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Originally published Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 8:03 PM

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Don't expect a quick splash from Seahawks in free agency

When free agency officially begins Tuesday at 1 p.m., get ready for this possibility from Seattle: nothing.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Give me five

The top free agents who will be looking to cash in once unrestricted free agency begins Tuesday at 1 p.m.

1. WR Mike Wallace (Steelers)

He could command the biggest deal on the open market, averaging as much as $10 million annually.

2. DE Cliff Avril (Lions)

Detroit applied the franchise tag a year ago to this end whose liability against the run is offset by his pass-rushing ability, which will command a premium.

3. OT Jake Long (Dolphins)

Injuries have taken a toll on Long, but as a left tackle he plays the second-most valuable position on offense. Someone will pay him big bucks.

4. WR Greg Jennings (Packers)

He's turning 30 this year, but as an outside receiver, he's more valuable than slot specialists like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola.

5. CB Keenan Lewis (Steelers)

The Pats' Aqib Talib may get a larger total contract, but his questionable citizenship makes him more of a risk than Lewis, who led the league in pass defenses.

NFL calendar

April 25-27: NFL draft, New York

Sept. 5, 8-9: 2013 NFL season begins.

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Just because you have money to spend doesn't mean you have to spend it.

It's an approach to free agency that a mother would love, and one the Seahawks have tended to embrace under general manager John Schneider.

So when free agency officially begins in the NFL on Tuesday at 1 p.m., get ready for this possibility from Seattle: nothing.

This will surprise some people. The Seahawks have a need to improve their pass rush, more than $17 million in spending room when the league year begins March 12, and four of the top 20 unrestricted free agents are pass-rushing defensive ends. Two of those are in their mid-20s: Detroit's Cliff Avril and Baltimore's Paul Kruger. Two others are proven veterans: Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney and the Giants' Osi Umenyiora.

Chris Clemons, Seattle's starting defensive end the past three years, is coming back from knee surgery after suffering a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in January. His backup, Bruce Irvin, led all NFL rookies with eight sacks last season, but there are questions if he's ready to be an every-down player. No one else on the team had more than three sacks a year ago.

Time to break out the Brinks truck, right? Start unloading money until you get one of those defensive ends to come aboard like Kruger — who had 4.5 sacks during the Ravens' four-game Super Bowl run. Or maybe it's Freeney, who might have another season with double-digit sacks left in him.

Not so fast.

Schneider has shown quite a bit of discretion when it comes to free agency. In two of his three years as general manager, Seattle waited about a week into free agency before signing an unrestricted free agent from another team.

And while Seattle has money to spend, the bill for the group of young stars it has assembled is going to come due pretty soon. Safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman could be looking for extensions next offseason, with left tackle Russell Okung and quarterback Russell Wilson the year after that in 2015.

When it comes to looking for defensive ends in free agency, Seattle has a couple of cautionary tales in its not-so-distant history. The Seahawks signed Grant Wistrom in 2004, paying him a $14 million bonus as he was about to turn 28. He played three years in Seattle, never exceeded four sacks in any of those seasons, and in 2007 the Seahawks paid even more money for his replacement: Patrick Kerney.

And it worked. For a year. Kerney had 14.5 sacks his first season in Seattle, and was runner-up as the league's defensive player of the year as the Seahawks won 10 games. He missed 10 games the next two years, his body breaking down, and retired before the 2010 season.

That's not to say Seattle refuses to spend money in free agency. Two years ago, the Seahawks signed four offensive starters in the span of a week, headlined by the big-budget additions of receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Zach Miller.

But one year ago, the Seahawks had a similar desire to improve the pass rush, and Mario Williams entered the open market as a premier defensive end coming from a scheme in Houston that didn't suit his skill set. The Seahawks didn't so much as wink in his direction before he signed with Buffalo, getting the largest contract ever given to a defensive player.

Will it be any different one year later? Don't hold your breath because, given the Seahawks tendencies, you could be waiting a while for the first free-agent addition.

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

On Twitter @dannyoneil

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