--The Seahawks are giving new president Tim Ruskell total control of football operations, a development worth monitoring as coach Mike Holmgren heads into the seventh year of an eight-year contract. "We're obviously not looking to make a change there at all," Seahawks owner Paul Allen said, "but if it came to that point, (Ruskell's) input would be paramount." Holmgren carries a much higher profile than Ruskell, who has spent the last 18 seasons in Rich McKay's shadow. But Ruskell has a reputation for being a solid scout and a team player. He and Allen outlined front-office unity as a top priority. "I believe one of the keys that maybe does not get talked about enough is unifying and people working together," Ruskell said, "where there are no walls, where there are no agendas, where everybody has a common focus on the goal."
Former president Bob Whitsitt was not the most popular guy in the office during his eight years with the Seahawks."There is going to be a very much more collegial or refreshing change in the total work environment of the Seahawks," Allen said. There had better be a few more victories, too. The franchise has not won a playoff game in two decades. Allen, 52, wants results. "I'm probably a little less patient in some senses than I used to be," the Microsoft co-founder said. "The thing about Seahawks fans and myself included, I think we're all thirsty to see a progression and see things move forward in a positive way and have this team go to the next level."
The deal with Ruskell covers the next five seasons.
--The release of WR Jerry Rice prevented Seattle from paying him a $249,000 roster bonus followed by a $1 million salary in 2005. Rice requested the deal, but both sides were ready to end the relationship. The question now is whether another team will employ the aging legend. "He's just going to see what happens over the next three or four months," agent Jim Steiner said. "But the fire is still burning."
--RB Shaun Alexander was the odd man out when the Seahawks went about crafting fat contracts for their top free agents. The first offer Alexander received from Seattle was the one mandated by NFL rules governing franchise players. Suffice to say that Alexander wasn't hoping for a one-year, $6.32 million deal this spring. "It's almost like a penalty," Steiner said. "The (franchise-player) numbers have grown, but it's the lack of ability to move and choose and negotiate - you're just hamstrung by the whole thing." Ruskell, the Seahawks' new president, came onboard one day after Alexander became the franchise player."They had to make a quick decision before I even got here about what to do with him and that was done," Ruskell said. "But it gives us a little bit of time to figure out exactly what the fit is and how we go forward from here."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We heard word that Matt was selling his house and I shuddered at the thought. I now realize today Matt is going to buy a much bigger house." -- Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke, on the prospect of losing Hasselbeck.
The addition of Bob Casullo as special-teams coach likely represents the only offseason change to Mike Holmgren's staff. The team's quest to sign marquee free agents, including a handful of their own, will dominate headlines over the next couple months.
The signings of QB Matt Hasselbeck and Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones was a crucial first step. The deals freed up the franchise-player tag for use on RB Shaun Alexander, all while establishing Seattle as a credible player in free agency.
1. Linebacker. Teams generally don't reach too high for linebackers in the draft, but Seattle will have to consider the position early and often. OLBs Anthony Simmons and Chad Brown are coming off injury-shortened seasons, and Seattle is light in the middle.
2. Defensive line. The status of UFA candidate Chike Okeafor will determine how badly Seattle needs to upgrade its line. DT Marcus Tubbs, a first-rounder in 2004, gave the team little as a rookie.
3. Wide receiver. The off-field troubles of 2001 first-round WR Koren Robinson have turned this position into a potential liability. Seattle needs someone to challenge WR Darrell Jackson as the No. 1 wideout, although running back could become the greater concern if Shaun Alexander doesn't return.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: RB Shaun Alexander.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Alex Bannister; FB Heath Evans; LG Chris Gray; QB Brock Huard; MLB Orlando Huff; CB Ken Lucas; TE Itula Mili; DE Brandon Mitchell; DE Chike Okeafor; P Tom Rouen; C Robbie Tobeck; P Ken Walter; OL Floyd Womack.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DT Rocky Bernard; SS Terreal Bierria; TE Ryan Hannam; CB Kris Richard.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: Currently unavailable.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Kerry Carter; QB Matt Hasselbeck; LT Walter Jones; DE Ron Smith; WR Jerheme Urban; WR Jason Willis.
PLAYERS LOST: WR Jerry Rice.