Finally, some overdue love for John Schneider

John Schneider

In a word, “No.” In two words, “No way.” If you need three words, how about: “Are you kidding?”

We figured we’d answer the question in the teaser for Jason La Canfora’s feature at CBSSports.com – Is there a better NFL personnel guy right now than Seattle’s John Schneider? – before actually getting into what he had to say about the Seahawks’ general manager.

La Canfora points out the obvious, which is too often overlooked when it comes to Schneider. Maybe it’s because Schneider looks too young to be running a NFL franchise. Maybe it’s that old stigma of doing all that he’s doing in Seattle, a remote outpost on the NFL landscape. Maybe the XXXL-sized shadow cast by coach Pete Carroll.

Whatever the reason, it’s nice to see Schneider getting his due – some overdue due.

Writes La Canfora: “John Schneider might be the most aggressive general manager in the NFL, and, in my estimation, no one has done a better job evaluating talent and manipulating the draft, trades and free agency since he took over the Seahawks in 2010. …

“So, here in early April, I challenge anyone to find a team that made better calculated moves than Seattle and Schneider. I am a huge Percy Harvin guy, and felt he could be an absolute difference-maker, particularly if a team with a dynamic quarterback like Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick landed him. Turns out Harvin can now line up alongside Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Yes, the price in terms of draft picks was high – but Schneider also did well to recoup picks and clear up budget space by spinning backup quarterback Matt Flynn to Oakland – and there was no way the Seahawks were going to get a talent anything close to what Harvin provides picking where they were in this draft.

“I love the move, and while I understand Harvin has warts, I don’t see him clashing with Pete Carroll or being a persistent problem child in Seattle. He’s making what he’s worth; he’s content and has been migraine free for quite some time. His versatility and game-breaking skills at several receiver spots, running back and on special teams cannot be overstated.

“Seattle also had a need at pass rusher and landed Cliff Avril – and another player just hitting his prime and perhaps the best rusher on the market – and at a bargain-basement rate. They added Michael Bennett for good measure on a prove-it deal, wisely allowing the market to set before wading in. All the while, I continue to hear edge rusher Chris Clemons is making great progress recovering from knee surgery. When you consider this team was looking Super Bowl-worthy already, plus all of Wilson’s upside, a big tip of the cap to Schneider.”

All we can add to this is, “Yeah” and “It’s about time someone noticed the job Schneider is doing, and has done.”

Like last year. Schneider and staff got Lynch and run-stuffing/kick-blocking defensive end Red Bryant re-signed before they could become hot commodities in free agency. And can Schneider ever get enough credit for seeing things in Wilson that others couldn’t, or refused to because he’s “too short to play in this league?”

The answer to that last question, of course, is the same as those offered to the first question: “No.” “No way.” “Are you kidding?”


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Seahawks sign defensive tackle Tony McDaniel

Tony McDaniel

The Seahawks continued the reshaping of their defensive line today by announcing the signing of former Dolphins defensive tackle Tony McDaniel in free agency.

The 6-foot-7, 305-pound McDaniel entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 2006 with the Jaguars, who traded him to the Dolphins in 2009. McDaniel has 119 career tackles, including 36 in 2010; and 8.5 career sacks, including 2.5 in 2010 and 2011.

McDaniel obviously is excited about the move, as he posted this photo on Instagram.

He is the third defensive lineman to sign with the Seahawks since the free-agency period began on March 12, joining defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.


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Alan Branch signs with Buffalo Bills

Alan Branch

Defensive tackle Alan Branch, a starter with the Seahawks the past two seasons, has signed with Buffalo in free agency, the Bills have announced.

Branch became expendable with the Seahawks as the club added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency.

After joining the Seahawks as a free agent in 2011, Branch started 31 games the past two seasons, posting 34 tackles and three sacks in 2011 and 30 tackles and one sack last season. He played his first four NFL seasons with the Cardinals.

Branch is the second of the Seahawks’ nine unrestricted free agents to sign with another team. Defensive tackle Jason Jones joined the Lions.


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GM John Schneider gives little weight to Michael Bennett’s rotator cuff injury

John Schneider

Audio file – General Manager John Schneider on 950 KJR AM:

Seahawks general manager John Schneider joined 950 KJR AM’s Mitch in the Morning show with host Mitch Levy yesterday to discuss an array of offseason topics – the trade for Percy Harvin, the free agent signings of defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, and what the future holds for backup quarterback Matt Flynn.

