-- Adding WR Nate Burleson made sense for the Seahawks even though the signing cost Seattle a third-round draft choice. The goal, as usual, is to head into the draft with as many needs filled as possible. Burleson gives the offense a competent replacement for WR Joe Jurevicius, who signed with Cleveland, and a player the Seahawks expect to start opposite WR Darrell Jackson.
Re-signing Jurevicius would have been the ideal scenario. But once he decided to sign with his hometown Browns, the Seahawks found themselves in the market for a receiver. Rather than signing a declining veteran or depending on a rookie draft choice, the Seahawks sought a happy medium with Burleson, a 24-year-old player with the ability to gain yards after the catch.
"The fit is great for a lot of reasons," coach Mike Holmgren said. "One, Nate is an outstanding football player. Two, he is from here; his family is here. That is all great. And three, he is a fine person. That is what we have tried to do and we think that is a big part of our success. The fit is really good."
A Seattle-area native, Burleson came to the Seahawks as a restricted free agent from Minnesota. He topped 1,000 yards receiving in 2004, his second year in the league, before injuries limited his production last season. And at 24, he is only beginning what Seattle expects to be a long career in his hometown.
The plan is to plug Burleson into the split end position, with Jackson remaining at flanker. WR Bobby Engram will probably go back to his role as a slot receiver in three-wide formations. He was effective in that role prior to becoming the split end last season.
Engram has also proven he can be effective in the split-end role, but the slot role might prolong his career. He turned 33 in January.
Burleson said he's looking forward to playing before the home crowd. His parents still live near Seattle.
"If you were talking to me in Minnesota, I would tell you the same thing," Burleson said. "I love Seattle."
Burleson signed a seven-year, $49 million contract. The deal pays him $14.5 million in the first four years, including a $4 million signing bonus. Seattle added high base salaries late in the contract so Minnesota would not match the offer. The deal included poison-pill clauses that would have forced the Vikings, but not Seattle, to guarantee the full $49 million.
--The 2006 regular-season schedule did nothing to diminish the Seahawks' status as NFC West favorites. The schedule served up three prime-time home games. Two of those are Monday night games against Oakland and Green Bay, who combined for eight victories last season.
The defending NFC champions drew a Sunday night road game against Chicago, but that one is early enough (Oct. 1) to avoid the full bite of winter.
And though the Seahawks face a severely shortened week brought on by a Thursday night game, the opponent is one Seattle has handled recently -- San Francisco, on Dec. 14. The Seahawks have won six consecutive games against the 49ers, amassing a 71-3 scoring advantage in the last two meetings at Qwest Field.
The Seahawks' status as NFC champs will bring a new level of regular-season exposure for the franchise. Seattle was one of six franchises to receive four prime-time games, and none of them can be bumped by the new "flex" scheduling formula. The Seahawks could add as many as two prime-time games if NBC and the league find the team's late-season afternoon matchups appealing.
Seattle has two Monday night games for the first time since 1987. The upcoming season will mark the first time since 1986 that Seattle has played two Monday night games at home.
The Seahawks also have to like how the league assigned its road matchups against Detroit and Tampa Bay, the longest trips of the year.
Seattle opens the season against the Lions, allowing the team to take care of some unfinished business at Ford Field, site of the team's Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. Seattle then has three-plus months before making its second and final regular-season trip to the Eastern time zone for its matchup with Tampa Bay.
--DE Bryce Fisher, a captain in the Air Force Reserves, has been visiting U.S. troops in the Balkans and Persian Gulf. The tour, arranged by the United Services Organization in conjunction with the NFL, lasted nearly two weeks. Some thought the trip might take away the sting of the Seahawks' loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL. Wrong. Fisher encountered numerous Steelers fans on the trip. Some taunted him.
"This trip has put the worst taste in my mouth about that game," Fisher said. "Right after we lost, my feeling was, 'OK, it's done, let it be.' Now I'm so much more determined to win for the fans and for myself. ... You'd think half of western Pennsylvania is deployed over here. They wave their Terrible Towels and needle me as much as possible. Most of it's good natured-fun, but ..."
Only to a point.
"I heard lots of Pittsburgh fans jibber-jabbering about the NFC," Fisher said. "I've seen how many other fans look at us and look at the game, and I'm more determined than ever to win."
--LB Isaiah Kacyvenski has always been a team player. He's a smart player, too. The Harvard graduate picked up a $125,000 signing bonus for agreeing to lower his 2006 salary from $1.5 million to $600,000. The team values his contributions on special teams and his ability to backup all three linebacker spots, but the $1.5 million price tag was too high. By taking the pay cut and up-front money, Kacyvenski improved his job security while clearing $775,000 in cap space for the team.
"Notwithstanding his contributions on the field, the Seahawks recognized the character and the leadership that 'Kaz' brings," Kacyvenski's agent, John Drana, told the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. "He wanted to be part of the Super Bowl team and he wanted to help his number be more cap friendly. It's a win-win for everyone."
Kacyvenski has been a special-teams captain.
