Time for Seahawks to build from ground up
In place of a rushing attack, the Seahawks have a tragicomedy, an absurd running joke that began just after Super Bowl XL. They have endured miscalculations...
Seattle Times staff columnist
In place of a rushing attack, the Seahawks have a tragicomedy, an absurd running joke that began just after Super Bowl XL.
They have endured miscalculations, even when their logic seemed reasonable. They have watched age, injuries and poor blocking make their MVP running back look like a timid, tiptoeing lemon. They have suffered embarrassing low after embarrassing low.
So the debate of this offseason isn't about how the Seahawks fix the run game. It's about how thoroughly they can destroy this shabby product and replace it with something that actually rates as NFL-worthy.
As the leading man in this tragicomedy, Shaun Alexander gets to be a star again this offseason. The next few months will be full of "What's going to happen with Shaun?" intrigue.
But, really, he's the easiest facet of this quandary, which says something about the depth of this problem. The Seahawks need to spend one of their first two draft picks to select their running back of the future (a player who'd be the featured back by 2009), and fortunately for them, this looks to be a back-blessed draft.
Then general manager Tim Ruskell must not only tell Alexander that he needs to restructure his contract, but also that the running back job is open for competition. If Alexander agrees to those terms, he returns. If not, he's gone.
My guess is that Alexander, though as proud as any star player, will help out the franchise. He doesn't want to leave Seattle with boos still ringing in his ears. He truly believes he still has it and wants to prove it here.
In past conversations, Alexander has discussed being a Seahawk his whole career. A lot of players say that, but Alexander normally lives out his visions. He got married when he thought he would, had children when he thought he would and enjoyed professional success according to his timetable. He didn't foresee his body failing him by age 30, but he's the kind of guy who's already focused on his redemption.
But more than fresh blood in the backfield, the Seahawks need to rebuild the interior of their offensive line. It's the greatest weakness on this team. And the price for a solution has skyrocketed.
When Steve Hutchinson left the Seahawks for Minnesota two years ago, there was debate over the worth of an offensive guard. Although the situation was complicated by the Vikings using a poison pill and the Seahawks using a transition tag instead of a franchise tag, it ultimately came down to this: Ruskell went with conventional wisdom and wasn't willing to give $7 million a year to a guard.
Only guards who dribble used to get that kind of money. Way back in 2006, Hutchinson was a pioneer. A year later, the market exploded for guards, with Kris Dielman (who spurned the Hawks to stay in San Diego), Eric Steinbach and Derrick Dockery all receiving contracts between $39 million and $49.5 million.
This offseason, there's another must-get guard who is better than last season's crop and at least as good as Hutchinson: Alan Faneca of Pittsburgh.
He's an unrestricted free agent, and his time in Pittsburgh is reportedly over. At 31, he's young enough for a guard. He hasn't missed a game the past six seasons and carries the nickname Big Nasty.
If the Seahawks aren't panting, someone needs to check their decision-making libido.
The Seahawks project to be about $9 million under the salary cap, which puts them in the bottom quarter of the league in cap space. They have some free agents of their own, too, with cornerback Marcus Trufant, kicker Josh Brown and right tackle Sean Locklear ranking as the most important.
It would take some creative financing to squeeze Trufant, Brown, Locklear and Faneca onto this roster. But under the NFL's strange cap rules, you can always make it work in the present if you're willing to take a hit in the future.
Any good football team only has so much time, anyway, before it must be fully rebuilt. During the past two seasons, the Seahawks have been willing to plug their holes with big-money acquisitions such as Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson and Deon Grant. They must cut one more huge check.
If Ruskell can figure out how to get Faneca, then he'd have him at left guard with Walter Jones at left tackle, giving the Seahawks a star-studded combination they lost when Hutchinson left. That kind of talent could make up for the youth of center Chris Spencer and guard Rob Sims, who'd move from the left side to the right to replace Chris Gray, who should be headed for retirement. And Locklear, if he stays, is a solid right tackle.
That's a good O-line. It would give the Seahawks a chance to convert on third-and-short every now and then. It would also erase a past mistake — letting Hutchinson go — though it's comical to think the Seahawks might have to spend more money for a slightly older version of a player they once had.
Hey, whatever works. It's better than the running joke of the past two seasons.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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