The Seahawks season came to an end earlier than expected last Sunday, losing on the road in the divisional round in the playoffs to the Carolina Panthers by a score of 31-24. Heading into the offseason, there are more questions than answers, and the Seahawks will likely have a very different looking team next year. With $30 million in salary cap space and 17 unrestricted free agents, let’s look at who might be in, and who might be out.
Marshawn Lynch: While not a free agent, the overwhelming consensus seems to be that Sunday was Lynch’s last game in a Seahawks uniform. Whether he retires or looks elsewhere is yet to be seen, but the likelihood of Seattle keeping Lynch at his current salary is small. Lynch is due $9 million in base salary next year, and has a $2.5 million signing bonus on top of that, brining his total cap number to $11.5 million. That is simply too much for a 30-year-old running back who missed 6 games this season due to injury. If Lynch was willing to take a pay cut, there is a chance Seattle would keep him. However, given his dissatisfaction in the past, I wouldn’t bet on Beastmode being around next year, and releasing him will free up $6.5 million in cap space for the Hawks. It’s been a great run, but it’s time to move on.
Bruce Irvin: This one is tough. Irvin has bounced around roles on this defense a little bit, but he has succeeded everywhere the coaching staff has put him. Recently Irvin said he would be willing to take a little bit less money in order to stay here in Seattle. The amount he would settle for has yet to be determined, and will be something to keep an eye on this offseason. Still, there is a good chance that Irvin can command more on the open market than Seattle can reasonably afford to pay him.
Jermaine Kearse: I struggled a little with this one. Kearse falls somewhere in between “Likely out,” and “maybe out.” A Washington native, Kearse has played in this state his entire life. If he stays, it would actually be a hometown discount. If Seattle can keep Kearse for $3.5-$4 million per year, then I think they would try and do that. However, like Irvin, Kearse can probably command more than that from another team.
Maybe In, Maybe Out
Jimmy Graham: Now you may be thinking, “AJ, what the hell are you talking about? We JUST traded for Graham!” And you aren’t wrong, but hear me out. Graham has a salary cap hit of $9 million next year, none of which is guaranteed. That’s an awful lot of money for a guy who didn’t fully live up to expectations and is coming off of a major knee surgery. I think Seattle holds onto Graham, but this is something to keep an eye on.
Russell Okung: Okung’s career has been plagued by injuries. When healthy, he is one of the better tackles in the game. However he has missed so much time that Seattle may look to find another option. Okung is coming off of his rookie deal and is in line to get a significant pay bump, but his injuries may prevent him from getting top dollar, allowing the Seahawks to potentially keep him.
J.R. Sweezy: Sweezy is one of Tom Cable’s (Seattle’s offensive line coach) greatest success stories. Sweezy was defensive lineman at North Caroline State that Cable converted to offensive guard. Sweezy is a proven starter, and having success on a team that reached back-to-back super bowls will certainly drive up his value. If I had to choose between Okung and Sweezy, I think I’d choose Sweezy. Seattle has a tendency to patch together an offensive line, so I wont be surprised if either of those two aren’t around next year.
Jeremy Lane: Lane has proven himself an effective corner both in the slot and outside positions. Though he only played in a handful of games in 2015, his impact was certainly felt. Having made just $660,000 last year, he is another guy in line for a significant bump. If Seattle can get him somewhere in the $4 million range, I think they pull the trigger.
Ahtyba Rubin: Rubin had an absolutely stellar year for the Seahawks. Though he didn’t always show up on the state line, his hustle and ability to clog running lanes was certainly noticed by his coaches and teammates.
Brandon Mebane: This one is a bit uncertain, but my gut tells me that Mebane will be back. I have no evidence to support this what so ever, but the guy has been with the team forever. However, him staying depends on his willingness to take something close to the veteran minimum salary, which given his age is something he will likely consider.
This offseason could see a lot of moving parts and pieces. Kam Chancellor held out for the first two games last season, so he will certainly be trying to renegotiate his deal again. Doug Baldwin is in a contract year and is coming off of his best season, hauling in 78 passes for 1,069 yards and set a franchise record with 14 touchdown receptions. Michael Bennett could be inline to get a contract extension too. He voiced his desire for more money this last offseason, but reported to training camp anyway. Bennett’s play on the field should be enough to get him a new contract.
Who Seattle extends or releases will have major implications on the list above. Get your popcorn ready everyone, it’s going to be a wild ride.
A northwest native, AJ is a returning college student finishing his journalism degree. He loves everything Seattle sports, and plans to carry that enthusiasm into the sports section of the Spectator this year.