The Seahawks’ emphasis in free agency always has been to take care of their players first.
The way the disappointing and injury-ravaged 2008 season played out, it appears the top priority again will be dealing with the Seahawks who are eligible to become unrestricted free agents.
Leroy Hill tops the list, even though the talented outside linebacker missed the final four games after suffering a stinger in the Thanksgiving loss in Dallas. It sounds as if Hill anticipates testing the free-agent market, though the Seahawks can prevent that by using their franchise or transition tag on him.
“I expect it to be fun. It will be an experience for me,” Hill said Monday, as the players were cleaning out their lockers after Sunday’s 13-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals that slapped one last exclamation point of frustration on a 4-12 season.
“I just hope to be here. But if I’m not, I’d love to thank Seattle. I loved playing in Seattle. We’ll see what happens.”
The list, however, does not stop with Hill, and injuries to other players only increased the value of some of the Seahawks’ free agents-to-be.
D.D. Lewis, the team’s top backup at all three linebacking positions, also will be a free agent. So will offensive linemen Floyd Womack and Ray Willis, backups who started 14 and 10 games, respectively.
Each said they would like to re-sign with the Seahawks, but each also realizes they have “starter talent” and would like to be compensated accordingly.
Then there’s Maurice Morris, who was the team’s featured back down the stretch, rushing for 247 yards and a 4.2-yard average in the final three games — as Julius Jones, one of last offseason’s big free-agent additions and this year’s leading rusher, was left on the sideline.
Also up is fullback Leonard Weaver, whose overall game flourished in his first full season as the starter.
“I’m expecting to be back, in a sense,” Weaver said. “But at the same time, the free-agency market is out there and you’ve got to test the water and see what kind of opportunities might present themselves.
“But I’m hoping I’ll be here. I’ve expressed that to the front office — that I would love to be here for the rest of my career. It’s a matter of how things work out and what presents itself.”
Club president Tim Ruskell has been unavailable for comment since early in the season, and the team would not even verify its list of potential free agents.
Rocky Bernard, a mainstay on the defensive line the past three seasons, also wants to return. But he also had off-field problems in the offseason, potentially putting him at odds with Ruskell’s emphasis on stockpiling players of high character.
“This is the team that drafted me, I’ve been here for seven years, so I would like to be here,” Bernard said. “But with the way things go in the NFL, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Especially when the coach who drafted you — Mike Holmgren — is leaving.
“I would like to finish my career in Seattle,” Bernard said. “But there’s so much change that’s going to go on. We’ll have to sit down and really just see what’s going to happen.”