Way We Hear It: Seattle Seahawks appear to be in line for more big changes

Not just coaching overhaul in store, Seahawks have tough decisions to make with veterans

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Richard Sherman, left, and Kam Chancellor, right, might be at the crossroads of their Seattle Seahawks careers. (USA Today Sports)

The Seattle Seahawks’ offseason overhaul, we hear, won’t be limited to the biggest coaching staff changes the team has made since Pete Carroll took over in 2010. They already have changed both coordinators and fired two other assistant coaches, along with one other assistant leaving the team in the past month.

But there are expected to be big changes to the roster as well, according to a team source. The 2018 Seahawks are expected to look a lot different than the 2017 group that finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

First off, there are 16 unrestricted free agents and tough decisions to be made on players such as Sheldon Richardson, among others. It feels more likely than not that the team will allow a few offensive players, such as Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson, to test the open market.

The noise Earl Thomas could make on his contract makes him a natural starting point. What the Seahawks decide to do on Thomas, who is entering the final year of his deal in 2018, could set the table for decisions on others. It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks wanting to move on from Thomas, but his contract demands might make it tough. If he insists on being the highest-paid safety (the Chiefs' Eric Berry currently tops the list at $13 million per year), the Seahawks at least could float Thomas’ name in trade talks.

Short of that scenario unfolding, the more likely approach would be to entertain trade offers for Richard Sherman — which they briefly did a year ago — and Michael Bennett. Sherman turns 30 in March and is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that surely lowers his value in return. But he also is set to hit on the salary cap for more than $13 million, which raises the possibility that the Seahawks end up cutting him.

Sherman, for what it’s worth, has said he expects to be back. Interestingly, he is representing himself right now as his own agent and has been for more than a year.

Bennett, however, already has foretold his own exit, saying he "probably won't be back" in 2018, per the News Tribune. And at age 33, coming off a down season, it’s hard not to think this is a strong possibility. Cutting him wouldn’t save much against the cap (a little more than $2 million), but the team likely would want clarity prior to him being due a $3 million roster bonus on March 18. There also might not be much of a trade market, but either way losing Bennett would increase the need to make an effort to keep Richardson.

Signing Thomas long term could ease some immediate salary-cap concerns, as the Seahawks currently are at less than $14 million in the black right now. There also might be a plan to extend left tackle Duane Brown, whom they acquired via trade midseason, as a cap-savings move. Other cost-cutting moves likely will include releasing Cliff Avril (whom Carroll said could be done with football because of a neck injury) and Jeremy Lane, who nearly was included in the Brown trade last year.

But the way the numbers line up, the Seahawks are more likely to be shedding salary and talent than they are likely to add veteran pieces. Looking back, the decision to re-sign Kam Chancellor has not worked out in their favor. Carroll also painted a grim health picture for Chancellor, and yet the team ensured that his full $6.8 million salary for 2018 would be guaranteed when he was still on the roster as of two weeks ago.

It’s possible that the two sides come to some sort of agreement, or Chancellor could start the year on the PUP list, but his football future is very much up in the air. The hit the Seahawks would take to cut him ($5 million in dead money) is considerable.

One more note: We’re still two months from the draft, but we hear it could be an active draft weekend, trade-wise, again for the Seahawks. They have a first-round pick but no selections in Rounds 2 or 3 because of the trades to land Richardson and Brown. They are not expected to receive any compensatory picks either, but they do have three fifth-rounders with which to deal.

Last year the Seahawks moved down twice in Round 1 to pick up extra picks, settling in near the top of Round 2. They also moved down to the end of Round 1 in a Draft Day deal in 2016 and could look to make something similar happen this year to accumulate a bit more depth, but to be clear this is just a possibility that has been tossed around at such an early date.