Seahawks facing big decisions in offseason

There are 31 Seahawks set to enter some form of free agency, a list which includes 11 players who started Sunday's season-ending loss to the Panthers. Who among them is likely to return to Seattle?

Now that the Seattle Seahawks' 2015 season is officially over, general manager John Schneider and his staff of pro and college scouts begin the process of maintaining a roster which Pete Carroll has taken to the playoffs the past four consecutive years.

This offseason, however, promises to be one of great change with a striking number of long-time Seahawks set to enter free agency, including 11 players who started Sunday's disappointing division round loss to the Carolina Panthers  - left tackle Russell Okung, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, guard J.R. Sweezy, center Patrick Lewis, defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin, cornerbacks DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, fullback Derrick Coleman and punter Jon Ryan.

Further, while Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor each have another year on their respective deals, there is plenty of speculation that Seattle may see each as potential salary cap casualties.

A full list of the Seahawks pending free agents can be seen here.  

Irvin, Okung and Sweezy are likely to command the most attention on the open market. Of the trio Sweezy would appear to be the most replaceable given the encouraging development of Mark Glowinski this season. With all due respect to current backups Alvin Bailey (a restricted free agent, himself) and Mike Morgan (an unrestricted free agent), the Seahawks do not currently have the players on the roster to fill these spots effectively.

The first big date for Schneider and Co.'s rebuilding job is February 22, which is when the Franchise Tag period starts. This extends through the annual Scouting Combine (Feb. 23-29) with all Franchise Tag designations to be in place by March 7. There is a small window from March 12-15 in which club's can negotiate with their own free agents before the mad dash for cash really begins in earnest at 1 pm Pacific on the 15th, officially the start of the new NFL year.

Between now and then, Schneider, Carroll and their respective staffs won't have much time for rest. Some of Seattle's scouts are already attending the practices for this week's East-West Shrine Game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, two of the better college all-star games. A week from now the Senior Bowl festivities will kick off. Schneider and his staff have found several of their brightest stars from these college all-star games in the past, including Russell WilsonBobby Wagner and Tyler Lockett, among others.

With a talented young quarterback like Wilson, the Seahawks should remain competitive for the foreseeable future. Re-building the roster through the draft has been a Schneider speciality so far. The pressure increases in 2016 and begins with the 26th overall pick of the draft.

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