If case you missed the interview, we’ve embedded the entire segment between Schneider and Levy above, but one of the more newsworthy pieces to come out of the conversation was on Bennett, who ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported had been diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff.

“It is true,” Schneider told Levy of the report. “I do know he [Bennett] played every game last year with [the injury], that’s the understanding. Our medical staff felt comfortable with it, especially on a one-year deal.”

Schneider went on to say that Bennett’s injury would need to be repaired at some point, but not anytime in the near future. He fully expects Bennett to play with the injury as he did throughout 2012, when he racked up 9.0 sacks and three forced fumbles while playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“The majority of them were as an inside rusher,” Schneider said of Bennett’s 2012 sack total. “It’s how we’re going to use him, like a three-technique inside rusher.

“Michael had been here before, so he’s very close with Red Bryant and a number of guys on the team. He had a strong interest in coming here and playing for coach Carroll and [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn.”


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NFL.com dubs Seahawks League’s strongest roster

Seattle Seahawks

NFL.com Around the League writer Chris Wesseling has ranked what he believes to be the NFL’s five strongest rosters, and after the recent acquisitions of wide receiver Percy Harvin and defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, the Seattle Seahawks have claimed the top spot on his list.

The Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, and New England Patriots rank No. 2-5, respectively, on Wesseling’s list. His comments on the Seahawks’ current squad and 2013 NFL Draft needs are outlined below:

“1. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks of Pete Carroll and John Schneider go bold, taking chances on unconventional players that might not appeal to other teams.

Adrian Peterson’s reaction to the Percy Harvin trade speaks volumes about a dynamic player who could tip the balance of power in the NFC West. It’s easy to forget that Harvin was a more valuable player than Peterson prior to his season-ending ankle injury in Week 9 of last season.

Russell Wilson’s offense averaged 32.4 points per over the final 10 games of the 2012 season (including the playoffs). It gets even better with Harvin, recently described by NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell as ‘a movable chess piece that advances the continuing evolution of NFL offense.’

To a defense that led the NFL in fewest points per game, the Seahawks have added effective pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on the cheap.

Draft Needs: This might be the one team with the luxury of selecting the best player available regardless of need throughout the entire draft. The Seahawks could use depth at linebacker and the offensive line, but the most glaring weak spot is kicker, with Steven Hauschka unsigned.”


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Russell Wilson: “It’s so exciting to see what we have on the table”

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson was in a corporate meeting at Virginia Mason Athletic Center last week, but John Schneider felt compelled to interrupt the session. And who could blame him? The Seahawks had just completed a trade to acquire Percy Harvin and the team’s general manager figured the team’s quarterback should be among the first to know.

“John Schneider knocks on the window and pulls me aside,” Wilson recalled today during a promotional event for the Verizon Wireless “Save it Seattle: Pledge to Stop Texting & Driving” program. “He said, ‘Hey, come in. I need to talk to you real quick.’ He tells me we added Percy Harvin to the football team.”

That’s Percy Harvin the versatile and productive receiver/returner/runner from the Vikings who fills several needs for a Seahawks offense that only got better as last season progressed with Wilson as the rookie QB.

Wilson’s reaction? As understandable as it was predictable.

“He’s a guy that’s very, very competitive. A guy who’s been one of the top receivers in the National Football League. He’s very, very explosive. He’s a great kick returner. He’s going to help our football team,” Wilson said.

Wilson looks at Harvin as a complement to the receivers already on the roster who can enhance what Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin bring to the passing game.

“It’s so exciting to see what we have on the table,” Wilson said. “I know that feeling of losing last year (to the Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs), and it doesn’t feel good. So we have to do whatever it takes to win. And I definitely believe our football team is mentally and physically ready, and spiritually as well.

“It’s a battle and we can’t wait to get out there and add Percy and the rest of the guys that we have added as well.”

That would be Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, the defensive linemen who were signed in free agency last week – after Harvin was acquired in the trade.


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Seahawks earn “A” in USA Today’s first offseason report card

We’re just over one week into free agency and Nate Davis of USA Today has handed out his first offseason report cards, and Seattle should feel good about the mark they’ve earned. Davis tabbed the Seahawks with an “A” grade after acquiring the likes of wide receiver Percy Harvin and defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks were one of just two teams (the Minnesota Vikings being the other) to earn the high mark.

Here’s a look at what Davis had to say about the moves general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have made to this point:

Seattle Seahawks (A): The offense (Harvin) and defense (DEs Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett) have been supercharged, and the pay scale really didn’t suffer much even if GM John Schneider had to part with a few picks, including this year’s first rounder, for Harvin. The Niners should be worried.

