Everyone is talking about the upcoming NFL draft, which starts Thursday evening. But Seahawks general manager John Schneider said one of the most important things for his staff is what happens after the seven-round draft ends.
It’s about seeing which players remain high on your draft board and who you want to sign as rookie free agents.
“The rookie free-agent market is extremely important to us,” Schneider said. “I’m not 100 percent sure of this, but I believe we had more of them on our roster than any other team last year.”
The Seahawks had 18 players on the Super Bowl roster that came into the NFL as undrafted rookie free agents. Six of those were original Seattle signees: receivers Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette; 2013 rookie offensive lineman Alvin Bailey; linebacker Mike Morgan; and defensive back DeShawn Shead.
This list doesn't include three others who ended last season on injured reserve: safety Jeron Johnson, defensive end Kenneth Boatright and cornerback Chandler Fenner (originally signed by Kansas City) and seven others who ended the season on the practice squad.
So what Schneider and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll do after the draft can be just an important as what they do during the draft. Here's one specific reason.
The Seahawks are likely to sign cornerback Richard Sherman to a multiyear contract extension soon that will pay him in excess of $12 million a year. They signed free safety Earl Thomas to a four-year, $40 million extension earlier this week.
And the Seahawks probably will renegotiate quarterback Russell Wilson's contract after the 2014 season, which likely will be north of $18 million a year.
That's a huge amount of salary-cap space tied up on three key players, so what does it mean overall?
"It means we will have to continue to rely on young players at other spots," Schneider said. "What we're doing is keeping the pillars of the team in place, but we're fortunate that Pete and his staff are willing to work with younger players, who obviously, will have smaller salaries."
Some experts have said this is the deepest NFL draft in years, but Schneider sees it a little differently.
"I think that started because so many juniors came out early," Schneider said. "I would say this draft definitely has clumps of players at certain positions all the way through the draft."
Schneider didn't specify which positions those are, but most draft experts consider this a deep draft for wide receivers, offensive tackles and quarterbacks.