Brandon Mebane in the middle

The Seahawks took care of Brandon Mebane in free agency last year. But this year, the free-agency arrow is pointing to the players on either side of him in the locker room: Red Bryant and David Hawthorne.

Brandon Mebane has a definite take on the start of NFL free agency and, yes, it has everything to do with where he was sitting while discussing the process that begins next Tuesday.

The Seahawks’ defensive tackle got his last year, signing a lucrative multi-year contract to remain with the team that selected him in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Mebane then justified the team’s confidence in him by moving from the three-technique spot to nose tackle and leading all NFC interior linemen with 56 tackles last season.

But as Mebane sat in his cubicle in the locker room discussing the team re-signing leading rusher Marshawn Lynch this week, he couldn’t overlook the obvious.

To Mebane’s left was the cubicle belonging to Red Bryant, Mebane’s best friend on the team and a player who blossomed into a run-stuffing, kick-blocking force in his first full season as a starter.

To Mebane’s right was the cubicle of David Hawthorne, the middle linebacker who has led the team in tackles the past three seasons.

“I’m happy they were able to get Marshawn re-signed,” Mebane said. “But they’ve still got some things they’ve got to take care of.”

Glancing to his left, and referring to Bryant, Mebane added, “They’ve definitely got to take care of that.”

Glancing to his right, where Hawthorne has been since the Seahawks moved into Virginia Mason Athletic Center in 2008, Mebane said, “And there’s a decision to be made here, too.”

Bryant and Hawthorne are among the 16 Seahawks who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 13. The club wants each player back, as well as Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson and tight end John Carlson, among others.

While fans are clamoring for the team to sign this free agent and that free agent – price be damned – the Seahawks’ priority remains its own free agents.

“Our first concern is to take care of our team and take care of the guys that are unrestricted (free agents) on our football team and fit that back together,” coach Pete Carroll has said on a couple of occasions this offseason.

“There’s nothing we can do about the other free agents right now, until that date shows up. But cap-wise, we’re in a position that we can operate – John has worked so hard to position us so that we can be competitive at this time, and that’s what all of the activity in the first year was all about.”

John, of course, is general manager John Schneider. And “all of the activity” has been well documented. In their first season together, Carroll and Schneider made 284 transactions. Last year, it was 231. The dizzying array of moves has been all about piecing together a group of players that will allow Carroll to play the game the way he wants to play it – fast, aggressive and physical.

But Carroll likes the team he has, and is looking to enhance it rather than continue to rebuild it. That’s where the importance of retaining those Seahawks scheduled to become free agents comes back into play.

“We have some (salary-cap) room and we’re going to be able to do some stuff,” Carroll said. “But 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 the guys that we have put together here are the foundation of a championship team.

“These guys that are with us are the guys that we’d like to keep around and are crucial and we’ll do everything we can to make all those decisions properly.”

via Mebane in the middle.