Considered the most important position on the field, the Seattle Seahawks need to find a long-term solution at quarterback besides Matt Hasselbeck heading into the 2011 season, head coach Pete Carroll’s second in Seattle.
Signing veteran free agent Matt Hasselbeck remains a possibility. The two sides discussed contract terms before the 35-year-old Hasselbeck, who has been with the team for a decade, became a free agent in March.
But with Hasselbeck expected to generate high interest around the league whenever the free-agency period begins, the Seahawks might be ready to move on and look for a younger alternative at quarterback, instead of using the Boston College product as a bridge to the team’s quarterback of the future.
“Financially, we went after it and couldn’t get it done,” Carroll told reporters at the league meetings in New Orleans. “In my mind, it kind of came right down to the final day of it. We made an effort and they made an effort.”
Currently, reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is the only quarterback on the team’s roster. Whitehurst finished 1-1 in two starts last year, including a 16-6 win over St. Louis in the regular-season finale to help propel the Seahawks to the playoffs.
However, Whitehurst enters the final season of a two-year deal this year, set to earn $4 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2011. And Whitehurst did not receive enough of an opportunity for the Seahawks to evaluate if he’s the long-term solution at quarterback moving forward.
The Seahawks reportedly are interested in Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb, with the Eagles likely seeking at least a first-round pick in compensation in a trade. But the competition for Kolb’s services will be high, with San Francisco, Arizona, Minnesota, Cleveland and Cincinnati all possible suitors.
And whatever team ends up with Kolb will have to face the prospects of signing the Houston product to a lucrative, multi-year deal to keep him around.
Other trade or free-agent possibilities for Seattle include two USC products – Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, who said he will retire instead of play for the Bengals for another season, and Matt Leinart, who fizzled in Arizona and served as Houston’s No. 3 quarterback last year. Leinart is a free agent, while Palmer still has four years and $50 million left on his deal.
Both offer some familiarity to Carroll because they played for him while at USC.
The Seahawks also have been active in looking at draft prospects, scheduling private workouts with Auburn’s Cam Newton, Washington’s Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet of Arkansas.
General manager John Schneider also attended Mallet and Locker’s Pro Day. Newton likely will not be around when Seattle selects at No. 25 in the first round, but Mallet and Locker are possibilities if the Seahawks believe either quarterback could be a future franchise leader.
Schneider had good things to say about Locker, who struggled with accuracy during his time at Washington, after watching his Pro Day recently.
“I thought he had a great day,” he said. “He was loose, he was extremely confident, feeling good about himself and he ripped it. He had a great, great workout.”
So what will Carroll do to solve the team’s quarterback woes? He has less then a month left to figure it out before this year’s draft begins on April 28.
–The Seahawks’ offensive line has not been the same since perennial Pro Bowler Walter Jones succumbed to a knee injury after a Thanksgiving Day game against Dallas in 2008, leading to season-ending microfracture surgery and his eventual retirement a year later.
Since then, the Seahawks have cycled through 18 different starting offensive line combinations, seven left tackles and four offensive line coaches.
So, it’s no surprise Seattle finished in the bottom third of the league in total offense the past three seasons, and offensive line remains the team’s most obvious need heading into this year’s draft.
Head coach Pete Carroll said improving the talent on both sides of the line remains a priority this offseason. But because of the league’s labor dispute, Carroll has not had a chance to start improving up front.
But Seattle got a head start last season by drafting offensive tackle Russell Okung No. 6 overall in the 2010 draft. The Oklahoma State product only played in 10 regular-season games because of high ankle sprains on both legs, but when he played the offensive line performed, and by all accounts Okung is the team’s left tackle of the future.
Where Seattle needs help this year is at both guard positions and right tackle. The Seahawks can shore up the center position by either re-signing free agent Chris Spencer or moving third-year pro Max Unger from guard to center, considered his best position.
Others who could compete for a starting job currently on the roster include interior linemen Stacy Andrews, Mike Gibson, Chris White and Lemuel Jeanpierre, and offensive tackles Tyler Polumbus, Breno Giacomini and Will Robinson.
But the Seahawks also will look to the draft or free agency for help at those spots, with several mock drafts penciling in top interior line prospect Mike Pouncey of Florida to Seattle.
The Seahawks also made a move to solidify the offensive line by hiring former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable as the team’s new offensive line/assistant head coach.
The Seahawks have been trying to install the zone blocking scheme since 2008, with then-offensive line coach Mike Solari starting the effort during Mike Holmgren’s final year in Seattle.
Solari left to join NFC West division rival San Francisco’s staff after Jim Mora’s first and only year as the head coach of his hometown team at the end of the 2009 season. And Carroll brought in the father of the zone blocking scheme, Alex Gibbs, to take over that arduous task.
However, Gibbs didn’t make it past training camp, abruptly retiring just before the regular season began, and assistant offensive line coach Art Valero was left to pick up the pieces.
Valero did an admirable job, juggling 10 different starting offensive line combinations as Seattle suffered through a rash of injuries up front for a third straight season.
And the injury bug reflected on the team’s performance offensively, particularly running the ball, with the Seahawks finishing as the second-worst rushing team in the league, averaging just 89 yards a contest.
At the end of last season, Valero was asked to move on after offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was fired by Carroll. Valero is now an assistant offensive line coach for Tennessee. And now Cable has the job of piecing Seattle’s line together.