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Originally published Monday, March 12, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Mario Williams, Matt Flynn could be Seahawks targets in free agency

The Seahawks don't seem to be getting anywhere with recently released Peyton Manning. Maybe they'll have better luck with defensive end Mario Williams and quarterback Matt Flynn when free agency opens Tuesday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Seahawks waved at Peyton Manning from across the country.

They batted their eyes, cleared their throat and anything else they could think of that would catch his attention. Despite all that, Seattle couldn't get him to mosey on over to its corner of the country for small talk.

Maybe Seattle will have better luck this week when the free-agent cattle call begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday. That's when the Seahawks and the rest of the league are free to start making goo-goo eyes at defensive end Mario Williams from Houston, quarterback Matt Flynn from Green Bay or some other player looking for a new gig.

Manning is known to have visited Arizona and Denver. Miami is interested. Tennessee might be, too, and while there's been no mention of Seattle making Manning's shortlist, the Seahawks could figure prominently in the rest of free agency. The Seahawks have millions of reasons to get players to listen. As much as $30 million in salary-cap space, according to an estimate by ProFootballTalk.com.

There's a pretty strong buzz the Seahawks are going to pursue Williams aggressively. Could be Seattle chases Flynn, too, seeing him as the answer to its need for a long-term quarterback. After all, Seattle general manager John Schneider worked in Green Bay when the Packers drafted Flynn. It's also possible Seattle will decide the big-money, multiyear commitment Flynn is likely to receive is too much for a backup who has only two career starts.

Seattle isn't going to sneak up on anyone in free agency this year. Not after the Seahawks' shopping spree last year in which they committed more than $50 million to sign four starters: quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, receiver Sidney Rice, left guard Robert Gallery and tight end Zach Miller.

"Free agency worked out well for us," coach Pete Carroll said.

Up until then, people had wondered whether the Seahawks would become the second coming of the Green Bay Packers, sitting on their hands for the first few days of free agency. Schneider spent years working for that franchise, whose reluctance to wade into free agency is legendary under GM Ted Thompson. Green Bay has signed one significant unrestricted free agent the past three years.

The Seahawks weren't quite that conservative in the first year of Carroll and Schneider's regime, but they didn't dive into the market, either. Seattle signed four free agents in March 2010: quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, receiver Sean Morey, who retired before training camp, linebacker Matt McCoy and running back Quinton Ganther.

That made last August's spending spree a surprise because no sooner had the lockout ended than the Seahawks waded into free agency, their fists full of dollars and a determination to build their offense.

The situation is different this season. The Seahawks are not rebuilding so much as they are rebuilt. This offseason isn't about addition, but avoiding attrition. The Seahawks wanted to re-sign running back Marshawn Lynch. They did. They still want to re-sign defensive end Red Bryant. Linebacker David Hawthorne led the team in tackles the past three years, and he's a free agent. So is Leroy Hill, making K.J. Wright the only one of Seattle's three starting linebackers signed for 2012.

Beyond that, Seattle's shopping list is shorter, and a lot more expensive. The Seahawks are seeking a quarterback and someone to sack the quarterback, which count as two of the four most expensive positions in an NFL budget.

Seattle could look for that quarterback in the draft, but it could also be Flynn, the Packers' 26-year-old backup. Former Broncos starter Kyle Orton is a free agent, too, but it's Flynn that fits the specs for a rising quarterback in this league. He's also going to be very expensive after putting up a gaudy 480 yards passing with six touchdowns in his only start last year.

The Seahawks also need someone to chase after the quarterback. They had 33 sacks in 2011, tied for No. 19 in the league. Carroll was asked last month if he could look to free agency — to a player like Williams — to address that.

"We're going to entertain every opportunity because that's just the way we do it," Carroll said. "We have set our direction from the beginning to try and build through the draft and do everything we can and do that to stay young and competitive and healthy. But that said, we're always looking. We need to address the issue about our pass rush. It's a big factor for us."

Williams is the only top-shelf pass-rusher scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. He's also going to be expensive, with a number of teams expected to be bidding for his services. Maybe the Seahawks will have better luck catching Williams' eye than they did with Manning.

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

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