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Originally published January 4, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Page modified January 5, 2010 at 4:22 PM

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Seahawks' offseason of uncertainty begins

Seahawks need to hire a president, then make decisions on players. "This year more than other years, there is a lot of uncertainty," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Unsigned of the times

The list of Seahawks headed toward free agency is complicated by the fact that five players could become restricted free agents depending on what happens with the league's collective-bargaining agreement:

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, DL Cory Redding, LB D.D. Lewis, K Olindo Mare, S Lawyer Milloy, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser.

Potential restricted free agents*: G Rob Sims, OL Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp, P Jon Ryan and LB Lance Laury.

Restricted free agents: OL Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu.

*Under the current collective-bargaining agreement, these five players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. However, the owners have voted to opt out of the current agreement. If no new collective-bargaining agreement is reached before March, the salary cap is eliminated and the requirements for free agency change. These five would become restricted free agents, meaning Seattle could make a one-year qualifying tender and then have the right to match any offer sheet they might sign elsewhere.

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RENTON — The 2009 Seahawks gathered together one final time Monday morning.

They came to listen to their coach, clean out their lockers and move into an offseason that will be filled with uncertainty everywhere from the team's top football post to the league's financial structure to the question of which members of Seattle's aging nucleus will be back.

"This year more than other years, there is a lot of uncertainty," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.

In fact, it's the most uncertainty Seattle has faced since the 2004 season ended. That was also the last time the Seahawks were looking for a president after Bob Whitsitt was fired.

But that's where the parallels end, because five years ago Seattle was an up-and-coming team with unsigned talent. More than 20 Seahawks were scheduled to be free agents when the season ended, including Hasselbeck, left tackle Walter Jones and running back Shaun Alexander, who were the three pillars in Seattle's offense.

Seattle is in a very different position today as it searches for Tim Ruskell's replacement as president.

Just three starters from Sunday's game are currently scheduled to be free agents: guards Rob Sims and Chris Spencer and defensive end Darryl Tapp. All three might wind up restricted depending on what happens with negotiations for a new collective-bargaining agreement (see sidebar).

Wide receiver Nate Burleson will become an unrestricted free agent in March.

But the biggest question facing Seattle this offseason isn't which free agents will be kept, but who will be cut loose. Last year, the team banked on rebounding once its roster got healthy. This time, the changes are expected to be more severe.

The Seahawks are an older team with an offense that scored fewer points as the season progressed. Hasselbeck is 34 with one year left on his contract. While most expect him back, Seattle's new president will have to decide how Hasselbeck fits with the team's timeline for rebuilding.

The scrutiny will go well past Seattle's pocket. Receiver Deion Branch is 30 and is scheduled to make more than $5 million, a lot for a player who began this season as the No. 3 receiver. Safety Deon Grant is also 30.

Defensive end Patrick Kerney is 32. He led the team in sacks, but had just five. He is scheduled to make more than $5 million next season, and Seattle desperately needs to upgrade a pass rush that had one sack in its final four games.

Nothing is certain. Not even for a player who just might be the best Seahawk ever: Jones. The left tackle attended Monday's team meeting and answered questions from reporters for the first time since he was placed on injured reserve at the beginning of November.

"I'm still on that road of trying to get back," Jones said. "Hopefully, I still can."

Jones, who turns 36 this month, is one of the best players in franchise history. But it has been two knee surgeries and 20 regular-season games since he played for Seattle. He was placed on injured reserve without playing a down this season, unable to regain his Pro Bowl form because of pain in his left knee.

Jones said he expects the team will make a decision on his status well before training camp begins.

"Hopefully, in the next couple of months the decision will be made," he said.

That's just one of the many situations the Seahawks must answer once they hire a president.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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