By Brady Henderson
The prevailing thought among people assessing the futures of the Seahawks' free agents is that the team will make it a priority to re-sign running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant.
Both were important pieces of a defense that ranked ninth in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed, and both are among the team's 18 players who are set to become unrestricted free agents.
David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill are both free agents. (AP)
"We've seen him get rid of guys that this team has made big financial investments to," O'Neil said. "We haven't seen, is he someone that thinks that a linebacker (is a player) that you replenish through the draft? Does he believe in having veterans come back?"
Hill cited his familiarity with the organization as the reason he returned to the Seahawks last season on a one-year deal paying him the veteran minimum of $685,000. He should be in line for a nice raise following a strong season. Hill, 29, made 89 tackles and had four sacks while playing in all 16 games for the first time in his seven-year career.
Hawthorne, 26, made 115 tackles to lead the team for the third straight season. He had three interceptions, including one he returned 77 yards for a touchdown. A knee injury caused him to miss Week 1 and limited his mobility throughout the season. Hawthorne made a base salary of $900,000 as part of a one-year extension he signed in November of 2010.
Rookie K.J. Wright could be a factor in the team's negotiations with Hawthorne. Wright, a fourth-round pick, started in place of Hawthorne at middle linebacker in the season opener before taking Curry's spot at strongside linebacker.
Head coach Pete Carroll has mentioned the team's confidence in Wright's ability to play middle linebacker, saying there would be no hesitation to slide Wright inside in Hawthorne's absence.
"He prepared all year long in a dual role, so he's ready to do that," Carroll said of Wright during his season-ending press conference. "Not many guys can do that as easily as he's shown that he can. So we're very fortunate."
Carroll also said that he would like to add more speed at linebacker, though it wasn't clear as to what role any additions to the position would assume.
The Seahawks have until March 4 to negotiate exclusively with their own free agents. After that, they can begin speaking with other teams' free agents.