When it comes to the Seahawks and free agency, color them Brown.
As in Chad Brown, the linebacker who was lured away from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997 and continues to set the standard for what a free-agent addition should be: Productive, versatile, dependable and durable.
In his eight-season stay with the Seahawks, Brown led the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons (1997-99), was voted to the Pro Bowl twice (1998-99) and put up numbers that still have him ranked among the franchise’s all-time leaders in tackles (fourth with 744), sacks (fifth with 48), fumble recoveries (third with 13) and fumble returns for touchdowns (first with three).
Not surprisingly, Brown also was voted to the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team.
All of this has returned to relevance because the 2014 free-agency period begins Tuesday. The Seahawks aren’t expected to make a free-agent push this year like they did for Brown, who was flown to Seattle on a private jet and then wooed into signing by sliding a check for most of his $7 million signing bonus across the table.
“When you’re negotiating and going over those figures, they almost become just numbers,” Brown said at the time. “When you get a check and see all those zeroes, it’s definitely staggering.”
This year, the Seahawks’ top priority remains much the same as it has been in recent years: Retaining their own players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. At the top of that list are defensive lineman
Since Plan B free agency began in 1989 and was replaced by the current system in 1993, here are the best of the Seahawks’ additions, including some signed before and after the official free-agency period:
WR Bobby Engram (2001) – He was added in late August, after being released by the Chicago Bears. Engram had just 29 receptions in his first season with the Seahawks, but as he completed his recovery from reconstructive knee surgery that number increased – to 50 receptions in 2002; then to a team-high 67 during the 2005 Super Bowl season; and finally to a franchise-record 94 in 2007. Like Brown, Engram was voted to the 35th Anniversary team.
OT Howard Ballard (1994) – After being voted to back-to-back Pro Bowls and playing in four consecutive Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, Ballard signed with the Seahawks in February. He would start 74 games over the next five seasons, including four 16-start seasons. He also was voted to the 35th Anniversary team.
C Robbie Tobeck (2000) – Until
OG Chris Gray (1998) – He was penciled in as a starter after being signed April 15. A Sharpie would have been more appropriate, as Gray started 145 games over the next 11 seasons – including a franchise record 121 consecutive starts from 1999-2006. He started at center (1998-2000). He started at right guard (2001-07). He started 12 games at left guard (2002).
OT Chris Terry (2002) – We’re fudging a bit here, because Terry was claimed off waivers Nov. 19, after being released by the Carolina Panthers. Terry had off-field issues, but not on the field – especially when it came to being a mauling blocker. He started 23 games in two-plus seasons.
WR Nate Burleson (2006) – Another free-agent avenue tapped, as Burleson signed an offer sheet as a restricted free agent that the Minnesota Vikings declined to match. And Burleson proved to be a jack of many trades, as he caught 50 passes and had nine TD catches in 2007 and added 63 receptions in 2009; returned punts for scores in 2006 and 2007; and added a kickoff return for a TD in 2007. He was voted the punt returner on the 35th Anniversary team.
QB Warren Moon (1997) – The Seahawks wooed Moon in 1983 when he was making the jump from the CFL to the NFL, but he opted to sign with the Houston Oilers. Moon eventually signed with the Seahawks on March 7, 14 years later. He passed for 3,678 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1997, including a club record-tying five in a 409-yard passing performance against the Oakland Raiders – three weeks shy of his 41st birthday.
RB Ricky Watters (1998) – The five-time Pro Bowler signed with the Seahawks on March 4, and quickly showed he had plenty left by leading the team in rushing for three consecutive seasons. His 4,009 rushing yards in four seasons rank No. 5 on the team’s all-time list and he also averaged 51 receptions from 1998-2000.
DE Patrick Kerney (2007) – He was signed March 7 and led the NFC with 14.5 sacks that season – when he also was voted to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro. Injuries limited Kerney to 16 starts the next two seasons, but he still led the team in sacks in 2009.
DT John Randle (2001) – Randle had already constructed his Hall of Fame career by the time the Seahawks signed him March 3. But what he accomplished in two seasons in Seattle only added to his legacy, as Randle led the team in sacks in 2001 (11) and 2002 (seven) and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2001.
DT Chuck Darby (2005) – He definitely could supply the bash to go with Randle’s dash in the middle of the D-line on this fantasy team. Darby was signed March 21 and started 34 games over the next three seasons. Part of Darby’s role was mentoring D-tackle Marcus Tubbs, the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice in 2004 whose career was cut short by injuries. Asked once if he thought he and Tubbs complemented each other, Darby deadpanned, “Yeah, we tell each another how good we are all the time.”
DE Grant Wistrom (2004) – He was signed March 4, after playing his first six seasons with the St. Louis Rams. Injuries limited him to nine starts his first season, but he was a 16-game starter on the 2005 Super Bowl team and had 52 tackles and four sacks.
LB Chad Brown (1997) – see above.
LB Julian Peterson (2006) – This was an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-sign-’em decision, as Peterson joined the Seahawks on March 27 after playing six seasons for the NFC West-rival 49ers. Peterson was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons with the Seahawks, as he averaged 83 tackles and produced 24.5 sacks.
LB Winston Moss (1995) – Another addition from a division foe, and from the years the Seahawks spent in the AFC West. Moss was signed March 15 after playing the previous four seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders. Moss produced 88 and 106 tackles in his first two seasons with the Seahawks.
CB Willie Williams (1997) – This was a sign-one-get-another-one deal, as Brown called his former Steelers teammates after joining the Seahawks and told Williams he should check out Seattle as well. Williams signed three days after Brown – on Feb. 18 – and started 75 games over the next seven seasons. He had five interceptions and 72 tackles in 1999 and led the team with four interceptions in 2001.
SS Reggie Tongue (2000) – He was signed Feb. 22 after playing four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. And Tongue made the most of his four-season stay with the Seahawks, starting 52 games and leading the team in tackles (93) in 2002 and in interceptions in 2002 (five) and 2003 (four).
FS Darryl Williams (1996) – His signing, on Feb. 21, came while the Seahawks were operating out of an Eastside hotel room as then-owner Ken Behring was trying to relocate the franchise to Southern California. But the unusual effort was worth it, as Williams was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1997 – when he led the team with eight interceptions and was second in tackles with 93. He also had 80 tackles in 1996 and 97 in 1998.