The Seahawks have about $32 million in salary cap space, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and a large portion might be reinvested to patch up a dearth of contract players at running back, defensive end and linebacker.
The question for Seattle: Do they keep RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Red Bryant, and MLB David Hawthorne, or do they look to find alternatives through the draft and free agency?
Lynch has run with a mean streak since donning Seahawk blue, but the execs in Seattle have to be sure he’ll continue to play that way after he is paid a hefty contract.
Either way, the Seahawks have to bring in another back. We don’t know if Trent Richardson will be available at No. 12, but if he drops, he could be paired with Lynch. Despite a career-best 1,204-yard last season, Lynch and the Seahawks ranked 20th in rushes over 4 yards (184).
Along with Bryant, DEs Raheem Brock, Anthony Hargrove and Jimmy Wilkerson are free agents. We would expect the Seahawks to retain Bryant and his 300-plus pounds for girth on the edge, but they would still need to add pass rushers to a unit that ranked 19th in sacks. Mark Anderson, Kroy Biermann and Frostee Rucker are mid-level options through free agency, but the draft is full of pass rushers with more youth and even more potential.
USC DE Nick Perry did enough at the combine – 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 35 reps on the bench press – which might be enough to entice Seattle if Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) or Quentin Coples (UNC) are already off the board.
It wouldn’t be out of the question to see both Hawthorne and Leroy Hill leave this offseason. If so, the Seahawks will be in dire need at LB.
If the Seahawks bring back a plugger like Bryant on the edge, one option could be to draft a pass rusher like Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw and deploy him out of their 4-3 like the Broncos did Von Miller last season. There should be plenty of inside linebackers on the free-agent market, including London Fletcher, Stephen Tulloch and Curtis Lofton.
Re-signing Hawthorne wouldn’t be a bad call, but better pieces need to be added on the second level of the defense to take better advantage of Bryant and Brandon Mebane. Despite those big bodies, the Seahawks ranked 15th versus the run in 2011.
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