A new week, and some new topics in the mailbag – the status of Deion Branch, possible interest in Darren Sharper and whether training camp practices will again be open to fans – in addition to the usual concerns about who the Seahawks might select in the first round of the NFL draft and the lack of “big-name players” who have been signed in free agency.
So let’s get to it …
Q: My son and I attended Seahawks training camp last year and it was a great experience. Will there be open practices again this year? – Kevin, Sacramento
A: Yes, Kevin, training camp practices at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center will be open to the public this summer. Which practices still is in the works, but the club got so much positive feedback last year that fans will be invited to watch practice again.
Fans will be allowed to sign up for specific practices and then be shuttled from Renton Landing to the Seahawks headquarters. Keep an eye on Seahawks.com for additional information once things are finalized.
Q: Why isn’t Pete Carroll targeting any big-name players? There are more than a handful of players out there in free agency just waiting for a call. – Michael, Everett
A: Sorry, Michael, that never was the plan of Carroll and first-year GM John Schneider. They are build-through-the-draft proponents, and view free agency as a way to fill a specific need or two – if the right player is there for the right price. The free agent class this year was overloaded with aging veterans looking for big paydays, while the Seahawks plan is to get younger – not older, and with players who won’t be around to see the final years of their lucrative contracts.
The “big-name players” will come on draft day, when the Seahawks have the sixth and 14th picks in the first round.
Q: Assuming the Seahawks keep the sixth and 14th picks (I believe they will trade down with the second pick), and with Pete Carroll stating numerous times the need for “playmakers” on both sides of the ball, how do you see the draft strategy going? Would you take two “playmakers” on offense (like C.J. Spiller and Dez Bryant/Arrelious Benn, for example); or two “playmakers” on defense (like Eric Berry and Derrick Morgan); or one of each? I know we need O-line help, but coach Alex Gibbs is a master of getting the best out of his linemen. So I think you’ll see us draft O-line with second- and fourth-round picks. Missing that third round pick hurts, but that is where trading down in the first could help. Anyway, I’m rambling, I’ll stop for now. – Tarry, Barrie, Ontario, Canada
A: No worries, Tarry. Ramble on. That’s what the draft is all about for fans – speculating on which players your team will select. When that teams holds two of the Top 15 picks in the draft, all the better.
So much of what the Seahawks do will depend on what happens in the first five picks. If there is a run on offensive tackles, they might have to wait to address their most obvious need. Carroll has talked about wanting to find players who can help the offense get the ball into the end zone, and at No. 6 they should have their choice of any running back or wide receiver in the draft. The question then becomes whether the top-rated players at those positions are worth that pick.
Because the Seahawks have so many needs – a big-play receiver, a more physical running back, the O-line, a pass rusher, a bigger cornerback and a safety – they could go in just about any direction at No. 6 and No. 14. Depending on which players are there. Among those options are trading down to get more picks in what is considered to be the deepest draft in years.
That might be the best way to answer the recurring questions about what the Seahawks need most from this draft: More picks.
Q: What is the status of Deion Branch? Will he be in the picture now that Nate Burleson is gone or did his comments at the end of the season cement his release or trade? – Ron, Hampden, Me.
A: There has been a lot of pessimistic talk about Branch this offseason, Ron. But none of it has come from Pete Carroll. Carroll has been impressed with Branch during the offseason program, and we’ll all get a better look at what the plans are for Branch during the team’s first minicamp next week.
The departure of Burleson leaves a hole at split end, but Branch’s skill set makes him better suited to playing flanker – the spot held by T.J. Houshmandzadeh, last year’s big addition in free agency. Or better yet, in the slot. Right now, Houshmandzadeh and Branch are the only wide receivers on the roster who have caught more than 60 passes in the league.
Q: Seattle is in need of, well, every position. Have the Hawks entertained the thought of signing Darren Sharper? I think he would be a great addition in skill and leadership. – Chris, Richmond, Va.
A: While I’ll agree with your assessment on Sharper adding skill and leadership at safety, Chris, the Seahawks are – as previously stated – trying to get younger, not older. Sharper has had a very productive career, including nine interceptions for the Super Bowl champion Saints last season. But he’ll also be 35 in November and is looking to play a 14th season.
Sharper is no stranger to first-year GM John Schneider, who was in Green Bay when Sharper was playing for the Packers (1997-2004) and division rival Vikings (2005-08).
The recent release of strong safety Deon Grant, 31, created a hole in the secondary, but there’s always the draft to try and fill it before looking for possible answers in free agency.