Throughout the United States (and even remote parts of the world), thousands of Seahawks fans are now suffering from a particularly painful disorder known as "MCCTS" - Mouse Click Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The onset of the NFL free agent season has caused die hard fans everywhere to click-and-search on hundreds of websites -- news based, factual, rumor mills, the whole works. This time of the football year is an odd mix of anticipatory anxiety punctuated by the breathless expectation of a big free agent signing. I recently took a look at my web browser cache and the hundreds of data files formed the shape of a football. Weird.
Strange yet predictable things happen during this time of the year on the NFL calendar. You try to find the silver lining in any signing your team makes ("he'll be great in our system", "just needs a change of scenery") and you immediately debunk the deals your rivals consummate "they overpaid for him"). It is truly a labor of love. I mean, what are we supposed to do to make the off-season pass by - get into yoga? Learn another language? Take up salsa dancing? I don't need to know anything else about salsa, other than it makes a good dip.
"You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, assuming you want to catch flies"
The first few weeks of free agency has felt like it lasted about 20 years -- ironically, that's the same amount of time since Seattle's last playoff victory. New Seahawks president Tim Ruskell has adopted a fiscally sane approach to improving a franchise that seems perpetually poised on the brink of becoming a top-flight team. His strategy may not coalesce with those in the fan base who impetuously yearn for big ticket free agent signings, but it has merit. Do you bankrupt the future years for a player who is most likely looking for top dollar, or do you find the diamonds in the rough? As early as March 7th -- a mere week into free agency -- hyperventilating fans on the internet had already written off the off-season. It was amazing to browse the fan forums, reading musings from fans who were already dipping their toes in the great lake of negativity. Those knee-jerk roster assessments make more sense in August, not March.
Ruskell's ideology leans toward the cheaper of two evils, or even addition by subtraction. The release of LB Anthony Simmons was initially a bit of a surprise, but the oft injured Simmons -- no doubt a talent -- lost out when it came to value versus performance. Rather than spend the pennies on a few golden eggs, why not budget properly and find players who fit the system better? Maybe Ruskell learned from the the courtship of DE Grant Wistrom last year, when former president Bob Whitsitt had to be talked out of throwing in the Space Needle on top of the huge money he offered. Great things can be had at low cost -- after all, it only took one special candy bar to get into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
"Man is the only critter who feels the need to label things as flowers or weeds"
Nobody in their right mind truly believed that the Seahawks would be able to retain all sixteen unrestricted free agents and improve their 26th ranked defense. In fact, things looked bleak during the period leading up to the open season, with a disjointed front office best described as, "break in case of emergency". Until Ruskell came onboard, the Seahawks front office was about to take up permanent residence on the back of a milk carton. However, on the eve of free agency Seattle's contract Dalai Lama, Mike Reinfeldt, negotiated new long-term, cap-friendly deals with Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones and starting QB Matt Hasselbeck. Those two moves allowed the Seahawks to place the franchise tag on Pro Bowl RB Shaun Alexander, greatly decreasing the possibility of his departure from the Great Northwest. This paved the way for Ruskell to focus on ancillary issues instead of worrying about fighting for one of the teams three best players on the open market. Ruskell seems miserly with the team's wallet, but he has to be -- thanks to the mess left for him by the previous regime. His choice is to either break the piggy bank on the first day an item goes on sale, or wait until the mall clears out and find some great bargains. Ask the woman in your life which is the better option.
"Don't sell your only mule to buy a plow"
In order to plant the Lombardi seeds, you have to make sure you purchase the right kind of fertilizer. The New England Patriots - winners of 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls - have harvested their crop of talent at an affordable price. Meanwhile, the Washington Capskins -- err, Redskins -- stocked their shelves with lots of new players the last few off-seasons, and now face salary cap purgatory, without even a single post-season appearance to show for it. Ruskell is content to look beyond the pure bred puppies in the free agent box, choosing to grab one of the ugly mutts in the back corner; the kind of puppy that may not look pretty, but they will be the most loyal dogs you will ever have.
There has been a philosophical change in the Seahawks front office, and in time the armchair pundits will be able to declare it as a success or failure. In reality, nobody can justify the status quo or doing things the "way they have always been done", because the Seahawks have not won a playoff game since 1984. If that means maintaining some semblance of order in the salary cap at the expense of a dizzying array of high priced free agent deals, so be it.
Greg Renick is a writer for www.talkhawks.com, and his articles are syndicated to Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.