The Seahawks took the first steps into the brave new world of NFL free agency Thursday by tendering offers to four restricted free agents – offensive linemen Chris Spencer and Rob Sims, defensive end Darryl Tapp and wide receiver Ben Obomanu.
Spencer was a first-round draft choice in 2005, while Tapp (second round), Sims (fourth) and Obomanu (seventh) were members of the 2006 draft class. Each would have been an unrestricted free agent under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that has expired, giving them the option to sign with any team.
As restricted free agents, they were tendered at the level that gives the Seahawks the option of matching any offer sheet they sign with another team or receiving draft choice compensation equal to the round in which they were selected from the team that signs them.
The tender for Spencer is $1.226 million, because he was a 2005 draft choice; while the tenders for the other three were $1.176 million, because they were in the ’06 draft class.
A tender also was made to linebacker David Hawthorne, an exclusive-rights free agent who led the team in tackles last season. He is not eligible to sign an offer sheet with another team.
Two players were not tendered: offensive lineman Brandon Frye, who started three games at left tackle in 2009 but then missed the remainder of the season because of a neck and shoulder injury; and linebacker Lance Laury, who was a special teams co-captain the past two seasons.
Last week, the Seahawks used their franchise tag on kicker Olindo Mare.
Spencer has started 54 games in the past four seasons, including 12 at center and two at right guard in 2009. Sims was a starter at left guard in 2007, missed most of 2008 with a shoulder injury and then started 14 games at left guard last season. Where and how they fit in the zone-blocking scheme being implemented by offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and offensive line coach Alex Gibbs remains to be seen.
“Alex is very specific in the needs of playing his style,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He knows exactly what he has had in the past and what it takes. … So our mindset has shifted in the kinds of guys to tailor to that.”
Tapp has been a starter and also worked in the rotation at defensive end the past three seasons, collecting seven sacks in 2007, 5½ in 2008 and 2½ last season. Carroll has talked about possibly using Tapp in the role of an “elephant” pass rusher. Obomanu had a career-best 15 receptions last year and also finished second on the club with 12 special teams tackles.
As with Spencer and Sims, the coaches will get a better idea of how Tapp and Obomanu fit this season during a pre-draft minicamp and OTA sessions.
“Sitting back and looking at kind of the board game of it, and figuring out the spots we’d like to fill, we can only go on what we know right now,” Carroll said. “Once we get to our workout – we’ll have a minicamp before the draft with our guys – that will give us a better sense of where we are.”
The free-agent signing period begins Friday. First-year general manager John Schneider has said that while the team will not go on a spending spree even with the uncapped year, there are a few things he’d like to accomplish.
“Nobody really has a true feel for where the market is going to go on both sides – what the players are going to be looking for and what team expenses are going to be,” Schneider said. “I think it’s like this big feeling-out process.”
But, as Carroll pointed out, there is parity in the process.
“We’re all in the same boat,” he said. “Nobody has an advantage over anybody else. But there are a lot of unknowns.”
The Seahawks, however, know one thing when it comes to Spencer, Sims, Tapp and Obomanu – if they lose them, it will be their decision and they will be compensated.