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Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM



Team expects to draft for defense

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Super Bowl is just a memory. In the next two months, the Seahawks will reshape their roster, through free agency in March and the draft at the end of April.

Gil Haskell, the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, is glad to have something to do other than think about the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. He just spent several days in Indianapolis, interviewing players at the NFL scouting combine.

"It's refreshing to get to move on ... because I wake up every night, and I'm thinking of plays in the Super Bowl that we didn't quite make that really hurt us," Haskell said. "So to come here and see all these young athletes that are really good ... We had a number of offensive linemen, a number of tight ends — I can't believe how big they are."

While the group of offensive players at the combine might have been impressive, the Seahawks are likely to use their early picks on defense during the draft, which is April 29-30. Seattle has the 31st pick in the first round and hopes to get a player who can contribute immediately.

"You look at the team, and you kind of see, 'OK, we'll probably need some defensive guys and again still try to build that defense up,' " coach Mike Holmgren said at the combine. "The normal stuff. You always look at the big guys [defensive tackles], corners. Nothing much changes over there."

Holmgren said the Seahawks have talked only briefly about the draft. The team has a history of taking the best player available. Last year the philosophy was employed by team president Tim Ruskell when the Seahawks chose center Chris Spencer in the first round.

The selection of Spencer came as a surprise because most thought the Seahawks would go with a pass-rush specialist or an impact defensive player after finishing in the bottom 10 in the league in defense in 2004. The Seahawks, however, did have success with subsequent picks on defense, finding middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the second round and outside linebacker Leroy Hill in the third.

Haskell doesn't figure the Seahawks will use an early-round pick on an offensive player unless someone is available who is too good to pass up. But the business of football could have an effect, as the Seahawks might have to look hard at a running back if they lose Shaun Alexander and/or Maurice Morris to free agency.

"When we're down so far [in the order], you don't have much choice. But I would say we would be looking for a defensive player," Haskell said. "When you take the best guy, you're doing the right thing."

Right now, the Seahawks might be thinking about acquiring a safety, either through free agency or the draft. Starter Ken Hamlin's future is uncertain after injuries he suffered in a nightclub fight last October. Even though Hamlin is back to working out, Holmgren said he needs a definitive answer from the team medical staff about Hamlin's playing future before a decision is made.

Hamlin's replacement, Marquand Manuel, is likely to be re-signed.

The NFC champions wouldn't seem to have a lot of holes to fill, but then not every Seahawk from 2005 will be there in 2006, even though the team places a high priority on keeping as many free agents as it can.

The team's 15 unrestricted free agents can sign with any team beginning Friday. Among that group are Alexander and Morris, who reportedly is drawing interest from the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals because Alexander might be too expensive to sign.

"Of the 15 guys [unrestricted free agents] we have over there, there are still a number of those guys that you consider as core guys that you would like to keep," said Will Lewis, the Seahawks' director of pro personnel. "Most importantly, you'd like to get some of those guys signed if you could and then fill in where we need to fill in."

Josť Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or

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