Hope springs eternal over free agent shifts

Philadelphia back-up QB Kevin Kolb has been projected in a number of new uniforms. Those potential 2011 destinations include Seattle and Arizona.

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The Cardinals may give up a package that includes a first-round pick, in exchange for Kolb. But they could maximize their dollar by grabbing someone who isn’t riding quite so high, and playing the cards of next year’s draft. Alex Smith pops to mind as an inexpensive stopgap; someone on his level would keep the bank fat for ’12, and might even play well in the meanwhile. As for Seattle’s quarterback plans beyond Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst… this writer won’t hazard any guesses yet.

Trying to figure where players will be in a few months is like watching a gigantic, 32-sided game of Chinese checkers. Fans of needy teams are hoping for a FA or high-profile trade.

Every professional league turns into a game of musical chairs in the off-season. Some years are more exciting than others. The 1984 season was marked with some free agency drama that long-time Seattle fans may remember well.

The Seahawks were coming off of an AFC title loss to the Raiders. It was their first playoff appearance in eight seasons as a franchise. Running back Curt Warner, coming off a 1,400-yard season, was still suffering from a knee injury at the ’84 opener. Free agent Franco Harris signed on with Seattle, and QB Dave Krieg approved of the acquisition.

And free agent drama? Krieg was no stranger. He was just a few years removed from tiny Milton College, holding his own against the big-name senior quarterbacks. He took over from Jim Zorn mid-season the previous year. “There are stories on every NFL team about a free agent who came from nowhere and made it,” Krieg said. “I’m one of those stories.”

Harris, the only player who represents both the Steelers and Seahawks in the Hall of Fame, arrived in Seattle fresh from a contract squabble. He played eight games with the ‘Hawks, finishing his career just 182 yards shy of what was then Jim Brown’s all-time record. He later admitted that the contract holdout in Pittsburgh had drained him on every level.

“I wasn’t ready to play for another team,” Harris said. “I really couldn’t envision myself in another uniform. Even though I felt good physically and thought I was in really good shape, I just wasn’t ready mentally, and mentally is what it’s all about.”

The rest of that year’s team looked very mentally-prepared. Steve Largent and Daryl Turner combined for over 2,000 receiving yards and 22 TDs. The Seahawks scored 418 points on the year, returning to the playoffs with a 12-4 record. Seattle squeaked by the Raiders 13-7, getting revenge on their AFC West rivals for the ’83 playoff loss. However, when they got to the Orange Bowl the next week, Miami was waiting with a hammer. The Dolphins were about to be destroyed by the Niners in the Super Bowl, but on December twenty-ninth, they beat Seattle 31-10.

Between that season and 2005’s Super Bowl contenders, Seattle made the playoffs five times. On three of those occasions, the Seahawks slipped in with a 9-7 record. Depending on other people’s misfortune is always a bad idea.

Matt Hasselbeck may or may not stay in town. Anyone from Kolb to Kyle Orton could be under center this fall for the Seahawks. No matter which free agents the Seattle brass decides to bring in, fans are surely hoping they can help push this year’s victory total to double digits. Winners take advantage of opportunities.