INDIANAPOLIS — The Seattle Seahawks had an opportunity at the NFL’s scouting combine to shoot down the notion that major changes involving some of their most well-known players could be in the offing.
They didn’t do that.
“We’re just open to anything,” general manager John Schneider said.
That was part of his response to a question about Michael Bennett’s status in light of ESPN’s report that the Seahawks are shopping their three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman. ESPN’s Vaughn McClure has since reported that the Atlanta Falcons are among the teams talking with the Seahawks about a possible trade for Bennett.
Schneider and coach Pete Carroll were similarly non-committal when asked about Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, two other long-time defensive stalwarts whose futures with the team are considered to be in some degree of question as they each enter contract seasons.
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If the Seahawks wanted to put an end to that speculation, they easily could have by saying something to the effect of how they want those players to be Seahawks for a long time and that they’re working hard to get that done. And while the NFL Network reported Monday that Thomas is “firmly in Seattle’s plans for 2018,” neither Schneider nor Carroll said as much when given the chance.
“I haven’t had any talks with Earl,” Schneider said of Thomas, the Seahawks’ All-Pro free safety who has threatened to hold out if he isn’t extended. “I’ve talked to his representatives. I mean, that’s all I can say. Earl is under contract. I’ve talked to his representatives in the meetings we’ve had down here. We’re meeting with all our guys here, as well as other teams, trying to figure out where everybody is. We have a huge map, and we’re just trying to put it all together.”
Sherman, meanwhile, is coming off a ruptured Achilles and also had a recent cleanup procedure on the same part of his other foot. That would obviously lessen his trade value compared to what it was a year ago when he was healthy and a year younger and had two seasons remaining on his contract. The Seahawks could, in theory, ask Sherman to take a pay cut that would lower his scheduled $11 million base salary. But it would be easy to envision Sherman balking at that given how much he’s meant to Seattle’s defense and how he was still playing at a high level when he went down last year.
“John is doing all the talking right now, doing all the conversations about everybody,” Carroll said when asked if there’s been any trade interest for Sherman. “This time of year we’re listening to everybody about everything, as we do. Nothing specific.’’
And that’s not to mention the injured players. Carroll had no new information on the statuses of strong safety Kam Chancellor or defensive end Cliff Avril, each of whom suffered career-threatening neck injuries last season.
So if you were of the belief that this could be a potentially transformative offseason for the Seahawks, nothing they said in Indianapolis should change that.
Here are three more notes from the combine.
Graham feels like a goner. Separate reports from the NFL Network stated what has seemed more likely than not, which is that the Seahawks are expected to lose tight end Jimmy Graham in free agency. This shouldn’t come as a surprise given that Graham figures to still command a nice pay-day given his ability to wreak havoc in the red zone, but he doesn’t fit the profile of a player that Seattle would make a priority to re-sign. Carroll hedged when asked if he’s optimistic about keeping Graham. “I hope so. I’d love to keep him,” Carroll said. “We love Jimmy. We love what he did. He had a very effective year for us last year. We’d love to have him back. We’ll see how it goes and see how the competition is for him.”
Shead could replace Chancellor. With Chancellor’s status still uncertain, DeShawn Shead is an option for the Seahawks at strong safety. A source told ESPN that the team approached him about possibly playing there in 2018 — assuming he’s re-signed — and Carroll confirmed as much. Shead, an unrestricted free agent, has at one point or another appeared at all five spots in Seattle’s secondary since the team signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2012. That includes one start at strong safety in 2015 when Chancellor was holding out. He started for a season and a half at right cornerback before tearing his ACL in the playoffs during the 2016 season. His recovery from that injury kept him out of all but two games this past season. Said Carroll: “He’s such a versatile player, he’s played both for us. We’ll see what happens. We know he can play corner and we like the way he plays at corner, but everything is open. I have not talked directly to him about that, but we have mentioned it to him.” Bradley McDougald, who made two starts for Thomas at free safety then started seven games for Chancellor at strong safety last season, is also a free agent. Seattle’s other in-house option at strong safety is Delano Hill, a third-round pick from last year.
Not done at kicker. Asked about former Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers, whom Seattle signed after the season to a futures deal, Carroll joked that “so far he hasn’t missed.” Too many costly misses from Blair Walsh, particularly over the second half of the season, put the Seahawks back in the market for a kicker. They’re hardly set after signing Myers, though. Carroll called it “quite likely” that they’ll bring in another kicker to compete for that job. Cody Parkey, Kai Forbath and Dustin Hopkins are among the available free agents who could come cheap. Four kickers were deemed to be good enough prospects to be invited to the combine: Mike Badgley (Miami), Drew Brown (Nebraska), Daniel Carlson (Auburn) and Eddie Pineiro (Florida).