In professional football – as well as in many other callings – nothing says love quite like a bundle of money.
And now is the best time to show it, in a private and personal setting, before others can flash their bankrolls.
NFL teams have until early March to make bids on their own free agents before they are allowed to enter what amounts to a public auction in the marketplace.
After a pair of 7-9 seasons rife with roster rebuilding, general manager John Schneider appears to have positioned the Seahawks for the next step by creating enough salary cap room to meet the most pressing needs.
Consider what’s at stake. Seahawks fans might trigger a seismic event from outrage if running back Marshawn Lynch takes his beastly style elsewhere.
And Red Bryant has likewise become an exemplar of spirited toughness for the Seahawks on defense.
These two are at the top of the list of 18 unrestricted free agents with whom the Seahawks may exclusively negotiate.
Coach Pete Carroll stressed a keep-our-own philosophy in his latest press conference.
“(Cap-wise) we have some room. … We really want to focus on the guys on our team right now, and I want that to be a strong message that we believe in the guys that we have put together here (as) the foundation of a championship team.”
There’s no question that players watch how the front office operates. Do the managers reward the guys who have produced?
Carroll praised Lynch’s “ferocity” as a running back and recognized its influence on the rest of the team. “His willingness to fight and claw and scratch for every inch is exactly what you want your football players to play like,” Carroll said last week. “So we’re going to try to hold on to him and get him back here and play for us again, and see if we can get all of that done.”
Applying the franchise designation to Lynch is an option, and would cost in the $8 million range. The Seahawks have covered that ground. Shaun Alexander had roughly 200 more carries than Lynch through his first five seasons.
In that pre-free-agent period of 2005, the Seahawks arrived at long-term deals with key cogs Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones, and then franchised Alexander. Before camp, they arrived at a one-year deal with Alexander with the promise they wouldn’t franchise him again the next season.
Alexander went on to be the league MVP with 370 carries and a record 27 rushing touchdowns that season. It led to a huge (but heavily back-loaded contract) the next year, and his productivity declined dramatically. He was gone after two more seasons.
Bryant is less of a risk of flight than Lynch. He confessed he wants to stay here, and the market will not be as strong for a run-stopping defensive end.
Carroll listed improvement in speed at linebacker as a goal, which can be a reflection of the limits to which they will pay to retain veterans David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill. Hawthorne has led the team in tackles three straight years, but it has taken a physical toll.
The arrival of free agent Zach Miller mitigated the injury loss of John Carlson at tight end, although, as Carlson qualifies for free agency, Carroll said he would like to have them both.
Fullback Mike Robinson was important in Lynch’s success this season, and he’s a valuable special-teams player and leader.
Like Robinson, tackle Breno Giacomini seems like another whose value to the Sea-hawks might be higher than to other teams. He filled in so well after the injury to rookie James Carpenter that he has starter potential and is, at the least, valuable insurance in case Carpenter’s rehab stalls.
“These guys that are here with us are the guys we’d like to keep around and are crucial,” Carroll said. “And we’ll do everything we can to make all those decisions properly.”
It’s important to consider his wording. He did not say they’d pay whatever it took to keep those players, but rather they’d do everything to make the decisions properly.
Just because they have the cap room, then, does not mean the Seahawks intend to dramatically overpay a player.
It often seems as if the best teams don’t make big splashes bringing in other teams’ free agents because they do such a good job of developing their own talent “in-house” and then keeping them under contract.
These are the debates and negotiations that take place behind the scenes these days. But they’re critical to shaping the franchise.