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Hasselbeck's departure leaves Seahawks with leadership void

When the NFL lockout sent players scrambling to look for structure and organization to stay sharp, it was Matt Hasselbeck serving as the de facto leader for players based in the Seattle area, regardless of what team they played for last season.

It was just part of the role Hasselbeck grew into during his decade as the Seahawks' quarterback. And it's a massive void the team will need to quickly fill when training camp begins Thursday, with Hasselbeck now a member of the Tennessee Titans and the only two quarterbacks on Seattle's roster with NFL experience having a total of 22 NFL starts.

"It's weird because you think of the Seattle Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck, and now he's not going to be a part of the team," wide receiver Golden Tate said after learning that Hasselbeck wouldn't return. "I'm sure a lot of people are hurt like I am, especially the fans."

Pete Carroll's second training camp as coach of the Seahawks already has a specific question: Who will be the quarterback when the season begins Sept. 11 at San Francisco?

It could have been a simple answer had the Seahawks and Hasselbeck reached agreement on a new contract that likely would have kept him in a Seattle uniform for the rest of his career.

In what turned out to be his final game as a Seahawk at home, Hasselbeck threw a playoff career-high four touchdown passes as he directed one of the biggest upsets in playoff history when Seattle beat New Orleans 41-36 in January.

The final image from that night was Hasselbeck walking off the field with his son hoisted on his shoulders and his daughters at his side. Hindsight shows it was a storybook final image to a career in Seattle that started off shaky but eventually saw Hasselbeck lead the Seahawks to the highest points in their history, including their only Super Bowl appearance.

"I wish he was here, because he's a good friend of mine and he's a leader for this team and this organization," Seahawks tight end John Carlson said. "He's beloved in this city for what he does on the field but also what he does off the field, so he will be greatly missed."

With Hasselbeck gone, the job will fall to Charlie Whitehurst -- at least until Aug. 4, when Tarvaris Jackson can get on the field along with the rest of Seattle's free-agent signings. Jackson was the Seahawks' first free-agent target, agreeing to a deal that ultimately allowed the team to pull back from Hasselbeck. After Jackson was locked up, Seattle spent Day 2 of free agency agreeing to a three-year deal with offensive lineman Robert Gallery, plugging the final gap in its line.

Bringing in Gallery was expected the moment former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable was hired as an assistant in charge of the offensive line and revamping Seattle's running game.

Later Wednesday, the Seahawks added another big name when they agreed to a five-year, $41 million deal with former Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora. The deal contains $18.5 million guaranteed and, with $3 million in Pro Bowl escalators, can grow to $44 million in total value.

Two seasons ago, Rice was a Pro Bowl selection after catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.

While Rice and Gallery bring big names to the Seahawks, much of the focus during training camp will be on Whitehurst and if he can make the strides he failed to make last year when he was first brought over from the San Diego Chargers in a trade and given an opportunity to win the starting job.

The only two starts Whitehurst made last season came in games that Hasselbeck was injured, although one of those was the season finale when Whitehurst managed the Seahawks to a 16-6 win over St. Louis to wrap up the division title.

"It's an opportunity for me, obviously, and I'm excited about this season for the Seahawks," Whitehurst said. "I know Matt's been here a long time. ... He was a good friend to me, and I'd love to quarterback this team this year, for sure."

There are other areas to be quickly solved besides quarterback. The Seahawks lost slot receiver Brandon Stokley to the Washington Redskins on Wednesday, and kicker Olindo Mare is headed to the Carolina Panthers. Special teams standout and reserve linebacker Will Herring reportedly will sign with the New Orleans Saints, leaving a depth issue.

Depth also is a concern on the defensive line, where free-agent tackle Brandon Mebane remains one of the biggest targets out there. Seattle went into this abbreviated free-agent period with 22 unrestricted free agents. Last season, the Seahawks made just under 300 roster moves while trying to find the right mix.

No one is expecting this season to be any different.

"Unless you're going to experiment throughout the entire preseason, how much can you get done?" Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry said. "We had a lot of free agents last season. With a big free-agent market this year, it'll be interesting to see the faces that come in and out."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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