk earning him a big play reputation. Coleman has exclusively played nickel back for the Seahawks so it will be interesting to see how much they value him compared to other teams.
RB Mike Davis – Davis has shown himself to be a reliable player running for 514 yards and catching 34 passes last season. It’s clear the team sees Chris Carson as their feature back and Rashad Penny will get every opportunity as a 2018 1stRound pick. The team may not be willing to break the bank for a 3rddown back when they have oft-injured CJ Prosise returning and restricted free agent JD McKissick (more on him later) in the fold.
OG DJ Fluker – Fluker signed a one year deal last season and has been credited for the transformation of the Seahawks offensive line. While the 6’5”, 342 pound Fluker is clearly suited for the Seahawks run first mentality he has had mixed results as a pass blocker and has missed 15 games the past two years with various injuries. The Seahawks may want to see improved health before they commit to any type of long term deal to Fluker who is only 27.
QB Brett Hundley – The Seahawks traded a sixth round pick before the season to back up Wilson after an uninspiring competition between Austin Davis and Alex McGough in the pre-season led to both being released (McGough would later join the practice squad). Hundley was a talented player at UCLA but had mixed results filling in for Aaron Rodgers as a starter in 2017. Wilson has only missed one snap due to injury over his career (knocking on wood) so having a guy like Hundley with similar athleticism and arm strength to Wilson is valuable. Considering a fairly weak free agent QB crop and college class for the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hundley seeks opportunity elsewhere.
K Sebastian Janikowski – Janikowski was about league average this year, which is a huge upgrade for the Seahawks considering the nightmare they had with Blair Walsh in 2017. Janikowski was 3-3 on game-winning kicks but suffered an injury against Dallas in the playoffs that left the Seahawks without a kicker for the second half. Janikowski will be 41 next season so it figures Seattle will look for a younger, cheaper option.
DE Dion Jordan – Jordan was the #3 overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in a 2013 draft full of disappointments. He seemed to revive his career in Seattle making 4 sacks in 5 games in 2017 while he dealt with injuries but he was injured most of 2018 as well and his productive dipped to 1.5 sacks. It figures the Seahawks might consider a short-term deal with Jordan but they also may look for a player who is more durable knowing a player can’t rush the passer from the sidelines.
LB Mychal Kendricks – Kendricks was signed when the Seahawks had injury issues at linebacker and played well from the get go earning a sack in his first two starts. Before the season he took a plea-deal to insider trading and was released by the Browns, he was later suspended 8 games by the NFL and then promptly broke his leg against the Vikings upon returning. Kendricks is scheduled to be sentenced this month and could miss the whole or multiple seasons depending on what a judge decides. If by some miracle he is available this season, the Seahawks figure to be in a good position to bring him back considering their loyalty to him during the legal process.
DT Shamar Stephen – Stephen was signed with Tom Johnson from the Vikings to replace Sheldon Richardson but Johnson was released after week 1 and returned to Minnesota. Stephen ended up with 25 tackles and 2 sacks in 15 games for the Seahawks but the team probably missed the production they could have gotten from Johnson who produced 4.5 sacks for the Vikings in just 13 games. The Seahawks were 30thin the NFL in opposing yards per carry which suggest they may be looking to upgrade their defensive line.
OG JR Sweezy –Sweezy partnered with Duane Brown to give the Seahawks arguably their strongest left side since Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson on the 2005 Super Bowl team. Sweezy heroically played the Dallas game with a broken foot. Considering 2017 2ndround pick Ethan Pocic’s uneven play, the team will probably want Sweezy back. Sweezy has left Seattle once as a free agent for a big day with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and it didn’t work out. This time he’s a good candidate to return on a team friendly deal.
FS Earl Thomas – Once considered a cornerstone player to the franchise the team seems content to move on from their enigmatic safety. While no one can doubt Thomas resume on the field he has increasingly shared unhappiness with the team and suffered two season-ending leg injuries in the last three years. While Thomas will be remembered for giving the Seahawks the bird as he was carted off the field in his final game, the team will remember a guy who was arguably the top safety of the decade.
