Looking draft; thinking free agents

Posted Feb 23, 2012

John Schneider is in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine this week, but the Seahawks' general manager also continues to work on re-signing the team's potential free agents.

INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL Scouting Combine is all about evaluating the pool of talent that will be available in April’s NFL Draft.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing on John Schneider’s mind this week. Far from it. The Seahawks’ third-year general manager also continues to work on signing players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next month.

The list of what Schneider called “a pretty cool group of unrestricted free agents” is topped by leading rusher Marshawn Lynch, but also includes kick-blocking and disruptive defensive end Red Bryant, middle linebacker and leading tackler David Hawthorne, Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson, veteran linebacker Leroy Hill and tight end John Carlson, among others.

“We’re getting to the point now where we feel strongly about some of our own guys; we’d like to take care of those guys first,” Schneider said Thursday when asked about free agency during a two-part, 45-minute Q&A session at Lucas Oil Stadium – which started at a podium in the interview room and then moved to the side after his allotted time had expired.

“We’re trying to knock those guys out.”

Of the on-going negotiations, Schneider added, “Things are going well. There's no panic. We want Red back. We want Marshawn back. If they decide to go somewhere else, that's a bummer. But they know how we feel about them and they know we've been busting our tails trying to get them signed.”

Lynch is the first player most wanted to know about, because the Seahawks have built their offense around his “Beast Mode” running style and a zone-blocking scheme that was installed last season by assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable.

Lynch ran for at least 100 yards in six of the final nine games last season to finish with a career-high 1,204 yards and become the Seahawks’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Shaun Alexander in 2005. Lynch also scored a career-best 13 touchdowns, including at least one in 11 consecutive games to break the club record Alexander set in ’05 (nine).

Lynch’s productive run to end his first full season with the team came despite left tackle Russell Okung, right tackle James Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt sustaining season-ending injuries during that stretch.

“We had some guys step in and play real well,” Schneider said, referring to Paul McQuistan (left tackle), Lemuel Jeanpierre (right guard) and Breno Giacomini (right tackle). “So once those guys became more of a cohesive group, Marshawn just continued to perform at a high level. He did a great job at the end of the season, there’s no question.”

Schneider said the club has been talking with Lynch and his agent about a multiyear contract since mid-December, adding that more discussions were scheduled here for Thursday night. Both sides prefer a long-term deal, but Schneider said the club is ready to place the franchise tag on Lynch if a deal cannot be reached by the March 5 deadline to designate players.

“We’re having great discussions,” Schneider said. “There’s no animosity at all. It’s good dialogue.”

Then he smiled and cracked, “No fistfights.”

Asked if Lynch was a candidate to get the franchise tag – sans the long-term deal – Schneider said, “Sure.” Later, during his post-podium session, Schneider was asked if Lynch would remain a Seahawk for the coming season – one way or the other. “Yeah,” he said.

Schneider touched on several other topics during his extended session with reporters:

The quarterback situation – where Tarvaris Jackson is the incumbent starter, backup Charlie Whitehurst is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and No. 3 Josh Portis needs time to develop.

“I thought (Tarvaris) did a real nice job for us and we were proud of the way he played,” Schneider said. “But we’re always looking to upgrade that position.”

The quarterbacks in this draft – starting with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but also including others to create what Schneider labeled “a very unique class.”

“Every guy’s got this different niche to him,” he said, rattling through a list that included 6-foot-8 Brock Osweiler, 5-10½ Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins, as well as Luck and RG3. “I think it’s a pretty cool class.”

Injuries – Jackson did not need surgery to repair the pectoral he tore during the Week 5 upset of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, which Schneider said surprised him. But he said that wide receiver Sidney Rice has had surgery on each of his shoulders – one to repair the labrum he damaged during training camp and tried to play with, as well as an injury to the other that Rice had played with since entering the league in 2007 with the Minnesota Vikings.

“Sidney will be rehabbing the whole offseason,” Schneider said. “But from a timetable standpoint, I think if we can get him up and running that’s the most important thing. It’s probably the first time he’ll be going into a camp where he’s healthy.”

Right tackle – where Carpenter, last year’s first-round draft choice, had what Schneider called “a real nasty” knee injury and Giacomini played well after replacing him. Giacomini, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, already has been re-signed.

“James has a long road ahead of him,” Schneider said. “So we were worried about losing Breno.”

Schneider said that Carpenter could play left guard after he returns, which speaks to how well Giacomini played last season and the position possibly being a better fit for Carpenter.

“It’s an option for us,” Schneider said.

Doug Baldwin – the rookie who led the team in receptions last season, primarily from the slot, but has said he’d like to also get the opportunity to play outside.

“He could play outside, but he can be a dominant inside player,” Schneider said. “He’s got a real natural feel for sitting down (inside); really quick, strong hands; really long arms.”