Leadership of Free Agent Class to 'Be Felt Throughout' Seattle Seahawks Locker Room

While the Seahawks may not have made any splash signings this offseason, Trent Kirchner expects the class' leadership to pay dividends for a young team.
Seahawks guards Laken Tomlinson and McClendon Curtis listen for instructions prior to a drill during an OTA practice.
Seahawks guards Laken Tomlinson and McClendon Curtis listen for instructions prior to a drill during an OTA practice. / Corbin Smith/All Seahawks
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RENTON, Wash. - Now in his fifth season as the franchise's Vice President of Player Personnel, Trent Kirchner holds numerous responsibilities in the Seattle Seahawks front office overseeing both pro and college scouting.

But while Kirchner obviously has a voice in Seattle's scouting process from a draft perspective, he climbed the ladder in the NFL through his ability to evaluate veteran talent already in the NFL. Long before teaming up with general manager John Schneider in 2010, he played an instrumental role in transforming Carolina from a one-win team into a Super Bowl finalist in just two years by helping bring quarterback Jake Delhomme and running back Steven Davis in via free agency.

As Kirchner recalled in an interview with the Locked On Seahawks podcast, he and Schneider planned to "bring Jake in as a free agent" to be the Redskins quarterback in 2002. But both men were fired after the 2001 season as part of a cleaning house operation in the nation's capital. Two years later, as a scout on the pro personnel side for the Panthers, he helped lure the young quarterback to Charlotte with a chance to win a starting job as well as bringing Davis over from Washington.

Following a 7-9 finish one year earlier, led by a breakout season from Delhomme and a stingy defense, the Panthers won the NFC South and advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, ultimately losing to the Patriots.

Developing a reputation as one of the best young pro scouts in the NFL, Kirchner latched on with the Seahawks after eight years in Carolina, signing on as an associate director of player personnel. 15 seasons later, he remains one of Schneider's most trusted assets in a front office that maintained continuity this offseason despite the departure of coach Pete Carroll, and has played a vital role in bringing in free agents this offseason with the goal of helping get the team back to the playoffs.

While adjusting to what new coach Mike Macdonald and his staff preferred at different positions, Kirchner and the front office put an extra emphasis on leadership as a primary theme of Seattle's latest free agent class. After losing Bobby Wagner, Quandre Diggs, and Damien Lewis among others, finding experienced veterans to fill the gap became imperative with limited salary cap space to work with.

"They're not always sexy signings, free agent-wise, you obviously like to build through the draft, Kirchner said, referencing the Delhomme signing. "But there's times where you have to offset certain positions and continue to gain depth. You only have so many draft picks, so you want to be selective with how you sign free agents and who you acquire. And I think with the free agent class we brought in this year, the leadership is gonna be felt throughout the locker room."

Seeking successors for Wagner and Jordyn Brooks, who signed with the Commanders and Dolphins in free agency respectively, the Seahawks courted two AFC East ex-pats in Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson. While Dodson only has 15 starts in his career, Baker started 82 games in six seasons with the Dolphins, eclipsing 100 tackles three times and tallying 22.5 sacks in that span, bringing much-needed experience to the middle of Macdonald's defense.

Signing both players to one-year deals, Baker and Dodson will be looking to prove their worth as potential long-term starters for the Seahawks, who also invested a fourth-round pick in UTEP's Tyrice Knight. From the outset, Baker will start off at weakside linebacker and Dodson will play the MIKE, while Knight's future may lead to him starting at either position as he learns from the veteran defenders.

"Bringing in Baker and Dodson, they're different types of athletes," Kirchner remarked. "Baker's fast, athletic. Not to knock him because it's just a term of use, he's more finesse than he is physical at the point of attack. He's got the athleticism to run around some blocks and still make plays and Dobson's more of the opposite of Baker where he's more of a thumper, more physical at the point of attack to use his hands."

In the aftermath of releasing Diggs and Jamal Adams in March as cap casualties, the Seahawks also quickly found a viable replacement in Rayshawn Jenkins, who the Jaguars had released earlier in the month. With 80 career NFL starts to his name and extensive snaps at both safety positions, he checked off several boxes for Macdonald and his staff without breaking the bank, providing a physical, smart defender to pair with returning Pro Bowler Julian Love.

As for the trenches, with Lewis' departure to Carolina leaving a massive hole in the interior of the offensive line, Seattle made a late play for former Pro Bowl guard Laken Tomlinson, signing him to a one-year deal shortly before the 2024 NFL Draft in April. Just as Kirchner hoped he would, he has immediately jumped in as the alpha dog of a young offensive line, participating throughout OTAs and offering mentorship for youngsters such as left tackle Charles Cross, center Olu Oluwatimi, and rookies Christian Haynes and Sataoa Laumea.

"I think it's great," Kirchner said. "Both the safeties that we brought in had been extremely vocal, outstanding leadership qualities to them. Laken has been huge for the offensive line. He's a vet that's been around for a number of years, he's been here every day for OTAs working his tail off, giving the young guy some good advice in terms of how to be pros and just bringing the unit along."

Even in non-starter positions, the Seahawks made several other shrewd moves in free agency that could pay off in the short run.

Helping the line acclimate to a new coach in Scott Huff, Seattle brought former Washington standout Nick Harris back to the Pacific Northwest, where he earned multiple All-Pac 12 selections playing for Huff. While Oluwatimi likely will start at center replacing Evan Brown, the fifth-year veteran should be given an opportunity to compete for the job while also mentoring his new teammate.

Staying on the offensive line, Seattle re-signed former undrafted signing George Fant, who brings more than 1,000 career snaps in the NFL at both tackle positions. With right tackle Abraham Lucas still recovering from knee surgery, the former Western Kentucky basketball standout has been working with the first-team offense in his place and gives the team an experienced insurance policy at minimum.

At tight end, the Seahawks brought in six-year veteran Pharaoh Brown to help offset the departures of Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. The ex-Oregon standout brings a sterling reputation as an inline blocker and another experienced voice to the position group alongside Noah Fant who can support rookies AJ Barner and Jack Westover.

As Kirchner noted, the Seahawks may not have made any splashy signings as they did handing Dre'Mont Jones a three-year, $53 million deal two years ago. But in terms of impact on and off the field, he believes Jenkins, Tomlinson, and other newcomers will be quality signings that make a major difference for the franchise entering a new era under Macdonald.


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Corbin K. Smith

CORBIN K. SMITH

Graduating from Manchester College in 2012, Smith began his professional career as a high school Economics teacher in Indianapolis and launched his own NFL website covering the Seahawks as a hobby. After teaching and coaching high school football for five years, he transitioned to a full-time sports reporter in 2017, writing for USA Today's Seahawks Wire while continuing to produce the Legion of 12 podcast. He joined the Arena Group in August 2018 and also currently hosts the daily Locked On Seahawks podcast with Rob Rang and Nick Lee. Away from his coverage of the Seahawks and the NFL, Smith dabbles in standup comedy, is a heavy metal enthusiast and previously performed as lead vocalist for a metal band, and enjoys distance running and weight lifting. A habitual commuter, he resides with his wife Natalia in Colorado and spends extensive time reporting from his second residence in the Pacific Northwest.