Yesterday, we tracked the free-agent acquisitions around the rest of the NFC West, and took a look at why the West will be “a bear of a division in 2013.” Davis’ grades and comments on those clubs are below:

Arizona Cardinals (C): At the outset of free agency, they only had about $3 million available. But new GM Steve Keim has made quite a few moves to churn his roster: he signed QB Drew Stanton and parted with Kevin Kolb, picked up RB Rashard Mendenhall after punting Beanie Wells and completely remade the secondary. But should Keim have devoted his newfound money to a worrisome O-line in order to give Stanton (or whomever) a chance? Maybe next month.

St. Louis Rams (B+): If free agency is any indication, St. Louis is very confident its youngsters are ready to supplant Amendola, Gibson and Jackson. New LT Jake Long and TE Jared Cook should make QB Sam Bradford a very happy man. Armed with two first-round picks, the Rams’ drastic improvement over the past year should continue at draft time.

San Francisco 49ers (B): They chose to move on from all-pro FS Dashon Goldson and a few others. But given this team’s return to NFL royalty under GM Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, who’s going to argue? WR Anquan Boldin and DE Glenn Dorsey look like cost-effective additions, but is Craig Dahl really the man to fill Goldson’s cleats?


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Michael Bennett signing is official

Michael Bennett

Another day, another pass rusher.

Michael Bennett, a free-agent defensive end from the Buccaneers who had nine sacks last season, signed his contract with the Seahawks today. Bennett agreed to terms late Thursday, just after the team had announced the signing of Cliff Avril, a free-agent defensive end from the Lions who produced 9.5 and 11 sacks the past two seasons.

Bennett entered the league with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2009. But he was released in October of his rookie season to clear a roster spot of an offensive tackle and the Bucs claimed him. In three-plus seasons in Tampa, the 6-foot-4, 274-pound Bennett had 114 tackles and 15 sacks.

“They improved their pass rush; I believe Michael Bennett is a very good signing,” former NFL executive Charley Casserly wrote at NFL.com, where he is an analyst.

In the first four days of the free-agency period, the Seahawks have acquired receiver/returner/runner Percy Harvin in a trade with the Vikings and signed Avril and Bennett.


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Another chorus of praise for Seahawks’ moves

Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril

So, do you like what the Seahawks have done during the first four days of the NFL free-agency period?

The boys at NFL.com definitely do. In one of their “Instant Debate” installments, Charley Casserly and Adam Rank like the Seahawks as the favorite in the NFC, while Jason Smith tabs them as the team to beat in the NFC West and beyond.

Says Casserly: “I like Seattle as the NFC favorite. The Seahawks have made the biggest jump of any of the three teams (the 49ers and Falcons are the others in the discussion). They improved their pass rush; I believe Michael Bennett is a very good signing, and Cliff Avril will be a boost as well. Percy Harvin gives them the deep threat they were lacking a season ago.”

Offers Rank: “The Seahawks were the best NFC team at the end of the 2012 season, and the moves they’ve made this offseason have only strengthened their hold. Percy Harvin brings a dynamic playmaker who should not only help Russell Wilson, but also open up things for Marshawn Lynch. But don’t overlook the moves the Seahawks made on defense with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett joining an already impressive group. Avril could have signed a big-money deal with a non-contender and languished for a few years, but when he joined the Seahawks, he helped make them the most well-rounded team in the NFL.”

Adds Smith: “What else does Seattle need? They’re now loaded everywhere. Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril were their two missing pieces. These are marquee players in their primes who will help them be even more explosive than they were a season ago. … San Francisco takes a step back this season, Atlanta treads water or falls off a little bit, and Seattle rises to make it to New York.”


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Cliff Avril can’t wait to play at CenturyLink Field

Cliff Avril had officially been a member of the Seahawks for only a few hours, but he already had a message for the 12th Man: Bring it.

As a defensive end, Avril is well aware of the impact home-field noise crowd can have on the opposing offense. As a member of the Lions, he played in Seattle in 2009. So he knows just how 12sdiscombobulating the din generated by the 12th Man can be.

“The crowd noise is insane here,” Avril said today after signing his contract with the Seahawks. “So as a defensive player, let alone a D-lineman, that’s what you want. You want that crowd noise. You want the O-linemen not to be able to hear the snap count so you can get that jump on them.

“So that’s definitely huge for a defensive lineman, a pass-rusher. So that played a big part in why I chose here as well.”


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