Here are the moves the Seattle Seahawks should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday:
Be disciplined with their top guys. In other words, don't overpay for Sheldon Richardson, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson. Graham will already be a goner anyway if reports of his expected departure are accurate. The Seahawks should avoid getting into bidding wars for the Richardsons. The Seahawks would love to have Sheldon Richardson back, especially with all the expected turnover elsewhere along their defensive line, but a deal worth an average of, say, $14 million would be tough to justify from a production and payroll standpoint. With Paul Richardson, there's no need for Seattle to pay him like one of the game's top No. 2 receivers with Tyler Lockett capable of filling that role behind Doug Baldwin. If the Seahawks could bring back either of them on a one-year deal at a relative bargain, that would be ideal. But if the price gets too high, they should move on knowing they'll get a 2019 compensatory pick in return.
Beef up the pass rush. The Seahawks ranked 18th in generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks (27.9 percent of dropbacks) last season and were tied for 13th in sacks (39). Those numbers both represented slight dropoffs from 2016. So improving the pass rush should be a priority even if Sheldon Richardson is back and especially if he isn't. With Michael Bennett gone and Cliff Avril not expected back, the Seahawks might need to replace two of their most productive pass-rushers in addition to Richardson. And while their recent moves have freed up around $18 million in cap space, they still may opt to do so with mid-level or bargain free agents, someone like Adrian Clayborn or former Seahawk Clinton McDonald, who had 5.5 sacks during Seattle's 2013 Super Bowl season.
Re-sign DeShawn Shead. And Byron Maxwell, too, if he'll take a one-year deal for the veteran minimum or something slightly above it. The Legion of Boom is in transition with Richard Sherman gone and Kam Chancellor in danger of never playing again. Plus, Earl Thomas is entering the final season of his contract. The Seahawks have already taken one major step to solidify their secondary by re-signing versatile safety Bradley McDougald to a three-year deal on Monday. Shead is another versatile defender, having played all five positions in Seattle's secondary at one point or another, including a season and a half as a starter at right cornerback. He would be an option to replace Sherman while also providing important flexibility with Chancellor's and Thomas' futures uncertain. And the experience that Shead and Maxwell have in Seattle's system make them much more appealing than a cornerback from another team, particularly given Seattle's spotty track record with outside free agents at that position.
Add a veteran offensive lineman. Left guard Luke Joeckel is the only member of last year's starting five who's unsigned, but Seattle could also be looking for an upgrade over Germain Ifedi at right tackle after he struggled in his first season there. Ideally, the Seahawks would continue to build their line through the draft, but with only one pick in the first three rounds as it stands now and other holes to fill, they might be better off addressing this position in free agency first. Two players who would make sense are Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker, both former New York Giants who played under new Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari. Both have played guard and tackle, another plus.