Mike Holmgren, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, talks with reporters during the coaches breakfast of the National Football League annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. on Wednesday, March 29, 2006. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
"We continue talking to him," team president Tim Ruskell said. "It's very friendly and we're going forward."
The pace of those talks is not particularly fast.
Holmgren appears somewhat conflicted as he tries to determine what the future holds.
Part of him would like to retire and spend more time with family. Part of him wouldn't mind devoting more time to projects, including the athletic facility his family endowed at North Park (Ill.) College. Part of him might want to get a second chance at being a general manager. Part of him wants to stick it out in Seattle until the team wins a Super Bowl.
The plan is for Holmgren to figure things out by the draft. But he admits that might not be what happens.
"It could be as simple as, 'How about we go through next year and if you're happy and I'm feeling good, then we'll meet,'" Holmgren told the Tacoma News Tribune. "I really don't know.
"If all of a sudden things are going good, maybe we take it a year at a time, I don't know. But as soon as I have it square in my own mind, I'll let our guys know and then that will be it."
Holmgren turns 58 in June. His wife wanted him to retire if the Seahawks had won Super Bowl XL. Holmgren said he planned to fulfill the final year of his contract no matter what. Beyond that is anybody's guess.
"Sometimes you don't know," Holmgren said. "I'm not being cute or leveraging anything or doing anything like that. I want to be fair and I want to be honest with my bosses and certainly my owner. So I just asked them, 'Give me some time on this.' And they said, 'Fine.'"
--NFL executives expressed sympathy for the Seahawks over the controversial tactics Minnesota used to land three-time Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson to a seven-year, $49
million contract. A so-called "poison-pill" clause would have forced the Seahawks to guarantee the contract had they matched the offer.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson (81) makes a one-handed diving touchdown catch after Detroit Lions cornerback R.W.McQuaters, upper left, batted the ball foward during the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005, in Minneapolis. Lions' Kenoy Kennedy (26) moves in on the play. Minnesota won 27-24.(AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
"I don't think it's good for football when a terrific young player like Steve Hutchinson gets involved in a poison-pill contract where a team that drafted him and invested in him (found) it impossible to proceed," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. "That was not the spirit of restricted free agency at all and it wasn't the spirit of the (franchise and transition) designations at all, either."
Ironically, Scout.com confirmed in early March that before the new CBA extension, which gave each team $7.5 million more in cap room, the Eagles were looking to put together an offer sheet for Hutchinson so front-loaded that the Seahawks would find it impossible to match.
Still, Seattle president Tim Ruskell said he appreciates the support. "They understand our plight here," Ruskell said. "I don't always like to be the guy with the flag but here we are, so we will deal with it. The Seahawks will have their voice heard and we will be known and we are not going to back down and we're going to be vital."
When Seattle countered Minnesota's move by signing Vikings RFA WR Nate Burleson to an equivalent 7-year, $49 million offer sheet (a deal backloaded with dummy clauses, it's more of a 4-year, $14 million offer with a $5.25 million signing bonus), Minnesota vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski didn't seem to appreciate the gesture. Seattle put a pair of provisions in the deal that made it impractical for the Vikings to match.
"There is a vast difference between our deal and Burleson's," Brzezinski told Jeff Zulgad of the Star Tribune. "The Hutchinson deal is of legitimate benefit to the player. He has a contract with us where it could vest; the Seattle deal is a total sham, and the trigger is a sham."
The truth, however, was that Burleson wanted to play in his hometown - reports indicate that Minnesota may have offered more than Seattle did. A former standout at Seattle's O'Dea High School, the 24-year old will step into the #2 receiver slot bwetween Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. "This is a dream come true for Nate," Burleson's agent, Ken Sarnoff, said. "That seven years after being named the Seattle High School Athlete of the Year, he now plays for the Seahawks."
