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A breakdown of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2019 free-agent signings.

Akeem King, defensive back

The Seahawks re-signed Akeem King to a one-year deal worth $1.4 million on Friday, a source tells ESPN. Here’s a closer look at the defensive back who spent the past two seasons with Seattle.

What it means: Bringing back King is the first move by the Seahawks and it’s a notable one even though he’s an under-the-radar player. In addition to playing left and right cornerback, King has worked in the slot and at safety — a la DeShawn Shead. That versatility could come in handy given the state of Seattle’s secondary, which is about to say goodbye to Earl Thomas and also could lose nickelback Justin Coleman in free agency. King, a seventh-round pick by the Falcons in 2015, appeared in all 16 games last season while making one start and playing 145 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Reference. King, who will be 27 by the start of next season, was one of Seattle’s four restricted free agents along with tackle/tight end George Fant, defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson and fullback Tre Madden.

2019 Free Agency | Seahawks
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What’s the risk: There’s not much risk here. King’s one-year deal includes a $400,000 signing bonus, according to a source. He can make up to $2.05 million in all with incentives tied to playing time and interceptions. The max value of $2.05 million is slightly more than what King would have stood to make had the Seahawks given him the low RFA tender, which is worth a non-guaranteed $2.025 million. But if he makes the full amount, it means he became a significant contributor. And if not, the Seahawks will have paid him less than what they would have with the low tender. King is guaranteed more money on his deal than he would have been guaranteed on the tender. There’s more reward than risk for both sides.

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The Seattle Seahawks have already announced the firings of their top four assistant coaches, including their two coordinators, plus a mutual parting of ways with a fifth. A few others are not expected to return as a result of the biggest overhaul of Pete Carroll’s staff since he took over as head coach in 2010.

A similarly drastic retooling of the roster could follow in the wake of a 9-7 finish that snapped Seattle’s string of five straight playoff appearances. That’s the belief among some observers and at least a few of the players themselves.

“I definitely think there’s going to be some player changes,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett recently told Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle.
Michael Bennett believes big-name player changes are coming in Seattle — changes that could include the defensive lineman himself. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There are always changes to a team’s roster from one year to the next, but Bennett was talking about big changes involving big-name players.

“Earl Thomas has one year on his contract, Richard Sherman’s coming off the injury,” Bennett said. “You just never know.”

In response to Bennett on the possibility of a significant roster shake-up, tight end Luke Willson told the same station, “I would agree. Hopefully I’m not part of that turnover. I guess we’ll find out soon.”

Willson is one of 16 Seahawks scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. That group also includes tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Paul Richardson, among other starters. We’ll examine their situations in the coming weeks as free agency draws nearer.

We’ve recently looked at the situations with strong safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril, whose football futures are in jeopardy because of neck injuries.

Here is a look at three other longtime Seahawks who are under contract but may not be back in 2018 for reasons including age, health, salary and/or other contractual dynamics. Like Chancellor and Avril, they’ve been key members of a Seahawks defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL from 2012 to 2015 but slipped to third and then a tie for 13th over the past two seasons.

FS Earl Thomas

Age: Turns 29 in May

Contract status: Entering the final year of a four-year, $40 million extension

Recent comments from Thomas to ESPN set the stage for a potential holdout in the absence of a multiyear extension at his desired price. We can safely assume that price at least matches, if not tops, the $13 million average of Eric Berry’s latest deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, which he signed last offseason to become the NFL’s highest-paid safety. Thomas, coming off his sixth Pro Bowl appearance and arguably the most important player to Seattle’s defense, would be well within reason to ask for that type of compensation. The Seahawks would be well within reason to balk given the inherent risk of making that large of a financial commitment to a player who is approaching 30 and has missed seven games over the past two seasons because of three injuries. An impasse could lead the Seahawks to shop Thomas in trade talks like they did under much different circumstances with Sherman last offseason. Thomas is a once-in-a-generation player, but if he digs his heels in and if another team makes Seattle a worthwhile offer, pulling the trigger on a trade wouldn’t be out of the question even if it wouldn’t make the Seahawks better right away.

