Seahawks general manager John Schneider said at the NFL combine that the team is not planning to use the franchise tag this year, so it was no surprise that the deadline came and went Monday without a Seattle player being tendered.
It is the fourth straight year the Hawks have not made use of the option that allows a team to retain a key player at a one-year premium.
The Seahawks have 15 players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on March 11, but the team knows it doesn't have to pay an arm and a leg to keep any of them. Of course, that could change next year.
The top so-called candidate for the franchise tag this offseason would have been Michael Bennett, who led the Hawks with 8.5 sacks on a one-year deal in 2013. But the Hawks are not interested in giving him a $12 million tender, which is what franchise defensive ends are worth. Or even a $9.5 million tender, if he qualified to be tagged as a tackle. (That positional debate might have caused issues from the start, a la Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints, but the Hawks will avoid it altogether.)
Wide receiver Golden Tate and kicker Steven Hauschka were the two other players the Hawks might have considered, except that franchise receivers get $12.3 million and kickers get $3.56 million. Tate is worth half that, and the Hawks obviously are not going to give Hauschka a nearly 500 percent raise – even if he did have a great season.
Schneider has said the team wants Tate back, but the Hawks seem unlikely to pay him more than $6 million a season (and that would be high).
Hauschka was an afterthought re-signing last year after the Hawks could not find a better option. Then the 28-year-old, who bounced around the league for four years before landing in Seattle in 2011, turned in his best season.
Some considered him a candidate for the franchise tag because the kicker tender is easily the cheapest. In fact, the Hawks have used it for kickers twice -- on Olindo Mare in 2010 and Josh Brown in 2007.
Schneider has not used the tag since Mare in 2010 – after the Hawks used it for nine straight years.
They might have used it in 2012 if they had not reached a new deal with running back Marshawn Lynch, but they got the contract done the day before the franchise tender deadline.
Otherwise, they have had no veteran free agents worthy of that level of pay. They have enjoyed the financial flexibility that comes with a very young roster.
But those young players are coming of contract age, and the Hawks might end up using the tag in the next year or two. The top candidate next year could be cornerback Richard Sherman, if the team does not get him signed to an extension this year. Ditto safety Earl Thomas (who seems the easier player to sign). It is paramount for the Hawks to sign one of those secondary stars to an extension this year, so they have the franchise tag to fall back on next offseason.
If the Hawks don't get an extension with either of the Russells – Wilson or Okung -- before 2016, they might have to reserve the tag for the quarterback or the left tackle. Odds are both players will sign extensions before then – Okung perhaps this year and Wilson next – but the franchise tag will be an option if one of them does not.
Seahawks’ tag history
This is the fourth year in a row that the Seahawks will not designate a franchise player. Here is the history since 2000, all but Steve Hutchinson being franchise players.
2010: K Olindo Mare, $2,814,000
2009: *LB Leroy Hill, $8,304,000
2008: **CB Marcus Trufant $9,465,000
2007: K Josh Brown $2,078,000
2006: LG Steve Hutchinson $6,390,000
2005: RB Shaun Alexander $8,080,000
2004: LT Walter Jones $7,080,000
2003: LT Walter Jones $5,734,000
2002: LT Walter Jones $4,920,000
2000: ***WR Joey Galloway $4,100,000
*Later rescinded, and Hill signed a long-term deal
**Trufant signed an extension shortly after
***Galloway was traded to Dallas for two first-round picks