--The Seahawks hope FS Ken Hamlin can participate in minicamps as a prelude to playing in 2006. Hamlin has not played since suffering life-threatening head injuries during a fight outside a Seattle nightclub back in October. Coach Mike Holmgren thinks Hamlin will be able to practice some this offseason.
"It's going to be wonderful," Holmgren told the Tacoma News Tribune. "We're going to take it slow and make sure he's OK, but I think there's a chance, yeah, that we'll get him on the field for minicamps."
Ruskell was also hopeful. "I think we're going to take it slow and see how he goes," Seattle's second-year team president said. "There is still more testing. Obviously, we would never want to do anything that would hurt him or harm him as we go forward.
"We all know Ken wants to play. That's a given, but you've got to do this right."
--Newly signed LB Julian Peterson already has friends in Seattle. He played with CB Jimmy Williams in San Francisco. Peterson has also played basketball with Sonics forward Rashard Lewis.
"Rashard Lewis is a good friend of mine," Peterson said, "so I have things to do out there to occupy my time. It's going to be a great situation. I'm going to enjoy myself out there."
Visions of the 6-foot-10 Lewis dunking on the 6-3 Peterson might be natural, but possibly not accurate. "I'm a defensive player, now," Peterson said. "You know that doesn't go down."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The biggest thing when I was coming back from the Achilles was getting my big toe to get that power step I needed and get my acceleration back. Right now it's coming right along. They were saying it was coming back and within two years it would be completely healthy. I'm feeling pretty strong now." -- LB Julian Peterson, who started 14 games last season after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon during the 2004 season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The secondary is a bit of a concern as the draft approaches. Seattle can't be sure about FS Ken Hamlin's availability.
FS Marquand Manuel left in free agency. CB Andre Dyson was released and signed with the Jets after negotiations intended to bring him back to Seattle failed. RCB Marcus Trufant and SS Michael Boulware are returning starters, but the other two positions are in some flux. DB Jordan Babineaux can play either position but he has not proven over time that he can be a starter.
"We certainly have to keep concentrating on that and get some depth, if nothing else," president Tim Ruskell said.
Pro Bowl CB Ty Law will visit the Seahawks next week, according to several print and TV reports. He would provide an obvious upgrade, but his age and asking price could be a concern.
"Our secondary is a little bit of a question mark," coach Mike Holmgren said. "Marcus Trufant is fine. If Ken Hamlin can play, then we'll have a good secondary again. I won't worry quite so much."
1. Cornerback: The Seahawks still have Marcus Trufant, Kelly Herndon, Jordan Babineaux and Jimmy Williams. They could use another starting-caliber corner, perhaps a veteran along the lines of Ty Law.
2. Safety: FS Ken Hamlin has been cleared by his own doctor, but not team doctors, and Seattle needs him to come back from career-threatening head injuries. The team has visited with free-agent FS Lance Schulters. Babineaux could also play FS if needed, but there is uncertainty at the position.
3. Defensive end: Seattle has two solid starters. Re-signing Joe Tafoya gives them a good backup. But if one of the starters goes down, Seattle could be in trouble. That's why Seattle needs to address this position in the draft. Losing out on Jets DE John Abraham was a blow.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: OG Steve Hutchinson (Seahawks did not match $49M/7 yrs offer from Vikings).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S John Howell; P Tom Rouen.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: PK Josh Brown; OT Wayne Hunter; QB Seneca Wallace.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Shaun Alexander; CB Jordan Babineaux; LB Kevin Bentley; DT Rocky Bernard; RB Maurice Morris; FB Mack Strong; DE Joe Tafoya; WR Peter Warrick; CB Jimmy Williams.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: OT Tom Ashworth; WR Nate Burleson; DT Russell Davis; S Shaunard Harts; TE Will Heller; LB Julian Peterson.
PLAYERS LOST: DL Rodney Bailey; CB Andre Dyson; OG Steve Hutchinson; WR Joe Jurevicius; FS Marquand Manuel; LB Jamie Sharper.