--WR Nate Burleson knows how lucky he is to sign with his hometown team before his 25th birthday. His father, Al Burleson, has an even better understanding. The elder Burleson starred at the University of Washington in the 1970s before going to camp with the Los Angeles Rams as a 14th-round pick in 1976. His career took him to Canada, where Burleson became an all-CFL defensive back for Calgary.
"Besides the selfish reasons, having my son home, I honestly think that Nate is a good fit for this receiving corps, especially with how they spread the ball around," Al Burleson said. "If I had to pick four teams that I think Nate would fit good, this team would be No. 1. Just on potential, the Super Bowl, the system, the quarterback, everybody is young. It's just perfect."
--The NFL plans to remind officials to see each play in its entirety before throwing a flag. The Seahawks might have benefited from that approach on a couple plays in the Super Bowl.
"The league is so cyclical," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's like a couple years ago when we emphasized illegal contact on a wide receiver. The thing was, the rule never changed.
"What happens is you have a rule and you have all these calls. Then you get more calls. Then about every five years it goes from 5 yards, then the bump is at 6, then it's at 7, now we have to tighten it up again. That's just how it goes.
"The idea of seeing the whole play is probably pretty basic. It's OK to talk about that again and emphasize it again and get people talking about it and thinking about it again."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He was a guy that we had targeted during the season. You look at those restricted lists and obviously those guys are hard to get. You knew that he was a fit because of what he brings after the catch. Nate always looks to make a short play long and always maximizes his game." -- Seahawks president Tim Ruskell on newly acquired WR Nate Burleson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Seattle still has question marks in its secondary after Pro Bowl CB Ty Law left town without a contract. Law, 32, paid a recent visit to Seahawks headquarters. He is reportedly interested in a contract that pays him $7 million per year with $10 million in guarantees. He probably won't find that kind of money in Seattle - and he may find his price driven down overall. The Seahawks have also visited with former Dolphins S Lance Schulters and former Falcons S Keion Carpenter.
Seattle hopes FS Ken Hamlin can bounce back from head injuries that shortened his 2005 season. The plan is for Hamlin to participate in upcoming mini-camps, but he has not been cleared for the regular season. Depth became an issue when Hamlin was injured and FS Marquand Manuel signed with Green Bay in free agency.
Money won't stop the Seahawks from pursuing help in the secondary. The team has more than $10 million in cap space after signing WR Nate Burleson to a long-term deal.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: OG Steve Hutchinson (Seahawks did not match $49M/7 yrs offer from Vikings).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--S John Howell finished the season on injured reserve. He is more of a special-teams player than an every-down defensive back.
--P Tom Rouen still has some pop left in his leg. He was able to stay healthy last season, but he's still a guy who will sign for close to the veterans' minimum.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--PK Josh Brown (tendered at $721,600 with 7th-round pick as compensation) could command some interest in the restricted market but Seattle would probably match most offers.
--OT Wayne Hunter (tendered at $721,600 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) hasn't been able to stay healthy. He has also had some off-field concerns. That combination won't endear him to anyone, although Hunter does have talent.
--QB Seneca Wallace (tendered at $721,600 with 4th-round pick as compensation) appears destined to return in some capacity. He could play more receiver if the team signs a veteran backup.
--RB Shaun Alexander: Potential UFA; $61.687M/8 yrs, $11.5M SB/$2M RB 2007-08; 2006 cap: $6.5M.
--CB Jordan Babineaux: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Kevin Bentley: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Rocky Bernard: UFA; $13M/3 yrs, $5.4M SB; 2006 cap: $2.4M.
--RB Maurice Morris: UFA; $3.75M/3 yrs, $900,000 SB.
--FB Mack Strong: UFA; $3.16M/3 yrs, $500,000 SB; 2006 cap: $1.027M.
--DE Joe Tafoya: UFA; terms unknown.
--WR Peter Warrick: UFA; $1M/1 yr, SB unknown.
--CB Jimmy Williams: UFA; $585,000/1 yr.
--T/G Tom Ashworth; UFA Patriots; $13M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Nate Burleson: RFA Vikings; Vikings did not match offer of $49M/7 yrs, $4M SB; 2006 cap: $2.05M and receive 3rd-round pick as compensation.
--DT Russell Davis: UFA Cardinals; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Shaunard Harts: FA; terms unknown.
--TE Will Heller: Not tendered as RFA by Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--LB Julian Peterson: UFA 49ers; $54M/6 yrs, $11.5M SB.
--DE Rodney Bailey: UFA Steelers; $625,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB).
--CB Andre Dyson (released).
--TE Ryan Hannam: UFA Cowboys; $5M/4 yrs, $1.25M SB.
--OG Steve Hutchinson: TFA Vikings; $49M/7 yrs, $16M guaranteed.
--WR Joe Jurevicius: UFA Browns; $10M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
--S Marquand Manuel: UFA Packers; $10M/5 yrs, $2M SB.
--LB Jamie Sharper (released; failed physical/knee).
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.