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Seahawks QB picture fuzzier than ever

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted July 27, 2011 @ 2:10 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET Wednesday, July 27

The torch finally appears to have been passed in Seattle under center.

Veteran free-agent QB Matt Hasselbeck, whose status in Seattle has had daily team observers scratching their heads on a daily basis since the end of the season, has agreed to terms with the Titans.

The 35-year-old Hasselbeck (he turns 36 Sept. 25) will be replacecd in the starting lineup by either Charlie Whitehurst, who remains a major work in progress despite entering his sixth season at the pro level, or free-agent newcomer Tarvaris Jackson, who most recently performed as a backup in Minnesota. Jackson agreed to terms on a new deal with the Seahawks on a very busy Tuesday.

Adding further intrigue at the QB position were rumors that the Seahawks had also agreed to terms with Matt Leinart, the former No. 1 draft pick of the Cardinals who played for head coach Pete Carroll at USC. But that speculation turned out to be premature, as Leinart reportedly decided Wednesday to re-sign in Houston, where he served as Matt Schaub's backup last season.

After playing the last four seasons in Minnesota under Daren Bevell, the Seahawks' fourth offensive coordinator in as many years, Jackson could have an edge over Whitehurst and Leinart, especially if the Seahawks make good on the rumor that they are on the prowl for Vikings WR Sidney Rice.

The PFW spin

There was good reason why it had become so hard to predict what would happen with Hasselbeck, who looked like a beaten-up old warhorse on his last legs at the end of the regular 2010 campaign before staging an eye-popping turnaround in the playoffs, registering a 7-1 TD-interception ratio. After excelling in the postseason, particularly in the Seattle's stunning wild-card upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in which he threw four TDs, the scales seemed to be tilting toward the Seahawks re-signing their longest-tenured player. But as the offseason wore on, opinions on Hasselbeck's future seemed to change on a daily basis, with one big problem, according to team insiders, being the Seahawks' reluctance to give Hasselbeck more than a one-year deal. Forced to consider a longer commitment, the Seahawks apparently decided to put more stock in Hasselbeck's shaky regular-season effort, which included one atrocious one-month span in which he threw 10 interceptions and lost three fumbles.

The problem now, though, is that neither Whitehurst nor Jackson appears to offer anything resembling a significant improvement over Hasselbeck, who, to his credit, did lead the Seahawks to four division titles and a Super Bowl, in addition to excelling as a classy team leader. Eyebrows were raised when Whitehurst, the only Seattle QB officially under contract at the moment, received a two-year deal for reportedly $8 million last offseason after spending his previous four seasons in San Diego as the Chargers' third-string QB. Seattle also traded second-round choices with the Chargers, in addition to a No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, and to say they have gotten a lot of bang out of their investment would be dead wrong.

Whitehurst did rise to the occasion in place of an injured Hasselbeck with a serviceable start in Seattle's division-clinching win over the Rams in the regular-season finale. But in his his other 2010 start — a 41-7 shellacking against the Giants — he completed only 12-of-23 passes for 113 yards (44.3 passer rating) and dropped a shotgun snap.

One thing Whitehurst can do well is throw the deep ball with great touch. But the short stuff gives him problems, which could put him at a disadvantage in a new system under Bevell that puts more of a premium on quick strikes than downfield bombs.

Jackson, a second-round pick of the Vikings in 2006, has started 20 games in five seasons. While he has had his moments, particularly late in the 2008 season in place of an injured Gus Frerotte, his inconsistency led to a demotion behind Brett Favre the last two seasons.

There was a lot of speculation that the Seahawks would set their sights higher in pursuit of a new starter and make a pitch for Eagles backup Kevin Kolb, who many league observers believe could be headed to the division-rival Cardinals in the next day or two. But Kolb now appears out of the picture in the Pacific Northwest, as it appears the Seahawks will be entering training camp with the most lackluster QB situation in the NFC West, assuming Kolb signs with the Cardinals.

On a positive note, the offensive line which will be operating in front of either Whitehurst or Jackson was bolstered Wedneday when free agent Robert Gallery, a former first-round draft pick of the Raiders, reportedly agreed to terms with Seattle.

Gallery, who had played under Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable in Oakland, had been rumored for months as a perfect fit at left guard in the Seahawks' revamped offensive line.

On a negative not, though, the Seahawks lost PK Olindo Mare on Wednesday when the veteran free agent decided to sign with the Panthers.

 

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