INDIANAPOLIS -- General manager John Schneider is open to just about any move that could help the Seattle Seahawks return to the ranks of the NFL's Super Bowl contenders after a disappointing 9-7 season.
Don't count on one of those moves being a franchise tag for Sheldon Richardson, though.
While Schneider didn't slam the door on Seattle tagging the one-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle before the March 6 deadline for teams to do so, he didn't give the impression that it's the least bit likely, either.
"Not at this point," Schneider said Friday from the scouting combine when asked if that's in the Seahawks' plans. "We have time, but we have more people that we have to talk to this weekend. We're not done with all our meetings."
At a projected cost of around $14.5 million, tagging Richardson has seemed like a long shot all along. That amount would take up most of the 2018 cap space the Seahawks have available, though they'll likely create at least a few million more before the start of free agency on March 14. And while Richardson had a good season for the Seahawks after being acquired in a trade with the New York Jets right before the opener, that price would still be hard to justify.
"We’d love to re-sign him," Schneider said, adding that the Seahawks met with Richardson's representatives in Indianapolis the night before.
The Seahawks feel the same about tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson, their other two top free agents. But wanting to re-sign them is one thing. Being willing to pay whatever price it takes to get that done is another.
“We want all these back," Schneider said. "It’s just a constant puzzle. I know you guys are probably tired of hearing that. But it’s this constant puzzle. You’re trying to put stuff together all the time. It’s a big challenge. The cool thing we have going for us is that March 14 is when we kind of get back, we’re going to get back into the office, recalibrate after studying this whole weekend, listen to everything we’re listening to, sit down and make some sound decisions. Pete [Carroll] and I have a lot to discuss.”
In addition to 16 unrestricted free agents, Schneider and Carroll have decisions to make on several starters who are still under contract for 2018. That group includes Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett.
Schneider said he's met with Thomas' agents but was mum on where things stand after the All-Pro free safety talked about holding out if he doesn't get a new deal.
"I've talked to his representatives," Schneider said. "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."
Interestingly, Schneider said the precedent the Seahawks have set of re-signing their core players one season before free agency doesn't necessarily apply in this case. That's because those extensions were second contracts. Seattle already did that with Thomas, giving him a four-year, $40 million extension in 2014.
"It's a little different situation than when you have a guy coming off his rookie deal and then you are just going on a second contract," Schneider said.
As for Bennett, Schneider was asked about ESPN's report that the Seahawks are shopping their Pro Bowl defensive tackle in trade talks.
“We don’t get into people’s contracts [with the media], but I understand why that’s out there," he said. "It’s this time of the year. The combine has really developed into a lot more of the -- I have a couple friends in baseball, right? -- kind of like the baseball meetings. So I’ve been here since Monday night and I’ve literally been in meetings the whole time, whether it’s league meetings, committee meetings, I met with the NCAA yesterday. We’re just constantly talking to people all the time. Part of our challenge right now is -- how do I say this appropriately? -- is sustaining our level of success that we’ve had, and we’re just open to anything.”
Anything? As in, no player on the roster is untouchable?
"Not at this time of the year, you know what I mean?" Schneider said. "I told you guys this when we got here in 2010: We’re going to be in every deal and you want to be able to walk away. You don’t want to miss any opportunity, and that’s how we built this thing and that’s how we’re going to continue to build it.
"Now, do we have some challenges this year? Absolutely. We’re pretty disappointed the way the season ended. We went 9-7 and you would have thought that we won two games. It’s a pit that sits in your stomach and really fuels you. We’re excited about the challenges ahead because we feel like we want to get rolling on this thing."