KIRKLAND – As many NFL teams rushed to throw their money at some of the league’s most notable free agents last March, the Seattle Seahawks waited patiently for the right fit.
Based on Seattle’s NFC-best 7-2 record, and the contributions of the free agents who were brought in from other teams last spring, the free-agent class of 2005 has fit in better than anyone could have expected.
“We’ve been happy with what those guys have contributed,” team president Tim Ruskell said Tuesday. “Obviously, when I got here, there were a lot of good players, and we wanted to keep the core together while adding some guys who would fit in well and be good role players. Guys with good work ethic who could play together and be accountable – that was the blueprint we had.”
While many outsiders met Seattle’s free-agent class with a collective yawn, the sum-is-better-than-the-parts group has thus far been an overwhelming success.
Bryce Fisher, Joe Jurevicius, Jamie Sharper, Chartric Darby, Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon have all started at some point this season and have all made an immediate impact. Kevin Bentley hasn’t been as much of a contributor, but he’s added depth and a veteran special-teams player.
While none of them were courted quite like the Muhsin Muhammads, Fred Smoots and Drew Bledsoes of the world, Seattle’s class has served its intended purpose.
“They’re good football players, period,” Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom said. “They may have flown under the radar a little bit, but the bottom line is that they’re good football players who have experienced success, and they know what it takes to win at this level.”
If the members of the class have anything in common, it’s that none of them were considered the most attractive players at their respective position during free agency.
Oh, and one more thing.
“We’re winners. That’s the biggest thing,” Jurevicius said, referring more to their playoff experience than the aggregate 44-68 record their teams had in 2004. “You can’t underestimate somebody’s ability to win. They may not be the biggest, they may not be the fastest, but if somebody has the will to get something accomplished, you can never underestimate that.”
Sharper, Jurevicius and Darby have Super Bowl rings, while all the others have postseason experience.
“It just happened that some of the guys have been on teams that have been successful,” Ruskell said. “But we weren’t limiting our search based on how teams did because that would limit the pool. There are a lot of good players out there who haven’t been on winning teams for one reason or another.
“We weren’t looking at players who had winning backgrounds, but that’s the way it worked out.”
Another common denominator, in most cases, has to do with the players’ paths to NFL success. Only Sharper, Dyson and Jurevicius – all former second-round draft picks – were selected on the first day of their respective NFL drafts. Herndon and Darby were undrafted free agents. Fisher was a seventh-round pick.
“We didn’t come in as first-round guys or with a lot of pub,” Fisher said. “We’re guys who work hard and want to see the team be successful.”
Their work ethic rubbed off on their new teammates almost immediately. Darby won over defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes in the first minicamp; Jurevicius’s attention to detail might have something to do with the fewer dropped passes by Seattle’s receiving corps; and Fisher, a member of the Air Force reserves, has brought the kind of discipline typical of a military officer.
“I think it’s as simple as bringing guys in who love the game of football and are willing to sell out for the team,” said linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski, a sixth-year player who is the longest-tenured Seahawks defender. “They put their team’s goals ahead of their own. The bottom line is just living to play football and having that enthusiasm to play and to go out and practice. This year, no one’s negative about anything. It’s all positive around here.”
Wistrom was critical of a few unnamed teammates at the end of last season, saying that the Seahawks needed more players who were dedicated to their chosen profession. He’s as satisfied as anyone with this year’s crop of new players.
“They’ve come in and done their jobs, first of all,” Wistrom said. “They’ve all been professionals. Second of all, they’ve been role models for the younger guys.”
While other teams might have made more headlines with their free-agent signings, the Seahawks have gotten the most out of theirs.
“Everybody’s blending in, and we’re just trying to help each other be better,” Darby said. “Selfish players don’t last long. To have players that give and go out and work together, that’s how you win championships.”