Hutchinson's departure robbed the offensive line of continuity. It deprived the locker room of a valued leader. And it pretty much killed the transition tag as a viable option for NFL teams. The Seahawks protected themselves this offseason by extending high tenders to restricted free agents Sean Locklear, D.J. Hackett and Jordan Babineaux. Any team signing Locklear would have to venture a first-round pick. Hackett and Babineaux would fetch second-round choices.
The high tenders made sense given that Seattle had $21 million in cap space. The team invested $4.15 million of that in its three major tenders. Linebacker Niko Koutouvides (fourth round) and defensive tackle Craig Terrill (sixth round) received minimum tenders for $850,000.
Seattle also used the franchise tag, not the transition tag, in retaining rights to clutch kicker Josh Brown. Brown made four game-winning kicks in the final minute of games last season. He wants to remain a Seahawk, by all indications, and the team wants to make that happen.
"We were getting up against the edge and we didn't want to lose him," Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said in explaining why the franchise tag was used. "So, we'll continue to talk. I feel very confident we'll get a deal done."
Brown is counting only $2.078 million against the $109 million cap. The Seahawks could easily carry him at that price, and a new deal wouldn't cost a whole lot more in terms of per-year cap space.
Unlike past seasons, the Seahawks entered this free-agent period without major deals looming. Jones, Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck are signed for the long term, as are other key players.
And without a first-round choice this season, the team will have additional cap room to invest in a few strategically targeted free agents. Chargers guard Kris Dielman was the first player on the Seahawks' list. The team is also considering Patrick Kerney and Daniel Graham, if those players remain unsigned long enough to make their way to Seattle.
"We're going to be aggressive again," Ruskell said. "You're not going to see 10 high-dollar guys, but we are going to be strategic and help this football team."
The Seahawks could use help at guard, defensive end, defensive tackle, safety and tight end. The team is also expected to explore trade options for receiver Darrell Jackson, who hasn't always been happy with his contract situation.
--The Seahawks are in no hurry to trade receiver Darrell Jackson, but the team does plan to explore its options during the coming weeks, according to published reports.
Jackson led the Seahawks in receptions last season. He was leading the league in touchdown catches before suffering a season-ending toe injury. He returned for part of the playoffs but the toe was clearly bothering him.
Jackson's toe is expected to be fine in time for training camp. At 28, he could conceivably have a few more strong seasons remaining. But the Seahawks plan to seek value for him because their relationship with the player is a bit strained. The team has protected itself by acquiring Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, players the team targeted as long-term starters.
Burleson struggled some in his first season, but the team has options at the position. D.J. Hackett was at times the team's best receiver last season. His role figures to expand. Burleson's role figures to expand as he becomes more comfortable with the offense. The same goes for Branch, who arrived one game into the season and has yet to go through training camp with the team.
Jackson has complained to the team about his contract, accusing the Seahawks' former management of reneging on promises. Current management has refused to make good on the as-yet-unknown promises. There is also distrust between team and player stemming from a 2005 knee injury. Jackson went outside the organization for a second opinion. His doctor discovered additional damage and Jackson wound up undergoing surgery.
--Defensive coordinator John Marshall is looking forward to working with Jim Mora, the team's newly hired assistant head coach/secondary. Some coordinators might be uncomfortable welcoming a recently fired head coach onto the staff, but Marshall and Mora worked well together in San Francisco. The 49ers ranked No. 1 in total defense back in 1997 with Marshall and Mora in their current roles.
"The thing I like about Jim, he's enthusiastic," Marshall said. "His expectations are always high. He never allows a player to bring down his expectations of what they should be doing and how they should be producing. And I love that."
The team might make a few schematic tweaks given Mora's experiences as a coordinator and head coach. "That is what we are kicking around right now," Marshall said. "He brings a different slant, which any new coach would bring. I just thank God we got him."
--The Seahawks brought Chargers guard Kris Dielman to Seattle for a visit on the first day of free agency. The team has apparently identified Dielman as its top priority to sign this offseason. Seattle has needed help at guard since losing three-time Pro Bowl choice Steve Hutchinson to Minnesota as a transition player in 2006. Dielman is known to have most of the toughness, if not yet all of the talent, that made Hutchinson an effective player.
--Tight end Jerramy Stevens became a free agent after the Seahawks made no effort to re-sign him. There's still a chance Stevens could return to the team, but he'll test the market first. Seattle has interest in free-agent tight end Daniel Graham, but the former New England starter will apparently make one or more visits elsewhere before coming to Seattle. The Seahawks have re-signed Will Heller as a backup at the position. Leonard Stephens and Bennie Joppru provide two more options.
--Free safety Ken Hamlin hit the market when free agency began, raising questions about the Seahawks' plans at the position. Strong safety Michael Boulware is coming off a poor season. Mike Green, a free-agent addition in 2006, is coming off serious foot surgery. There aren't many high-profile safeties available in free agency. Deon Grant, formerly of the Jaguars, is one potential option. The Seahawks might need to address the position in the draft even if they do find a free agent or re-sign Hamlin down the line.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're perfectly poised to do what we need to do." -- Seahawks president Tim Ruskell, heading into free agency.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
New Seahawks assistant coach Jim Mora never was a candidate to become head coach of the Chargers, according to Seahawks president Tim Ruskell. Initial reports from San Diego suggested the Chargers had received permission to speak with Mora about the opening, but Ruskell said that never happened.
--PK Josh Brown: Tendered at $2.078M.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LS J.P. Darche can still be a dependable snapper if he can stay healthy. The Seahawks have told him they do not expect him to return.
--WR Bobby Engram still has something left, but age and health issues are a concern.
--OG Chris Gray could return in a backup role and he has the potential to start if needed.
--S Ken Hamlin is a big hitter with very good range. He could flourish with the right system and coaching.
--TE Will Heller has the versatility to play fullback or tight end. He should be back.
--LB D.D. Lewis has a hard time staying healthy and that will hurt him in free agency.
--DE Kemp Rasmussen spent last season on injured reserve. He's a good special-teamer when healthy.
--RB Josh Scobey is a top-flight special-teams coverage player who can return kicks, but he is not a factor as a runner.
--TE Jerramy Stevens will have to overcome a history of injuries and inconsistent play wrapped around long-ago off-field troubles. He does have lots of talent, however.
--DE Joe Tafoya can be a very good special-teams player, but injuries have taken a toll.
--CB Jimmy Williams is coming off ACL surgery, putting his future in doubt.
--OG Floyd Womack has the ability to play all four positions except center. Too bad he can't stay healthy.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--SS Oliver Celestin (not tendered as RFA) served as a backup all last season. He has some experience.
--FB Josh Parry (not tendered as RFA) was one of the Seahawks' best special-teams players, but plantar fascia ended his season. The Seahawks owe Philadelphia a 2008 seventh-round choice for Parry.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DB Jordan Babineaux (tendered at $1.35M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) can play corner or safety, and he has a history of making plays. At some point he needs to focus on one position.
--WR D.J. Hackett (tendered at $1.35M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) has starting potential.
--LB Niko Koutouvides (tendered at $850,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation) is a core special-teams player but not a starting-caliber linebacker.
--OT Sean Locklear (tendered at $1.85M with 1st-round pick as compensation) got a higher tender even though he's coming off an injury-diminished season.
--DT Craig Terrill (tendered at $850,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation) is a good pass rusher with lots of energy and a great motor. He should be recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2006 season early.
--DB Pete Hunter: Potential UFA; terms unknown.
--LS Derek Rackley: Potential UFA; $720,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
--C Robbie Tobeck: UFA; retired.