Wherever Matt Hasselbeck plays football next season will not have any influence over how the Seattle Seahawks address the quarterback position in the NFL draft next week.
Further, whatever moves the team makes in the draft or free agency, reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst – the only quarterback currently on the team’s roster – will get an opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2011.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider delivered those two revelations and others during a conversation with reporters at the team’s headquarters Monday.
The 35-year-old Hasselbeck will be a free agent once the league and the players settle their labor dispute. The veteran quarterback and Seattle reportedly remain far apart in negotiations. However, Hasselbeck still reportedly wants to return to Seattle, and he believes that the Seahawks are sincere in efforts to re-sign him.
“We’ll be looking for a quarterback every single year,” Schneider said. “I’ve been blessed to be around some pretty talented people, and it’s just a philosophy of you can never have enough of those guys.”
Schneider was in Green Bay when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers at No. 24 overall in 2005, while legendary quarterback Brett Favre was in his prime. That move paid off when Rodgers led Green Bay to a Super Bowl victory this year.
As for Seattle’s only quarterback on the roster – Whitehurst – Schneider said the 28-year-old Clemson product will get an opportunity to compete for the starting job, regardless of who arrives via the draft or free agency.
Whitehurst was so-so in limited playing time in his first season with Seattle. But with the playoffs on the line, Whitehurst helped lead Seattle to a 16-6 win over St. Louis in the final game of the regular season, clinching the NFC West title.
“Charlie won the biggest game of the season for us,” Schneider said. “And with absolutely no disrespect to (Matt) Hasselbeck, that was the first week it was Charlie’s game.
“Charlie went into the other games with Matt’s plan. This was a plan for Charlie. And quite frankly the Rams were playing pretty good at that point. And he took care of the ball and played well.
“Did he have his struggles during the season? Sure. I mean he hasn’t played a lot of regular-season games. So, I thought one of the coolest things he did was come into that Arizona game and bring us right down the field.”
For the first time in three seasons, Seattle will be picking late in the first round, which Schneider said makes it hard to predict what players will be available.
The Seahawks hold the No. 25 overall pick, and the head personnel man was not shy about admitting he would like to trade down and grab an extra pick.
Seattle has eight picks overall, with no pick in the third round because of the trade last year with San Diego for Whitehurst.
“Personally I’d like to move back because I have confidence in our ability in those middle rounds to do some good stuff,” Schneider said. “And (I) have a coaching staff that’s excited, and a) they’re good teachers; and b) they’re excited to have these guys.”
With no new collective bargaining agreement, Schneider’s also navigating new territory, focusing on the draft without knowing when free agency will take place.
Usually, the free agency period comes before the draft, and teams can use the draft to fill supplemental needs not met in free agency.
However, Schneider said the focus for Seattle continues be on youth the Seahawks navigate through the second year of the team’s rebuilding effort.
“It’s just a unique year,” Schneider said. “But where we are as a team, we still think that we’re in the infancy of our development. And so no disrespect to the players that are here, but we feel like we have a long way to go to be a consistent, championship-caliber football team.
“And the draft is our primary avenue for creating that success.”