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Originally published July 29, 2011 at 9:43 PM | Page modified July 30, 2011 at 5:34 PM

Mebane staying in Seattle

The week started sooner than Seahawks general manager John Schneider expected.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — The week started sooner than Seahawks general manager John Schneider expected.

The nights went late, the days were long and four days flew by so fast that for a moment Schneider thought it was Thursday afternoon. Nope. It was Friday, the day veteran free agents could begin signing, and Seattle's haul included a rather sizable addition: Brandon Mebane.

On the day Seattle officially added quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, guard Robert Gallery and receiver Sidney Rice, the significance of Mebane's return overshadowed the new faces.

That's understandable. After all, Mebane casts quite a shadow at more than 300 pounds, and of Seattle's 22 unrestricted free agents, he was among the most coveted around the league. The Seahawks needed to get deeper along the defensive line for 2011, and you don't do that by losing someone like Mebane, a four-year starter since being chosen in the third round of the 2007 draft.

So when Mebane agreed to return for a five-year contract worth a reported $25 million, it was time to exhale.

"Being able to re-sign one of your own guys who was a hot commodity in free agency is huge for us," Schneider said. "He wanted to stay here, we wanted him to stay here."

That doesn't always mean it works out. After all, the Seahawks said they wanted to keep Matt Hasselbeck. Coach Pete Carroll called it a priority after the season ended, and Hasselbeck hoped to remain a Seahawk all the way up until Tuesday when teams could begin talking to free agents.

The Seahawks closed the door on Hasselbeck's return Tuesday, and he then chose to sign with Tennessee. Schneider was forbidden by NFL rules from discussing Hasselbeck's departure until Friday, and he started his interview with reporters by addressing it.

"The amount of respect that we have for Matt is enormous," Schneider said. "A really big decision, very hard decision. These decisions affect people's lives, and we do not take them lightly. We're very excited about moving forward, don't get me wrong, but I just wanted to start this by talking about the respect we have for the man, the football player, everything he did here in Seattle."

The Seahawks made a business decision, Schneider said. So did Hasselbeck when he declined to re-sign with the Seahawks before the lockout.

Schneider was asked if Hasselbeck had the option to return after the lockout ended.

"We had done enough negotiating with Matt that we had our answer going in," Schneider said. "Then it just kind of became more and more clear the longer the lockout went. I don't know how else to describe it."

The Seahawks moved in another direction, signing Jackson, whom Schneider described as a "pretty intriguing young prospect."

Jackson was instrumental in Seattle's pursuit of Rice, his teammate in Minnesota. Throw in Gallery to become the veteran leader on a young offensive line, and the Seahawks addressed most of their free-agent priorities.

The biggest remaining concern was the defensive line, where Seattle retained Mebane and added Alan Branch from Arizona. Branch is another big-bodied defensive lineman who will play the same position as Mebane and also contribute at the defensive-end spot Red Bryant plays.

Seattle also re-signed Leroy Hill, the linebacker who has been in Seattle six seasons but played just 13 games in the past two seasons because of injuries and a league suspension.

"He's got a lot to prove," Schneider said. "He thinks he does as well. He's a really hungry guy. He's champing at the bit. I'm excited to see him come in here and see him play like he did two years ago."

Seattle has also signed all nine members of its draft class. Offensive tackle James Carpenter, a first-round pick, was signed in time to participate in Friday's practice. Guard John Moffitt — the third-round pick — was under contract midway through the afternoon.

That was just more business the Seahawks had to take care of in a week both busy and unprecedented. When Schneider arrived at the team's headquarters on Monday morning, the league's four-month lockout was still in place.

Schneider expected business would begin Tuesday at the earliest. Instead, teams could begin negotiating with undrafted rookies that evening, starting a week in which Schneider never really stopped.

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

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