CB Richard Sherman

Age: Turns 30 in March

Contract status: Entering the final year of a four-year, $56 million extension

Sherman, like Thomas, is one of the most iconic players in franchise history. He was again playing at an All-Pro level when his season ended in November because of a ruptured Achilles. He has a good chance at being ready by the start of next season based on the typical recovery period for that injury. It should be noted that he appeared to hit the reset button during an incident-free season after a tumultuous 2016 that included a pair of sideline blowups toward coaches. All of that could work in favor of Seattle bringing Sherman back in 2018, especially because his injury figures to severely diminish his trade value. On the other hand, there are no guarantees with injuries as significant as Sherman’s. He also carries a 2018 salary-cap charge of $13.2 million with only $2.2 million in dead money, meaning the Seahawks could save a whopping $11 million if they were to cut him. They could wait to make any decision on Sherman until after free agency and the draft, which would allow them to assess their cornerback situation and Sherman’s health first.

DL Michael Bennett

Age: Turns 33 in November

Contract status: Signed through 2020 on a three-year, $30.5 million extension
It was only 14 months ago that Seattle gave Bennett a new contract that came with a raise he had been seeking since 2015, but the possibility of the Seahawks releasing him seems real despite that. He even acknowledged as much at season’s end, telling The News Tribune that he “probably won’t be back next year.” It’s not as though Bennett’s 2017 season was a disappointment. Yes, he continued to struggle with penalties, as did the Seahawks as a team. But Bennett remained a disruptive force when he wasn’t jumping offside. He finished second on the team with 8.5 sacks and again led Seattle’s defensive linemen in snaps — by a wide margin — despite playing with foot and knee injuries.

The Seahawks would incur a little over $5.2 million in dead-money charges by releasing Bennett because it’s so early in his extension. The cap savings would be just under $2.2 million, which is not much. That coupled with the strong possibility that Avril won’t be able to play again — or is released before that determination is made — could lead the Seahawks to give Bennett another season. It’s also conceivable that they bite the salary-cap bullet and move on from Bennett now with an eye toward avoiding the possibility of his age and further injury leading to a rapid decline in his effectiveness. If the Seahawks do release Bennett, expect it to happen before he’s owed a $3 million roster bonus in March.

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Pete Carroll has never been one to “stick to sports.”
While he was the head coach at USC, Carroll started A Better LA, a non-profit that strives to use community-based solutions to save lives in the inner city. Since coming to Seattle, Carroll has launched A Better Seattle, and he has made a point of not just allowing his players to speak their minds and get involved in various causes, but encouraging them to do so.
So it should come as no surprise that when a reporter at the NFL Annual Meetings asked Carroll about the league’s and players’ role in social issues, the Seahawks coach was eager to have a lengthy conversation.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, I am distinctly tuned in to that,” Carroll said in Phoenix last week. “I think the league does have an extraordinary opportunity to take the leadership role that so many people count on us to have and fill. So many things surfaced last year—not new things, but things that surfaced and emphasis and opened up doorways for opportunities to make great strides heading forward. I think that in terms of race in particular, I think we have an extraordinary opportunity to advance the conversation, to take us to a place where people can understand that there’s such a tremendous necessity to grow in our understanding, in our acceptance, in our appreciation for one another.”
And this isn’t something that’s just on Carroll’s mind or on that of players, several of whom, led by Colin Kaepernick, took part in different demonstrations during the National Anthem last season. Serious non-football topics were up for discussion in owners’ meetings last week.
“It’s a topic that came up in the meetings with ownership, and it’s something that I’m hoping we can all be ready to open up new dialogue and create new language and new perspective that can take us to a place that can allow us to change and to grow,” Carroll said. “And so I think just coming out of the meetings that there is a sense that we need to seize this opportunity. We need to go for it. We need to go for it in a way to create the conversations about things that people don’t know how to talk about, that have been unapproachable, that have not been available to us because it’s just too uncomfortable. We need to go there.”
The conversation going on at the league meetings is one that the Seahawks have been having for a while, especially early last season when the team decided to present “a unified front” during the National Anthem, standing together while linking arms. While preparing for the 2016 season, the Seahawks also met with people like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dr. Harry Edwards, a sociologist whose area of focus includes sports, family, race and ethnic relations. One of the key elements of those meetings was Edwards telling players that “the difference between a mob and a movement is follow through.” And Seahawks players have been following through, whether in the form of Doug Baldwin going to Olympia to address a use of deadly force task force, or in Michael Bennett recently announcing that he is donating all of his 2017 endorsement money and half of the proceeds from his jersey sales to cause that will “help rebuild minority communities.”
Carroll, who often compares his relationship with players to that of a father and sons, has taken a lot of pride in seeing his players using their platform as NFL stars to do good in the world.
“I do take pride in that—we’ve really openly encouraged our guys find their calling and to act on it and then follow through with it,” Carroll said. “Really all we’re doing is getting out of their way and supporting them, but I think there’s enough conversation in our building about responsibility and opportunity to do things and to create change and to affect other people’s lives, really from their hearts. I think you see our guys doing it in marvelous ways. Some of the stuff, like what Doug’s involved with law enforcement, changing laws, adjusting the way things have been done in the past, because of their diligence and expertise and all, that’s really rewarding. This whole thing about building a bridge between law enforcement and the community is a noble, right on the money pursuit. I’m really proud our guys are doing stuff like that. I think Michael’s statements, his chartable thoughts, it’s really extraordinary.”
As for the discussions at the league meetings, Carroll was encouraged by what he heard.
“I think that there was a really good response,” he said. “A lot of guys came up and spoke and shared their thoughts and stuff. We know that we’re heading into a new area for us. And there were people that were ready to take that challenge and step of moving forward in a really good way. If the NFL could follow this up and create a new dialogue, there’s no telling how far that could take us and to helping everybody. It’s not necessarily a football issue to me—it isn’t a football issue. It just happens to be we’re in a place where we have this extraordinary, unique opportunity where guys come from everywhere and we can pool our ideas and share our experiences and maybe find a new way and a new vision for moving ahead. So that’s pretty awesome.”

