The long, dark lockout is extinguished at last.
To those of you who were enjoying the blog's initial run earlier this spring, I do apologize for my unannounced absence. I got discouraged from writing by a lot of factors, such as the pall cast by the lockout over any kind of real news or analysis for the offseason. When I started 17 Power, I'd regarded the offseason as an opportunity instead of an obstacle, a chance to fill the void with off-the-beaten-path opinion, but I hadn't envisioned trying to do so without the help of any actual football developments.
Plus, some genius back in April decided to over-click my Google Adsense advertisements (you might have noticed their disappearance back in April), prompting Google to assume that I was abusing them for the revenue and pull them. That sucked.
But...I'm back. Nothing keeping me down now. Our beloved Seahawks are going to get talked about again, and I'm gonna be part of it. I hope you'll be around to enjoy my bizarre blather and participate in the discussion, as we charge headfirst into the craziest NFL free agency likely to be witnessed in our lifetimes.
Adam Schefter is reporting that free agency will return Friday. Contrary to earlier reports, Seattle's free agents will hit the market at the same time as everyone else. Still, they're as good a re-entry point as any.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB
Let's just...save this one for later.
Chris Spencer, C
After years of dismissal from media and fans alike, Spencer steadied himself out in 2010 and became the team's most consistent lineman. That's not damning with faint praise, either. "Consistent" may not have made Rob Sims popular with fans after 2009, but I daresay a lot of people wish he'd stuck around after 2010. He's now doing well in Detroit.
Spencer may become a similar story. If you're going to let a merely decent player walk, make sure he's replaced well. Max Unger, Spencer's heir apparent in the eyes of some, doesn't look like the answer. He spent too much time in his own backfield as a left guard in 2009, and spent his sophomore year on injured reserve. Moving from guard to center entails some changes, but both involve standing your ground against big men trying to push you back. The necessary strength is a fundamental that Unger hasn't yet shown he has. I see him as valuable depth at both center and guard.
So Spencer may be a good short-term answer. His strength, recognition, and agility have all improved in small steps during his career, even as he's been forced to adjust to three different blocking schemes. Those who question his motivation or his intelligence are standing on indefensible arguments. There's nothing to prove either. Give him continuity, both schematic and personnel-wise, and I believe the position is filled adequately. Let him go, and Seattle risks opening up yet another hole without real cause.
Urgency Factor: 8
Brandon Stokley, WR
Matt Hasselbeck enjoyed great chemistry with the steady Stokley in 2010. It was a watershed for the Seahawks, as the Broncos released him with an injury settlement in September only to watch him jump right back into the game a couple of weeks later, prompting teeth-gnashing (tooth-gnashing?) from Denver fans. He even played after getting a "Doubtful" label on one injury list. He was a third-down monster and a good, solid slot option all season long, proving himself even in a playoff environment.
Stokley has thrived catching passes from a variety of QB profiles, from Jeff Blake and Chris Redman to Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler, and Kyle Orton. So we know he's not a D-Jack. He's getting up there in age, but there are wide receivers who enjoy late-career productivity through their "veteran savvy" and knowledge of the game. I don't see any reason that Stokley can't fulfill that role for one more year.
With the recent tidbit that Deon Butler might not be ready for the season opener, Stokley, like Mebane, becomes more enticing thanks to injury at his position. Otherwise, the receiving corps has only Mike Williams as a fully reliable starter, leading a gang of projects. That doesn't sit well with me. It's a situation ripe for Stokley's leadership and experience. Seattle needs to seriously consider a nice fat one-year contract for that slow white boy.
Urgency Factor: 8
Michael Robinson, FB
We'd have a better handle on this guy if he'd stayed healthy longer, but from what I can see, Robinson is a bit underrated. He was most known for his painful drops, so he's not much of a weapon out of the backfield. He doesn't have a lot of speed or elusiveness to flash while carrying the ball, and that hurts. But his run-blocking - which, lest we forget, is the primary job of a fullback - was splended at times and could have been better behind a real offensive line. He's also valuable as a pass blocker and special-teams gunner. He must have been a pretty good pickup to annoy 49ers fans over the fact that we got him.
Robinson is a somewhat limited player, but good at what he does and worth keeping around for competition. Obviously Vonta Leach, who has been linked to Seattle in free agency, would shatter Robinson in such a competition. Either way, expect fullback to be a priority for a Seattle team determined to rebuild its running game.
Urgency Factor: 6
Sean Locklear, RT
Locklear's age, contract desires, and inadequacies in 2010 leave them all but certain to be cut. The drafting of James Carpenter seems to seal Locklear's fate.
Urgency Factor: 2
Tyler Polumbus, OL
Polumbus was a better backup than anyone Tim Ruskell dredged up in 2009, filling in capably at multiple positions. His viability as a starter remains a question, but he bounced back well enough from a tough start in Denver that I could see a desperate team offering him better money at some point. Seattle should endeavor to keep him around, as this team is not known for his consistency on the offensive line.
Urgency Factor: 7
Ray Willis, OL
Also a good depth prospect, with spirited run-blocking and a season of starting experience under his belt.
Urgency Factor: 6
Tomorrow: Defensive and special teams free agents.