By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
INDIANAPOLIS — Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider provided little clarity into what his team’s personnel department believes are the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s draft class, and how they match up to Seattle’s overall needs.
“To specifically not answer your question, I think it’s a good group all the way through,” joked Schneider. “There’s just different parts of the draft that are nice in a couple areas.”
Thanks for the insight.
Although vague on his draft plans, Schneider offered some details for how the team will address its free agency.
He indicated that the Seahawks likely will pass on using the franchise tag to keep around one of seven Seattle players expected to become free agents in March for a third straight season.
“We’re still evaluating that,” he said. “I don’t necessarily see us using it.”
Defensive linemen Jason Jones and Alan Branch, along with cornerback Marcus Trufant remain possibilities to return to Seattle.
And while it may not be the team’s first choice, Schneider said the Seahawks would be willing to part ways with backup quarterback Matt Flynn.
However, Schneider indicated it’s not a slam dunk Flynn will be on another team in 2013, as he likes the talent level at the quarterback position.
“I think we have a great setup,” Schneider said. “I feel very blessed that we have two quarterbacks like this, two starting-caliber guys. What happened last year didn’t really have a reflection on what Matt did — or Tarvaris for that matter — it was really what Russell did in kind of stepping forward and taking charge. And the way he performed in the preseason was really hard to argue — I think he was like 12 of 18 on his possessions, or something like that (for scoring drives during the preseason).
“So we feel really blessed with our situation right now. And it’s so early — everybody’s involved in their draft meetings — so it’s not like I’ve had a chance to sit down with other general managers, or some of the other people that I’m close with through the league to talk about what their situation is.
“But as you guys well know, we’re always going to listen to everything. And if we’re not doing that, we feel like we’re not doing our job. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we will do something with Matt.”
Asked if Flynn’s 2013 base salary of $5.25 million is a deterrent for keeping him on the roster, Schneider didn’t hesitate.
“No, because we have different models set up in our cap,” Schneider said. “And obviously we have a model that includes Matt — our primary model.”
Seattle likely will have some competition in the quarterback market, with another veteran quarterback expected available via trade in San Francisco backup quarterback Alex Smith.
The University of Utah product was replaced by Colin Kaepernick midway through the season last year, but still has some value on the market. Smith finished with a 104.1 passer rating in 2012 before he was replaced by Kaepernick.
Expect Schneider to keep a close tabs on what’s happening in San Francisco, because the possibility of the 49ers moving Smith likely affects the trade value of Flynn.
“We’re going to look at all options available,” San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said, when asked about the possibility of trading Smith. “Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided.”
Smith, 28, is more of a known commodity. He’s 38-36-1 as a starter, with 81 touchdowns, 63 interceptions and a career 79.1 passer rating.
Flynn, 27, could have a higher ceiling, with nine touchdowns, five interceptions and a career 92.0 passer rating in two starts.
Schneider said that Flynn wants another chance to earn a starting job, and Seattle will look to provide that chance if it makes sense to the organization.
“I don’t think anybody in the National Football League is content to be a backup,” Schneider said. “So, I wouldn’t think he’s content, no. I think he would want an opportunity to start, and is extremely confident in his abilities. That’s why he came to Seattle. He told me that he wanted this to be his team.”