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With the 2016 NFL season now in the books, and the 2017 league year not yet upon us, now is a good time to take a look at where things stand with the Seahawks roster. This week, we continue to take a position-by-position look at the Seahawks, both looking back at the 2016 season and looking ahead to 2017. Today, the focus is on special teams. Read
2016 Recap
The Seahawks did plenty of good things on special teams in 2016. Jon Ryan had his best net average (39.3 yards per punt) since 2012; there were standouts on kick and punt coverage units, most notably Cassius Marsh and newcomers Neiko Thorpe, Dewey McDonald, Brandon Williams and DeAndre Elliott; and when healthy, Tyler Lockett was good enough to earn second-team All-Pro honors as a returner. But those positives were somewhat overshadowed by some uncharacteristic struggles in the kicking game, and in particular on extra points. While Steven Hauschka was solid as usual on field goals, he missed or had blocked six extra point attempts. Not all of those misses were Hauschka’s fault—there were some errant snaps, as well as pressure that led to blocks on some—but as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted, Hauschka “had gotten a little stink with kicking the extra points.”
On a more positive note, Hauschka finished the season strong, making all four field goal attempts and four of five extra points in the postseason.
“I was really excited that he finished the season on a good note and he hit everything that he had a chance to hit, because he knew he was up against it, he knew he needed to show that,” Carroll said. “I wish it would have happened a few weeks earlier, just so he could have had more weeks to bank on that. Hauschka is a really good kicker that got in a little bit of a rut with the extra points. He’s come through for us a lot of times and been a big-play guy for us, so I outwardly commended him about showing that he’s back and he’s on it by the way he finished, and I thought that was pretty good.”
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Notable Number: 9
The Seahawks signed cornerback Neiko Thorpe following their season opener in large part because they thought the former Oakland Raider could help on special teams, and he came through in a big way, leading the team in special teams tackles with nine. It was second time in as many years that the Seahawks added a defensive back in September who would go on to lead the team in special teams tackles, with Kelcie McCray accomplishing the same feat in 2015 after coming to Seattle in a trade with Kansas City. Read
Offseason Outlook
The Seahawks got an early start on their special teams offseason work, signing former Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh last week. While the new league year has yet to begin, the Seahawks were able to sign Walsh because he was released by the Vikings during the season and finished the year as a free agent. Hauschka is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the year begins, and while he could re-sign, Walsh’s addition signals that there will be a competition and possibly change at a position that has remained the same since Hauschka became the Seahawks kicker in 2011.
There are also a number players who have been big contributors on special teams who are headed to free agency, including Thorpe, McCray, Williams and Mike Morgan.
As is always the case when it comes to adding young talent in the draft and free agency, the Seahawks will be looking for players who can not only help on offense or defense, but also contribute on special teams. Read
What The Future Holds
Walsh has a strong résumé—last year’s struggles notwithstanding—including Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors in 2012, but even if Hauschka isn’t back, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Seahawks have more than one kicker in camp to compete for the job. There could also to be a battle for the long-snapping job between Nolan Frese and Tyler Ott, who was signed late in the season when Frese was injured. With Tyler Lockett recovering from a broken leg that required surgery, the Seahawks could also look to find a player or players who can handle return duty if Lockett isn’t ready for a full-time workload at the start of the season.