Seattle Seahawks take Big steps in the right direction

Bigger. Faster. Stronger. Deeper. Younger. And hopefully better.

Tarvaris Jackson

Position: Quarterback
Former team: Minnesota Vikings
Ht./wt.: 6-2, 225
Age: 28
College: Alabama State
How entered league: Second-round draft choice, 2006
Where he fits: Will compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job.
By the numbers: Started 20 games in five seasons for the Vikings, including 12 in 2007 when he was 8-4. Has completed 354 of 603 passes for 3,984 yards, with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

Sidney Rice

Position: Wide receiver
Former team: Minnesota Vikings
Ht./wt.: 6-4, 202
Age: 24
College: South Carolina
How entered league: Second-round draft choice, 2007
Where he fits: Will start at flanker, opposite split end Mike Williams.
By the numbers: Caught 146 passes for 2,129 yards and 18 touchdowns in four seasons with the Vikings, including 83 for 1,312 and eight TDs in 2009 when he was voted to the Pro Bowl. Suffered a hip injury in the 2009 NFC Championship and missed the first 10 games last season after having surgery.

Robert Gallery

Position: Guard
Former team: Oakland Raiders
Ht./wt.: 6-7, 325
Age: 31
College: Iowa
How entered league: First-round draft choice, 2004
Where he fits: Will step in at left guard between tackle Russell Okung, last year’s first-round draft choice, and Max Unger, who is in his first season as the starting center.
By the numbers: Started 91 games in seven seasons with the Raiders, including 50 the past four seasons at left guard. Has not had a 16-start season since 2008 because of injuries.

Alan Branch

Position: Defensive line
Former team: Arizona Cardinals
Ht./wt.: 6-6, 338
Age: 26
College: Michigan
How entered league: Second-round draft choice, 2007
Where he fits: Can play either tackle spot, as well as the five-technique end position. He provides needed depth, as well as the ability to start – a plus with tackle Brandon Mebane still unsigned and tackle Colin Cole and end Red Bryant coming off injuries.
By the numbers: Started the first three games of his four-season career in 2010, when he had a career-high 35 tackles and two sacks.

The Seahawks accomplished all of this Friday afternoon when general manager John Schneider announced a bevy of roster moves that have been percolating for most of the week.

One of the bigger items – literally – was the re-signing of free-agent defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, a 311-pounder who has been a starter the past four seasons. Mebane attracted attention from other teams, but decide to stay where he really wanted to be.

“That’s a cool thing,” Schneider said. “Being able to re-sign one of our own guys who was a hot commodity in free agency was huge for us. He wanted to stay here. We wanted him to stay here.”

But there was more. A lot more, as things really heated up on the second day of the team’s second training camp under coach Pete Carroll.

Schneider finally was able to announce the signings of four free agents who had agreed to terms earlier in the week: Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice, a quarterback and wide receiver who played for new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with the Minnesota Vikings; Robert Gallery, a guard who is as tough as he is big (6-7, 325) and played for new line coach Tom Cable with the Oakland Raiders; and Alan Branch, a defensive lineman who is as versatile as he is big (6-6, 325) and played for the Arizona Cardinals.

In other moves, the club signed the last of its nine draft choices – third-round pick John Moffitt, who is expected to start at right guard; re-signed three more of its own free agents – linebacker Leroy Hill, fullback Michael Robinson and linebacker Matt McCoy; and added a rookie free-agent kicker – Wes Byrum, who participated in practice earlier in the day.

As they did with the NFL Draft in April, Schneider and Carroll entered the compressed free-agency period – which followed the 136-day lockout – with a no-panic plan. And then executed it.

“We have a great vision and it’s really fun to see it come to fruition,” Schneider said.

It definitely helped to have Bevell and Cable in the building when it came to recruiting Jackson, Rice and Gallery. With little time to evaluate free agents, and even less to try and sign them, the familiarity factor loomed large.

“Obviously we knew firsthand from Darrell about all the research we did on (Jackson’s) leadership skills, his football intelligence, his swagger and all that,” Schneider said. “We were very comfortable with him.”

It was the same thing with Rice. “Once we were able to come to an agreement with T-Jack, it helped us with Sidney, obviously, in terms of recruiting.”

Same song, different verse, when it came to Gallery. “In unrestricted free agency, it’s scary waters,” Schneider said. “But when you have coaches that have had their hands on the guys for a number of years and have confidence in the players and are willing to step out and tell you exactly how they feel about the guy and how they see the guy, it’s extremely important.”

Here’s Schneider’s assessment on each of the Big Four:

Jackson, who started 20 games in five seasons with the Vikings and will compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job: “The most important position on the team. The quarterback and the head coach, in my opinion, are the most important people in the building. … When you watch him you will see the arm strength and the foot quickness and the movement skills and all that. He’s a very intriguing prospect at 26 years old.”

Rice, a 6-4, 202-pounder who will team with 6-5, 235-pound Mike Williams to give the Seahawks’ one of the biggest tandems – if not the biggest tandem – in the league: “Having witnessed him firsthand with how he can attack the ball, his catching range, his confidence and his size, he’s a young football player (24) who’s extremely talented. To be able to add a guy with size like that is a really good thing for us. Again, I think he’s going to add juice to our football team.”

Gallery, whose experience and style are exactly what the Seahawks’ inexperience line needs at the left guard spot: “He’s got himself to a level now where he’s a big mauler, he’s a tough guy, he’s a tone-setter and he’s been through some rough times. He’s overcome some things in his career that stand out and give you confidence that he can be a strong leader and a strong contributor on a young offensive line.”

Branch, who can help at defensive tackle as well as the five-technique end spot: “Alan is a big guy that can run. … He gets off the ball with good quickness. We targeted him as a younger guy (26) that still has a lot to prove as a productive defensive lineman, so we’re hoping he comes in here and is hungry to get things rolling.”

And rolling is what the Seahawks are planning on doing now that they’ve added the players who were signed Friday.

“We’re excited,” Schneider said.

Not to mention bigger, faster, strong, deeper, younger and, hopefully, better.