Sightlines and Audibles - 5/23/05

Peter Boulware weighs his options, Jerry Rice may have a new home, Grant Wistrom focuses on the future, Jerramy Stevens turns over a new leaf and the Bucs-to-Seahawks pipeline may continue in this week's Sightlines and Audibles.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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INSIDE SLANT

--LB Peter Boulware hasn't been pursued aggressively by Seattle, but it's early. Like many teams, Seattle needs to clear salary-cap space before adding another starting-caliber player, and the cap relief won't come until June. Look for the Seahawks to release veteran CB Bobby Taylor after June 1. That move will clear $2 million. The team might have to dump or restructure another salary or two, particularly if Boulware becomes a player the team wants to sign. The Seahawks are expected to give the former Ravens mainstay an extensive physical examination to determine whether he can bounce back from knee and foot injuries. Boulware, 30, became expendable in Baltimore after missing last season and refusing to take a big pay cut. Seattle needs to upgrade a pass rush that was weak even before the team parted ways with DE Chike Okeafor and LB Chad Brown. Boulware's resume comes complete with 67.5 career sacks and four Pro Bowls, but the injury concerns could be troubling. If the Seahawks do decide to make a serious run at Boulware, they probably won't offer a lucrative contract. The team has taken a decidedly frugal approach to free agency after committing $100 million in contracts to QB Matt Hasselbeck and LT Walter Jones.

Boulware's old Ravens teammate, LB Jamie Sharper, came to the Seahawks for $17.5 million over five years. The deal's modest signing bonus ($1.5 million) made Sharper an affordable free-agent pickup.

--WR Jerry Rice's agent talked to the Broncos about playing for them in 2005, and Denver's players would be happy to welcome him in. "There could be absolutely nothing negative about bringing a guy like that in," safety John Lynch said. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had a conversation with Rice last week, a conversation Rice's agent Jim Steiner said went "very well." Shanahan said he told Rice he wouldn't make him any promises on playing time or where he fit into the receiving corps, and Rice was agreeable to that. Rice and Denver would be a fit because Shanahan was San Francisco's offensive coordinator from 1992-94, when Rice was playing for the 49ers. Denver would also be a fit for Rice because the Broncos are thin past top two receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie. Second-year player Darius Watts is the favorite to be the No. 3 receiver but he faded late last season as a rookie. There is very little experience after Watts. Rice has slowed in the past couple years. Last season between Oakland and Seattle he had 30 catches, 429 yards and three touchdowns. Rice's experience might be the best asset he would bring to the Broncos. If he could help Denver's young receivers mature, it might be worth the investment to sign him for a season

--Formerly troubled TE Jerramy Stevens has yet to play like a first-round draft choice. At least he's starting to act like one. The Seahawks hope this is the year Stevens, drafted 28th overall in 2002, finally breaks through. "Last year I felt like I turned it around and started doing what I need to do off the field and on the field," Stevens said. "This year I think everything is just going to come together. It's going to be a real good year."

Stevens got extra reps at the team's post-draft camp because veteran TE Itula Mili skipped the voluntary portion while No. 3 TE Ryan Hannam underwent knee surgery. Stevens said the extra experience is what he needs to overtake Mili, a solid player who lacks some of Stevens' physical tools. "Experience is the one thing he's got on me and I feel like that's one of the reasons he was on the field last year," Stevens said. Mili, 32, saw his production drop to 23 catches last season, down from 46 in 2003 and 43 in 2002. Stevens finished with a career-high 31 catches last season, up from six (2003) and 26 (2002). He set a career high with five receptions of at least 20 yards. And for the first time in his career, Stevens is taking extra steps to gain the trust of QB Matt Hasselbeck. He joined the team's early-morning offseason workout program, which reports at 7:30 a.m., while carving his 6-foot-7 frame into a lean 248 pounds. "I'm trying to do everything I can," Stevens said. "Letting (Hasselbeck) know I'm doing everything I can to take steps toward getting on the field and getting on the same page with him, I think it does a lot. Because he knows I'm doing everything I can, he's going to be willing to do a little bit more."

Hasselbeck ripped Mili for skipping the voluntary camp. The quarterback praised Stevens for becoming more mature and diligent after a series of legal scrapes made headlines in 2002 and 2003. "He's been awesome this entire offseason," Hasselbeck said. "I've been really proud of how he has stepped up. Honestly, he has stepped up as a leader on our team in a lot of ways, not in what he says but more in his work ethic."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Gone are the days when the Seahawks jumped at the chance to bring in former Green Bay players. The arrival of Tim Ruskell as team president has made Seattle far more prone to consider former Bucs. Ruskell, after all, spent 17 years with Tampa Bay. That explains why Seattle brought in former Bucs safety John Howell for a tryout recently. Howell played in 54 games over four seasons with the Bucs, who drafted Howell in the fourth round.

--WRs Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson have been teammates since 2001, but they aren't particularly close off the field. That explains why Jackson spoke in vague terms when asked whether he thought Robinson would bounce back from off-field troubles. "I've been away in Florida, he's been out here doing his thing so we haven't really communicated too much," Jackson said, "but he seems like he's on the right path and I think he's going to have a huge year this year. He might go to the Pro Bowl this year." Don't bet on it.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I got to play in about eight football games last year so I wasn't there for a large part of the year, but I think there are guys here in place already who can do a good job of getting to the quarterback. We just have to do it." -- DE Grant Wistrom, who missed seven games in 2004 with injuries.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: RB Shaun Alexander ($6.32 million, has not signed franchise tender).

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Brock Huard; LB Curtis Randall (not tendered as ERFA); P Ken Walter.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Alex Bannister; DT Rocky Bernard; SS Terreal Bierria; RB Kerry Carter; OG Chris Gray; TE Ryan Hannam; QB Matt Hasselbeck; LT Walter Jones; S Marquand Manuel; TE Itula Mili; CB Kris Richard; DE Ron Smith; C Robbie Tobeck; WR Jerheme Urban; WR Jason Willis; OL Floyd Womack.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Kevin Bentley; DT Chartric Darby; CB Andre Dyson; DE Bryce Fisher; CB Kelly Herndon; WR Joe Jurevicius; WR Jerome Pathon; LB Jamie Sharper.

PLAYERS LOST: LB Chad Brown; FB Heath Evans; MLB Orlando Huff; CB Ken Lucas; DE Brandon Mitchell; DE Chike Okeafor; WR Jerry Rice; S Damien Robinson; P Tom Rouen; LB Anthony Simmons; OT Chris Terry.


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