The third in a series of items analyzing one player per NFC West team without a contract for 2011.
NFL seasons: four
Situation: Mebane's status for free agency remains undetermined pending a labor resolution. He could become an unrestricted free agent. The Seahawks tendered Mebane at the original-round level in case he becomes only a restricted free agent. As such, Seattle could match any offer for Mebane or receive a third-round draft choice as compensation for letting him go.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.: I think they absolutely cannot let him go. He has a chance to be a great player. They played that goofy scheme and he did not fit it wonderfully. They want a big-type nose tackle and then that big, heavy left defensive end, the Red Bryant type. Mebane really is a 4-3 defensive tackle that does everything well. What they tendered him was very low to me. If I were the Broncos, I would give a third-round pick in a heartbeat and pay him. He needs to stay healthy, but he is still a relatively young player, he plays the run and pass well, he is quick and agile, he is an every-down player. There are not many players like him. They have a great chance to lose him. Carolina and Denver come to mind immediately as teams that did not address their needs for defensive tackles in the draft. Safeties that are C-plus or B-minus players in all facets are not hard to find. Receivers like Steve Breaston are not hard to find. But defensive tackles that are B-pluses in all categories are hard to find. I think Mebane can be a Pro Bowler, especially in a true 4-3 defense.
My thoughts: The decision to tender Mebane at only the third-round level suggested the Seahawks did not see Mebane as indispensable. They saw Mebane as a "steady pro" (in the words of general manager John Schneider) and a player to keep if the price was right. Re-signing Mebane became a higher priority after the team did not draft a similarly equipped player this year. How much higher of a priority remains less clear. Mebane took offense to the relatively low tender, an indication Seattle will not get the benefit of the doubt if Mebane does hit the unrestricted market. Even if Mebane becomes a restricted free agent, Williamson could be right. Other teams could value Mebane more than Seattle values him. But bringing him back would make the most sense for Seattle, which needs all the starting-caliber defensive linemen it can get. Restricted free agents have not changed teams with much frequency in the past.