John Schneider has been here before, but never in his current situation with his current status.
The Seahawks’ first-year general manager has been to the NFL scouting combine representing four different teams and with six different job titles – including 2000, when he was director of player personnel for the Seahawks; and two separate stints with the Green Bay Packers (1993-96 and 2002-07).
But the trip to Indianapolis this week is different. First, because Schneider is now a GM. But also because so much is riding on this year’s draft for a Seahawks team that has won a total of nine games the past two seasons. The roster needs upgrading, and the Seahawks have the draft choices to take a big step toward accomplishing that with the sixth and 14th picks in the first round and No. 40 overall in the second round.
Talk about pressure. So why is Schneider smiling?
“Pressure? I don’t look at it that way,” said Schneider, who rejoined the Seahawks last month. “I look at it like every single one of these picks – or if we acquire picks, or if we move, or whatever we do – it’s basically all about just competing and getting better at every position.
“So I don’t necessarily view it as a pressure situation. We have needs, but there are good players already (on the roster) and we have a chance to add more good players to the mix. So this is fun for me. Are you kidding? We’ve got two of the first 14 picks.”
While the spotlight will be on Indy this week because of the combine, Schneider and first-year head coach Pete Carroll also have other irons in the fire as they begin to put their brand on the team.
Tag, you’re it: NFL teams have until Thursday afternoon to designate franchise and/or transition players, and give those players the accompanying tags – one-year tenders that equal to the average salary of the Top 5 (franchise) or Top 10 (transition) players at their positions.
“We’re still talking through some of that,” Schneider said when asked if the club would use a tag, or two, this year.
Free agency: The signing period begins March 5. The Seahawks were big players on the opening weekend last year, when wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and nose tackle Colin Cole signed lucrative deals.
While they might not strike as quickly – or as big – this year, Schneider views the process as just another avenue to acquire talent.
“I think the exciting thing is going to be getting into free agency and doing a couple of things that we deem appropriate and kind of help our team there,” Schneider said.
An uncapped year?: Because the current CBA is scheduled to expire, the league is possibly looking at a 2010 season without a salary cap. With all the Seahawks’ needs, there is one school of thought that this is a get-better-quick scenario.
Think again. “We’re going to be budget conscious,” Schneider said.
Smart move, because even a one-year spending spree eventually will have salary-cap ramifications.
But these other issues don’t detract from the importance of the combine, which began today and runs through Tuesday. Years of working with Ron Wolf, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Holmgren and Ted Thompson in Green Bay, Kansas City/Washington, Seattle and Green Bay, respectively, has only strengthened Schneider’s build-through-the-draft philosophy.
“You could say it’s a combination of being with all those guys, but it’s also pretty standard throughout the league,” Schneider said. “A majority of the teams realize the best way to go is to build your team through the draft.”
Which is what the combine is all about.