A month removed from being released from the team, multiple sources are reporting that Marcus Trufant will be returning to Seattle on a one year contract. No specifics have been released about the deal, but Trufant didn't generate much interest on the market (as far as I can tell, the Broncos were the only team to bring him in for a visit) so chances are good that he signed for something near the veteran minimum. As a nine year veteran he's entitled to make at least $825k for the 2012 season, which is a heck of a lot lower than the $7.2 million he was scheduled to make prior to his release. But bargain or not, the Seahawks didn't just sever ties with Trufant back in March because he was expensive, they also did it because he's an aging player with deteriorating skills who has missed an increasing number of games due to nagging injuries (6 in 2009 due to back problems, then 12 last year when those back problems resurfaced). So, why bring him back at all?
Well, that question was answered by John Schneider in an interview yesterday with Softy Mahler on KJR. Walter Thurmond, everyone's favorite talented young cornerback who can't seem to catch a break, recently had to undergo a second surgery to repair the broken leg he suffered in late October against the Browns. That pushes his recovery timetable back far enough that he could end up starting the season on the Physically Unable to Play list, which by rule would make him ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the season. In light of that, bringing back a veteran CB like Trufant who is already familiar with the defensive scheme makes a lot of sense. That said, Trufant is by no means a lock to earn a roster spot. CBs Roy Lewis and Byron Maxwell should provide strong competition to fill in for Thurmond at nickel back. Lewis is a career special teamer whose coverage skills are developing nicely, and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and DBs coach Kris Richards are both very high on Maxwell, whom they consider to be the top CB on the roster behind Thurmond.
Schneider also discussed some non-Trufant related subjects, too. It sounds like LB Barrett Ruud, who also recently signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks, may be in the running to compete for the open middle linebacker position. 2011 fourth round pick KJ Wright had been more or less penciled in to take over at MLB when David Hawthorne hit free agency, but Wright was an asset at outside linebacker last year after he took the starting job away from Aaron Curry. If Ruud or someone else (possibly a pick in the upcoming draft?) can prove he is a competent Mike, that would give the defensive staff the luxury of giving Wright another year to hone his skills at a position in which he's already proven to be an asset. The other starting outside linebacker last year, Leroy Hill, is still a free agent, but Schneider confirmed that he is in constant contact with Hill's agent and that the team would like to have him back next year.
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Speaking of linebackers, Mahler brought up the rumor that was floating around in recent weeks that the Seahawks might consider moving strong safety Kam Chancellor to middle linebacker. On paper, Chancellor has the size (6'3", 232 lbs) and hitting ability to be a linebacker, but there's a big difference between having a safety who is occasionally mistaken for a linebacker and asking that safety to become a linebacker full time. Chancellor and Earl Thomas are arguably the best young safety tandem in the league; asking a player who dominates at his current position to move over and learn an entirely new one just because you're temporarily short on linebackers is a ludicrous proposition. As Schneider put it, "we usually try not to move Pro Bowl players to different positions."
Beyond that, Schneider mentoined that ex-Cardinal Deuce Lutui will be given a chance to compete for the starting left guard position that opened up after Robert Gallery's release, G John Moffitt may be recovered enough from knee surgery to participate in training camp (which is a relief, considering that some reports had him down as possibly starting the season on PUP), and the team has not ruled out re-signing RB Justin Forsett, although it sounds like that wouldn't become a realistic possibility until the team's had a chance to reevaluate its roster sometime after the draft.
Finally, I just want to take a moment to tally things up with regard to free agency. There's been so many names flying around the last few weeks that it's easy to lose track of who's signed on or gone elsewhere, so here's how things currently stand for the Seahawks:
|Marcus Trufant||CB||4 (4)|
|Roy Lewis||CB||10 (0)|
|Red Bryant||DE||16 (16)||Big Red and his run-stuffing, kick-blocking ways are back. Hell yes.|
|Michael Robinson||FB||14 (4)||Robinson lead-blocked his way into the Pro Bowl last year. How can you not
love a guy who makes Lynch even more dangerous than he already is?
|Paul McQuistan||OL||16 (10)||A valuable backup lineman, although I think he's a better tackle than guard.|
|Heath Farwell||LB||11 (0)||One of the best special teamers in the league.|
|Marshawn Lynch||RB||15 (15)||At the risk of repeating myself, hell yes.|
|Free Agents Signed|
|DL||14 (13)||The Titans seriously considered using their franchise tag on Jones. Since
they didn't, the Seahawks have a shiny new pass rusher to add to their
nterior d-line. Thanks, Tennessee!
|G||15 (0)||Lutui ate his way out of a starting job in Arizona, but he has the talent to be
a monster at left guard if Carroll et al can find a way to motivate him.
