When it comes to the acquisition of talent, John Schneider is all about the NFL Draft. And when it comes to NFL free agency, the Seahawks' sixth-year general manager also is about the NFL Draft.
That's not to say that Schneider and coach Pete Carroll won't dip into free agency when the right players are there – at the right price. Just look at the line in the base defense that closed the 2014 season. Ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were signed as unrestricted free agents in 2013, along with three-technique tackle Tony McDaniel. Each was signed to a salary-cap friendly deal, although Bennett and Avril signed new deals last March and in December, respectively. And Kevin Williams, who moved to nose tackle after Brandon Mebane went down with a season-ending hamstring injury in November, was signed last March – to a one-year deal.
Schneider, Carroll and their staffs will spend the week in Indianapolis, checking out this year's class of players who will be available in the NFL Draft from April 30-May 2.
And what they see, and the opinions they form, will impact what the team does when the free-agency period begins on March 10.
Schneider is a build-through-the-draft proponent, just like the rest of the general managers in the league who learned and honed their talent-evaluation skills while working for Ron Wolf when the Hall of Fame GM was running the Green Bay Packers from 1991-2001 – a group that also includes the Packers' Ted Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs' John Dorsey, Oakland Raiders' Reggie McKenzie and Washington Redskins' Scot McCloughan. Thompson, Dorsey and McCloughan also worked for the Seahawks.
"It all starts with Ron Wolf, who was actually more of an educator than he probably thought at the time," Schneider once explained of his association with Wolf that began when he started working for the Packers as a summer intern in 1992.
Schneider then joined the Packers' personnel department from 1993-96 and returned as personnel analyst to the GM (2002-07) and then director of football operations (2008-09) after stints with the Chiefs (1997-99), Seahawks (2000) and Redskins (2001).
"So at a very young age, I was exposed to the way Ron Wolf did things," Schneider said.
And the exposure to the way John Schneider now does things has been played out on a regular basis since he and Carroll were hired in January 2010.
Carroll showed his appreciation in a very fitting way in the locker room after the NFC Championship game following the 2013 season when he presented Schneider with the game ball from the victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
"I look forward to this opportunity for John, to recognize him because he's such a big part of everything," Carroll said at the time. "I wanted everybody to know how much John has done, and how good the relationship has been and how much respect there is for everything he's done."
Schneider also is among those whose top priority in free agency is retaining his own players who are about to hit the open market. This offseason that group includes starting cornerback Byron Maxwell, left guard James Carpenter and linebacker and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith. Not surprisingly, each joined the Seahawks as a draft choice in 2011 – Maxwell in the sixth round, Carpenter in the first round and Smith in the seventh round.
With the success the Seahawks have had the past three seasons; their free agents become attractive options for other teams when they hit free agency. Last year, the Seahawks lost leading receiver Golden Tate (Detroit Lions), right tackle Breno Giacomini (New York Jets) and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Some years, the priority is taking care of those players who are entering the final seasons of their contracts. And this year, that starts at the top with quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch.
The Seahawks have made moves that proved to be less than prudent, with the most obvious example being the trade with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013 to acquire wide receiver Percy Harvin, only to trade him to the New York Jets last October. But that was just another indication of an additional strength in the Schneider/Carroll modus operandi when it comes to building a team: Admitting the mistake, and moving on from it.
On other teams, Harvin still would be around just because of how much the team had to give up to acquire him (three draft choices) and then to appease him.
"We don't conduct ourselves like we have it all figured out," Schneider said. "We're constantly asking questions and searching for knowledge."
Photos from the first day of the 2012 NFL Draft