Brandon Mebane, who played nine seasons with the Seahawks, signed with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday.

Brandon Mebane, who played nine seasons with the Seahawks, signed with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday.

Seahawks retain Lane, lose starters Irvin, Mebane, Sweezy

The first day of NFL free agency saw the Seattle Seahawks saying more “goodbyes” than than “hellos.”

Wednesday marked the first day unrestricted free agents could officially sign with other teams, and the Seahawks lost three starters and retained one. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and guard J.R. Sweezy, along with linebacker Bruce Irvin, all found new homes, while cornerback Jeremy Lane is sticking around.

Mebane, who was Seattle’s longest-tenured player, having spent the previous nine seasons with the team, signed with the San Diego Chargers. Sweezy, a starter each of the past three seasons, agreed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Reports emerged Tuesday night that Irvin agreed a deal to join the Oakland Raiders.

Lane, meanwhile, agreed to re-up with the Seahawks. He became the second of Seattle’s seven starters who were unrestricted free agents to re-sign with the team. On Monday the Seahawks signed defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin to a deal that’s reportedly for three years and $12 million.

The starters who remain on the market are tackle Russell Okung and receiver Jermaine Kearse.

Seattle did not sign any unrestricted free agents from other teams Wednesday.

The Seahawks were always going to have a difficult time being major players in this year’s free-agency market, with about $132 million of their $155 million salary cap already committed. Wednesday proved that out as Seattle remained quiet while the rest of the league went into a feeding frenzy.

Mebane was a key component of Seattle’s run defense since the moment he arrived as a third-round draft pick out of the University of California in 2007. He made 125 starts during his nine seasons with the Seahawks, and last season he had 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Mebane made $5.7 million last season, so it was likely he would have had to take a pay cut to remain in Seattle, especially after the Seahawks re-signed Rubin. The Chargers signed Mebane to a three-year deal, that was reported as $13.5 million.

Sweezy, a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft out of North Carolina State, spent four seasons with the Seahawks, including starting 46 games the past three years. Opinions varied on Sweezy’s play, but he reportedly had plenty of suitors. Initial reports had Sweezy’s contract at five years and $32.5 million.

Seattle has an heir apparent to Sweezy already on its roster. Rookie Mark Glowinski made one start in place of Sweezy during the regular season and received positive reviews.

Meanwhile, reports surfaced Wednesday about the size of Irvin’s contract with the Raiders, putting it at four years and $37 million for an average of $9.25 million per season. That was far outside the price range for Seattle, which declined a $7.8 million team option on Irvin prior to last season.

On the plus side, the Seahawks managed to retain Lane. Lane made just six starts the previous four seasons, and he has a history of injuries. However, he moved into the starting lineup late last season and performed well, finishing with two interceptions and six passes defensed.

Lane’s experience with Seattle’s technique for cornerbacks made him a priority re-signing. Last year the Seahawks looked outside the organization to fill the right cornerback position, signing Cary Williams to a big-money contract. However, Williams struggled to learn the technique and was released after appearing in just 10 games.

Lane reportedly agreed to a four-year deal. Financial terms were not available.

The Seahawks also chose to offer a tender to only one of their six restricted free agents, that being center Patrick Lewis. Lewis was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Drew Nowak midway through last season, a move that coincided with Seattle’s improvement in pass protection. By offering Lewis the tender, which is a reported $1.671 million, the Seahawks can match any offer Lewis may receive from another team.

The most notable name on the list of those restricted free agents who were not tendered contracts is running back Christine Michael. Michael was Seattle’s prodigal son last season. The 2013 second-round draft pick was banished before the season began, being traded to Dallas after failing to earn the Seahawks’ trust during his first two seasons with the team. However, after bouncing from Dallas to Washington, he was re-signed by Seattle following injuries to Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. He responded his second time around with the Seahawks, gaining 192 yards on 39 carries in three games.

The others who were not tendered offers were tackle Alvin Bailey, fullback Derrick Coleman, receiver Ricardo Lockette and linebacker Nick Moody. Those players are now unrestricted free agents. It’s possible the Seahawks will try to bring some of those players back on contracts that have dollar amounts lower than what the tender amounts would have been.

Seattle also tendered seven exclusive rights free agents, therefore keeping them in the fold. The most noteworthy of those was defensive back DeShawn Shead, who became a valuable member of the secondary, making starts at both cornerback and safety.

The others were cornerback Marcus Burley, defensive tackle A.J. Francis, tight end Cooper Helfet, linebacker Eric Pinkins, cornerback Mohammed Seisay and free safety Steven Terrell. The only exclusive rights free agent who wasn’t tendered was defensive tackle Jesse Williams, who was waived.

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