Free Agency Update for 3/14

The big news so far today is that tight end John Carlson will not be returning to Seattle.  Instead, he has signed a 5 year, $25 million contract with the Vikings, which makes sense for him given he’s originally from Minnesota.  Carlson had the misfortune of becoming a Seahawk in 2008, the year the finely-tuned team that Mike Holmgren had coached to the playoffs for five straight seasons finally collapsed.  He became the team’s only reliable pass catcher that season, and in 2009 turned in another solid performance.  His stats dipped somewhat in 2010 after other legitimate receiving options became available to the quarterback, but he excelled in other areas.  His blocking improved noticeably that year, for instance (it had been a weak point in his first two seasons), and he finally got to play in his first playoff game in which he helped the Seahawks upset the Saints by getting wide open in the endzone for two touchdown receptions.

Carlson’s reliability isn’t a physical thing — that is, he didn’t dominate coverages with uncommon size, speed, strength, or jumping ability.  All he really does is run his routes textbook-perfect and be precisely where the quarterback expects him to be at all times.  That probably doesn’t sound like much, but Carlson’s talent for reading a playbook and doing exactly what is drawn up on the page each and every time the play is run is a surprisingly (and depressingly) rare thing to find in a receiver.  Carlson’s exactness became a liability in situations where the coverage or defensive scheme made altering his route on the fly to bail out his quarterback more important than running the correct route, but more often than not his precision was an asset rather than an impediment.

On a happier note, QB Matt Flynn will be arriving in Seattle on Thursday and is scheduled to stay through at least part of Friday as well.  That gives Carroll and Schneider two days to put on a full-court press sales pitch.  The extra day is significant; given enough time, those two could probably talk Pat Robertson into converting to Islam if they thought it’d help make the Seahawks a better team.  The Dolphins are also interested in signing him, but at the moment they still believe they have an outside shot at landing Peyton Manning (they really don’t after trading Brandon Marshall) so at the moment Flynn is more a backup plan to them than a priority, which means Seattle has a window of opportunity here to snap him up before they come to their senses.

Finally, I have no idea how to react to this one: according to Mike Sando, Steve Hutchinson is meeting with the Seahawks today.  As I’m sure most of you remember, Hutchinson and the Vikings conspired on a poison pill contract back in 2006 in a move that both screwed the Seahawks and rendered the NFL’s transition tag completely useless (I don’t believe it’s ever been used since then).  Back then, he was one of the best guards in the league, but now he’s got 11 years of wear and tear and has clearly lost some of his dominating speed and strength in the last couple seasons.  At best, he’d be a backup plan in case John Moffitt’s knee injury ends up keeping him sidelined for the early part of the regular season.

Like yesterday, I’ll update this post with any Seahawks-related free agent news that rolls in today.

UPDATE (3:32): DL Jason Jones is leaving St. Louis without signing a contract and is on his way to visit the Seahawks.  Jones would likely compete immediately with Alan Branch for the starting 3-tech spot and also has some ability to rush the passer off the edge as a defensive end.

UPDATE (4:07): OL Mike Gibson has signed a two year contract with the Eagles.  Gibson was reasonably decent as a backup who could play both guard and center, but Seattle’s coaching staff did not seem terribly impressed with him.  He was cut prior to the beginning of the year, and only brought back late in the season as an injury replacement.

Also, MLB David Hawthorne apparently has a meeting scheduled with the Saints.  The Seahawks likely want to re-sign Hawthorne, but only if the price is right, and New Orleans is desperate to upgrade their talent on defense.

UPDATE (5:10): Both the Tacoma News-Tribune and ESPN radio are reporting that the Seahawks are interested in having LB Curtis Lofton come in for a visit.  In four seasons with the Falcons, Lofton has been a tackling machine, notching 100+ tackles in three of those seasons, including 147 in 2011.  He seems to have great football instincts and was a team captain in Atlanta, but the team appears to have concerns about his coverage abilities, and their recent signing of Lofa Tatupu made him expendable.  Lofton is only 25, so he’s got plenty of years left in him, but the Seahawks should not overpay for his services.

UPDATE (5:25): It seems turnabout is fair play.  Now that Seahawks free agent John Carlson has signed with the Vikings, it looks like Vikings free agent TE Visanthe Shiancoe will be visiting the Seahawks within the next few days.  Shiancoe turns 32 in June and has 9 NFL seasons already under his belt, but he only suffered minimal wear and tear in his first four seasons as a backup for the Giants behind Jeremy Shockey.  For the past 5 seasons he’s been one of the Vikings’ most reliable receiving threats, and his blocking is solid as well.  He likely only has a few good years left in him, but even so he’s a better option at tight end than Anthony McCoy.  Besides, he’s already well acquainted with OC Darrell Bevell’s offense, and Bevell clearly understood how to use him in their time together in Minnesota.

UPDATE (5:41): This will probably break your hearts, but alas, Chad Henne has signed with the Jaguars and will not be visiting the Seahawks.  I know, the Seahawks are in desperate need of a QB who’s been beaten gunshy behind a porous o-line and couldn’t be less accurate on deep passes if he was wearing a blindfold, but the team is just going to have to look elsewhere for that kind of talent.  Y’know, like at the nearest sports bar or something.

UPDATE (6:49): In a surprise move, the Seahawks just released guard Robert Gallery.  Gallery was brought in last year on a 3 year, $15 million contract to be a stabilizing veteran presence on a relatively inexperienced starting offensive line and because he was familiar with new o-line coach Tom Cable’s zone blocking scheme.  Gallery missed four games early last season, but returned to the lineup in week seven and became one of the more reliable blockers on the team.  This move does free up an additional $4.6 million of cap space, but the Seahawks were already nearly $28 million under the salary cap for 2012, so financial concerns were likely not the motivating factor here.  If anything, Gallery’s release could very well mean that they’re planning on signing Steve Hutchinson to take his place.

Also, OL Paul McQuistan has agreed to a new contract with the Seahawks.  McQuistan, who along with Gallery followed Tom Cable to Seattle from Oakland, started off 2011 as a backup, but he ended up starting ten games as an injury replacement.  As a guard his play was underwhelming at best, but his play improved significantly when he was asked to step in at left tackle after Russell Okung was placed on IR late in the season.

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