The offseason begins: Numerous intriguing players suddenly available

Jim McIsaac

Most of the players who had their options declined were either unproductive or too expensive, but for the right price they could be useful to the Sounders.

The annual MLS roster purge has begun and, as you've probably heard, the Seattle Sounders are not immune. Nothing official has yet to be released but Andrew Weber, Bryan Meredith and Cordell Cato have all indicated on Twitter that they won't be back next year.

Of those three, none are necessarily huge surprises. With five goalkeepers on the roster, the Sounders were bound to cut ties with at least two of them. Cato is a little more surprising as he is still so young, 19, but he never really seemed entirely happy here and may have hit the cap harder in year 2. Surely, there will be more cuts to come.

In any case, the world keeps on turning and as Sounders fans we'll be turning our attention to who will replace them. For the most part, I suspect the new additions will come from outside the league. There will, invariably, be a few players from inside the league to join the Sounders as well.

The first sense we'll get is in the Dec. 7 Re-Entry Draft (RED). Players picked in the first stage will have their options picked up by new teams. Chances are, very few players will be taken at that point. Last year, only three players were picked. The next stage will be a week later. Those players can have their contract re-negotiated. That was when the Sounders took Marc Burch.

Players who aren't RED eligible aren't exactly free-agents, though. Their current teams still hold their MLS rights and would have to be compensated if another team wants them. In most cases, it would be rather marginal compensation, but it's not quite as easy as stepping up to sign them either.

Here are some of the more intriguing players who have had their contract options turned down (in alphabetical order).

Benny Feilhaber ($446,000): If there's one player who could conceivably help every team in MLS, it's the United States international. So why did the Revolution decide against picking up his option? Money. At his 2011 production level (4 goals, 7 assists in 23 starts) you could justify paying him close to a DP wage. At his 2012 production (1 goal, 2 assists in 23 starts), that's impossible. He'll only be 28 next year and still shows flashes of the player who made the 2010 World Cup team, though, and someone will give him a chance. Unless he's willing to rework his deal, and play for closer to $300,000, he'll likely be playing in Europe. RED eligible: No.

Tom Heinemann ($47,250): At 6-foot-4 and a price tag that is barely more than the minimum, you have to imagine someone will take a flyer on the former Crew forward. In 2011, he had three goals in just 1,300 minutes and seemed poised for a breakout. Instead, he only made one appearance in 2012 and is now looking for work. He's a physical player who would likely compete with Sammy Ochoa and Babayele Sodade for minutes. RED eligible: No.

Ike Opara ($185,900): The apple of more than one MLS coach's eye when he came out of Wake Forest as sthe No. 3 pick in the 2010 SuperDraft. Injuries are mostly responsible for him making only 22 starts in three years, but he may have also started to wear out his welcome with Frank Yallop and co. in San Jose. He's probably coming off his Generation adidas status, as well, which makes his price tag problematic. Still, he has the talent to be a starter in MLS. Would be worth a shot at closer to $100,000. RED eligible: Yes.

Jan Gunnar Solli ($185,000): That price tag is not insignificant, but there's a lot to like about the Norwegian international. In two seasons with the Red Bulls, he's racked up three goals and 12 assists while playing mostly at right back. The Sounders were supposedly interested in him prior to his coming to MLS and would be a welcome addition if the Sounders could get him for closer to half his current salary. He's also a pretty good DJ. RED eligible: No.

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