|MLB||9 (9)||Great in coverage, lousy in run support, and plagued with injuries last
year. Ideally, Ruud will be a situational coverage LB in the mold of
ex-Seahawk Will Herring, not a starter.
|QB||5 (1)||He'll compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job in camp. If he
works out the way everyone hopes he will, Seattle will have found their
next franchise QB.
|RB||16 (0)||Lumpkin has decent size (5'11", 228 lbs), is a great pass blocker, and excels
as a receiver, but is not an especially powerful runner. He'll need to fix that
if he wants to become Lynch's primary backup.
|T||15 (3)||Omiyale played for OL coach Tom Cable in Atlanta, and he can fill in at both
guard and tackle positions.
|Departed in Free Agency|
|DL||13 (0)||Hargrove was just a rotational player last year, but he was the team's
best pass-rusher along the interior d-line. He will be missed.
|G||12 (12)||The Seahawks had no intention of bringing him back, so no loss here.|
|OL||3 (0)||Gibson has some potential and can play both guard and center, but the
Seahawks' coaches didn't seem too impressed with him.
|MLB||15 (14)||It would've been nice to have him return, but Seahawks were not willing to
give him the kind of contract the Saints were offering.
|QB||3 (2)||Whitehurst had two years to prove he should be Hasselbeck's heir apparent
and failed. Oh well, at least he was cheap.
|S||15 (2)||Bigby was a valuable player on special teams and in Big Nickel-type
defensive packages, but he's also injury-prone enough to not be worth the
risk of signing him to a multi-year deal, although that didn't stop the
Chargers from doing it anyway.
|TE||IR||Carlson is a great receiver and had worked hard to become a better in-line
blocker, but with Zach Miller on the roster it didn't make sense to sign a
second TE to a big money contract. Besides, it's hard to fault the guy for
wanting to play for the team he grew up rooting for.
|Unsigned Seahawks Free Agents|
|Kennard Cox||CB||12 (0)||Cox went from being an exclusive rights free agent to being an unrestricted
FA when the Seahawks decided not to tender a qualifying offer. He's a
decent special teamer, but that's about it.
|Raheem Brock||DE||16 (0)||Brock will be 34 next season and is coming off a disappointing three-sack
season. He's not going to be coming back.
|Jimmy Wilkerson||DL||IR||Before he was injured last preseason and put on IR, Wilkerson was well on
his way to making the final roster. He's got an explosive first step and some
legitimate pass-rushing skills; if he's recovered from his injury, I'd love to
see him compete for a job in training camp.
|Colin Cole||DT||FA||Cole is a great run-stuffer. He doesn't overpower many o-linemen, but he's
got a real talent for quickly shedding blockers to get to the ballcarrier.
Unfortunately, he has little to no value as a pass rusher, and the Seahawks
already have plenty of guys under contract who fit that description.
|Steven Hauschka||K||16 (0)||Hauschka was a solid, reliable kicker last year. There hasn't been much in
the way of free agency news about him so far, but the Seahawks did submit
a tender to make sure he remained a restricted free agent. Expect him to
return for 2012.
|Leroy Hill||LB||16 (16)||After kicking off the offseason with yet another drug arrest, Hill looked to be
a long shot to return next season. However, those charges were later
dropped after he passed the urine test administered immediately after his
arrest, so his return is still a possibility. Dude's got nine lives.
|Matt McCoy||LB||4 (1)||McCoy got off to a promising start last year after earning a role as the middle
linebacker in nickel coverage situations, but then Aaron Curry ended his
season by destroying his knee in a collision on special teams (think of it as
his parting gift to the Pacific Northwest). I'd love to see McCoy return,
assuming he's recovered from knee surgery.
|David Vobora||LB||6 (0)||As a former Mr. Irrelevant who ended up a starting linebacker for the Rams,
Vobora is a nice feel-good story. He's only an adequate player at best,
however, and guys with comparable skill sets are not hard to find.
|Justin Forsett||RB||16 (0)||I like Forsett and thought he would excel in Cable's zone running system, but
he seemed to struggle last year. He's at his best when he's used in screen
passes or other situations that get him the ball in space, but I'm not sure
that's good enough to earn him a return trip to Seattle.
|Jarriel King||T||1 (0)||King is a talented young lineman with plenty of potential, but he's also facing
rape charges. In all likelihood, he'll never work in the NFL again.
|Visiting Free Agents Who Are Still Available|
|TE||16 (14)||Shiancoe will be 32 next year, but his skills have yet to decline and he's
already familiar with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense. That
said, no other team appears to be interested in him, and the Seahawks
appear to have made no move to sign him since his visit three weeks ago.
They have, however, brought in several young TEs for pre-draft visits.