SEATTLE — Even the lure of adding one of the top pass rushers in NFL history wasn’t enough to cause the Seahawks to lose focus from their longterm vision.
So that meant Seahawks fans woke up Wednesday morning to the somewhat surprising news that free-agent defensive end Jared Allen had signed with the Chicago Bears instead of Seattle.
The signing was a little out-of-the-blue in that Chicago had not been publicly mentioned as a suitor for Allen, whose 128.5 career sacks rank 12th all-time and second among active players.
But the Bears, who had earlier released Julius Peppers (who signed with Green Bay) and were unable to pull Michael Bennett away from the Seahawks, made a late push to get Allen as a replacement. They reportedly came to an agreement Tuesday night that was announced early Wednesday morning.
Allen signed a four-year contract worth up to $32 million with a reported $15.5 million guaranteed. Seattle had been offering a two-year contract worth $12 million, according to ESPN.com.
While not going into specifics on the numbers, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider each confirmed in interviews at the NFL meetings in Orlando this week that they weren’t offering Allen as much as he would get elsewhere.
“We’re limited in what we can do in terms of our cap space and what we want to do with our young football team, and he has a limit, too, in terms of what he can do,” Schneider said to NFL.com. “There just has to be a balance. ... Anything that we were able to offer was not out of disrespect or anything. It was just trying to fit the pieces together.”
And that means, above all else, keeping the players that Seattle has identified as the key to remaining elite for the long haul — specifically, safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson.
Sherman and Thomas can become free agents after the 2014 season. The Seahawks, though, could offer either extensions before then, and have been rumored to be focused on getting something done with Thomas first, likely before the 2014 season.
Wilson’s contract doesn’t expire until after the 2015 season, but the team could begin negotiating an extension with him following the 2014 season.
Seattle has signed just two free agents from other teams, neither of whom cost much — receiver Taylor Price, who hasn’t played since 2011 while battling injuries, and offensive lineman Stephen Schilling, a former Bellevue High star who was mostly a reserve the past three seasons with the Chargers.
Seattle, meanwhile, has seen seven of its own free agents sign elsewhere and has released three players, moves designed to create salary-cap space needed to keep its core players.
Seattle has just more than $15 million in cap space for the 2014 season, according to figures from the NFL Players Association website. Had they wanted to, the Seahawks could have made an offer to entice Allen, a 10-year veteran who turns 32 next week and undoubtedly was intrigued by the idea of joining a team fresh off a Super Bowl win.
Allen visited Seattle twice last week, and after the second trip, an ESPN.com report indicated his signing with the Seahawks was imminent. Allen, though, later said he wanted to take the weekend to mull his options.
Ultimately, an offer worth more than twice what he would have received in Seattle proved too much for Allen to ignore.
And with the pickings getting slim on the free-agent market, that leaves Seattle with the likely prospect of entering the 2014 season with a defensive line featuring more uncertainty than when it began last season.
Seattle’s 2013 line featured a rotation of seven players, each of whom received 46 to 57 percent of the snaps. Three are now gone — Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald.
The four who remain — Bennett, Cliff Avril, Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane — will likely see their playing time increase in 2014 with Seattle almost surely having fewer experienced linemen. Seattle will hope for the return to health and/or quick progress of younger players Greg Scruggs, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa.
Seattle could still add a cheaper free agent or two to the line, the one spot where it has consistently pursued players throughout free agency. Along with Allen, Seattle also brought in Jason Hatcher and Henry Melton for visits before each signed elsewhere — Hatcher with the Redskins and Melton with the Cowboys.
Seattle could also take a defensive lineman in the NFL draft May 8-10.
Before the Super Bowl, Schnei-der said the team had already begun to lay out a strategy for staying consistently competitive rather than, as he put it, being a team that cruises in for one year and then cruises out the next.
Seahawks fans are undoubtedly restless seeing their team lose players without getting much in return, and surely even more so after seeing Allen get away.
But it also showed again Seattle’s belief in and adherence to its long-range plan.