KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -Mike Holmgren has given the Seahawks some extra offseason work by saying he'd rather have a new, long-term extension than return for the final year of his contract in 2008.
As if they didn't have enough to do.
Don't be fooled by Seattle's five consecutive playoff appearances and four division titles in a row. Ruling the ultra-weak NFC West again masked problems on offense that need immediate attention - specifically a running game that kept the Seahawks from having more than one postseason game at home for the second consecutive January.
In 2005, the Seahawks rode the top seed to the Super Bowl. As the third and fourth seeds the last two years, they were knocked out in the division round.
``It's a big difference when you get to do it that way,'' Matt Hasselbeck said of 2005.
For the first time in years, the Seahawks' issues are not on defense - despite its inconsistency. Three years of remodeling on defense resulted in four players who will start in next month's Pro Bowl: Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson, Lofa Tatupu and Marcus Trufant. But that same group also allowed Green Bay to score its postseason-record 42 points while losing in a blizzard.
``Probably we will emphasize more in the offseason shoring up the offense,'' Holmgren said.
Holmgren might not be part of the decision making. He was to leave Wednesday with his wife, Kathy, for their home in Arizona and a few days of contemplation on whether to return for a 17th season as an NFL head coach. He said he may decide by next week.
No matter who is Seattle's coach in 2008, the mission is clear: Get Hasselbeck help.
Fading running star Shaun Alexander broke his wrist in the opener. Wearing a cast, he then finished his worst season since he became a starter in 2001. He was booed at home and by midseason fell into a co-lead role with the faster, more versatile Maurice Morris.
Seattle finished 22nd in the league with 3.8 yards per carry in the regular season. It had a season-low 28 yards on 18 carries in the loss to the Packers.
``That is a major offseason fix,'' Holmgren said. ``Now what does that mean? You're talking about scheme, you're talking about players, the whole deal. You've got to be able to run the ball in this league better than we ran it.''
He's not talking about cutting Alexander, though.
Seattle is just two years into the eight-year, $62 million contract he signed soon after he won the league MVP award in 2005. The deal for Alexander, who turned 30 last August, had $15.1 million in guarantees - including a signing bonus of $11.3 million.
Since the Seahawks aren't even halfway through the deal, they aren't even halfway through the $11.3 million that is being prorated against their salary cap. Over $6 million in accelerated charges would count against their cap if they cut him before next season.
Alexander will have surgery soon to close the fracture in his wrist. He then may get a request from his employer to lower his 2008 base salary, which is scheduled to be $4,475,000.
Holmgren has already said right guard Chris Gray, who has started all but one game in the last eight years but will turn 38 this offseason, should prepare for a backup role. Of course, the coach said that last offseason. Then Floyd Womack got hurt and Ray Willis wasn't better.
Willis and likely a draft pick and a signed free agent will compete for Gray's job plus that of left guard Rob Sims, who spent the latter half of the season sharing time with Womack. Seattle may let Womack become a free agent.
Yes, the fallout remains from botching the free agency of Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson, who signed with Minnesota before the 2006 season.
The Seahawks also need to find a tight end who can catch the ball. Marcus Pollard had a miserable season after arriving to replace Jerramy Stevens. Pollard turns 36 next month and probably won't return. He and backup Will Heller combined to catch just 41 passes during the regular season.
Beyond Holmgren, the priorities for contract negotiations should be Trufant, kicker Josh Brown, wide receiver D.J. Hackett and right tackle Sean Locklear, in that order. All can become free agents March 1.
Trufant earned his first Pro Bowl trip and is hugely important at the most difficult position to play besides quarterback. The Seahawks will likely make him their franchise player to keep him, if they can't agree on a long-term deal.
Brown, who had the franchise tag in 2007, has been Seattle's clutch kicker for years. Hackett started the opener then had a sprained ankle most of the season. He became more valuable on Tuesday, when Holmgren announced fellow starting receiver Deion Branch will likely miss more than nine months after he has knee surgery.
``There's nothing wrong with a player being with the same team his entire career. I try and explain that to these guys sometimes,'' Holmgren said. ``'If you like where you're living and you like the community, why leave for an extra hundred thousand bucks? Don't leave, just stay.' If I can get that message across to some of these guys, then I will try and do that.''
That is, if he's around to do it.
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