CB Niko Thorpe – The special team ace who made 19 tackles in 2016 earning a two year deal only made 7 in 2018. Thorpe who spent some time as a starter in 2015 with the Raiders has never developed into more than a special teamer with the Seahawks so I wouldn’t be surprised if the team seeks out a younger, cheaper option.
LB KJ Wright – On the one hand it’s obvious to see the steadying force Wright can be as he helped the Seahawks limit the Cowboys and Chiefs below their season averages on their return but it would also be silly to make a long-term commitment to a player coming off knee-surgery on the wrong side of 30.This may a situation where the Seahawks let Wright find out how much he’s worth on the open market before making a decision on him.
Restricted Free Agents (The Seahawks can match any offer another team makes to these players)
DE Branden Jackson – Jackson played probably more than the Seahawks had intended this season due to the injuries Jordan suffered. He had 10 tackles and a sack while playing 258 snaps. The team may elect to keep him for depth.
RB/WR JD McKissick – McKissick missed most of the season recovering from a broken foot. He did catch a touchdown pass in the playoff game and has shown himself to be an electric playmaker when healthy in his limited opportunities.
C Joey Hunt – Hunt has served as a spot starter in recent years at center and even played some snaps as a tight end in the Seahawks “Big Package” when George Fant was needed at tackle. He should be back.
CB Kaelen Reed – Reed has yet to play a game for the Seahawks but will probably be brought back to compete for a spot.
DE/DT Quinton Jefferson – The former 5thround pick who has bounced around spending time on the practice squad and briefly with the Rams became a starter this year breaking out with 25 tackles and 3 sacks. Jefferson plays end on run downs and sometimes moves inside to rush the QB. His production certainly outweighs his contract and he should return.
CB Akeem King – King made a name for himself on special teams and in subpackages notably matching up with Travis Kelse when the Hawks beat the Chiefs in week 16. King has bounced around practice squads but Seattle seems high on him even starting him at RCB against the Bears when Tre Flowers was banged up. He’s likely to return as Seattle seems to have created a niche for the safety/corner tweener.
OT/TE George Fant – Fant excelled as a tight end in jumbo packages and even caught a pass for nine yards. He’s an athletic big man with extensive starting experience at left tackle and a game at right tackle this season when Germain Ifedi moved to guard. Fant is someone the Seahawks seem to value (maybe more than another team would), I expect him to return.
FB Tre Madden – Madden has been a solid fullback but was notably absent for the playoff game when the Seahawks struggled to run the ball against the Cowboys. It was the 10thgame Madden has missed in the past two years. He also missed two full seasons in college at USC due to injury. The Seahawks obviously like Madden as he had made big plays in the passing game the last two years (66 yarder in a win over Houston in 2017, and a 28 yarder at Carolina this year) but he may not be durable enough for the team’s liking.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (These players cannot negotiate with another team unless the Seahawks choose not to tender them a contract.)
LB Austin Calitro – Calitro filled in at strongside linebacker for Wright and Kendricks much of the year and had 45 tackles. The former undrafted free agent showed well in the run game, but had his struggles in pass coverage. He’ll be back as proven depth.
S Shalom Luani – Luani was a mainstay on special teams and a quarter where the team played with 7 defensive backs. The team traded its seventh round pick to Oakland to acquire him so there’s a good chance he could return.
WR David Moore – Moore was really productive in October and November catching 20 passes for 374 yards and 5 touchdowns over 7 games. He faded in December catching only 4 passes over 5 games and none in the playoff game. Moore was productive in jump ball situations but needs to become a more effective receiver on intermediate routes.
LS Tyler Ott – Ott has had a successful two year run as the Seahawks long snapper. You don’t hear his name called which is a sign he’s quietly doing his job.
OG Jordan Simmons – Simmons filled in for DJ Fluker in some of Seattle’s most successful games for rushing yards and looks like he can play at this level. The question will be can he stay healthy, he had two major knee surgeries in college and his season this year ended prematurely due to another knee injury.
Other ERFA (who did not play this year) – LB Emmanuel Ellerbe, S TJ Green (retiring), DB TJ Mutcherson, OG Elijah Nkansah