The Seahawks are Super Bowl Champions, and now face the first of many challenging off seasons.
We talked a lot last week about how one great player (Peyton Manning) would struggle to defeat a complete team (the Seahawks).
The reason a lot of consistent challengers are based around one brilliant individual QB is simple.
It’s so frickin difficult to possess a complete roster and maintain it for the long term.
When your star players are third and fifth round picks on rookie salaries, you can afford to pad out your team.
But when those tiny rookie contracts turn into superstar mega deals, you run into trouble.
There’s a lot of talk today about a potential dynasty because this is a young roster.
That’s all well and good, but the fact is Seattle won’t be able to keep all of its young players.
Not only will they lose some key contributors and starters, even guys like Jermaine Kearse are seeing their value rise because they’re doing it on the big stage.
By keeping the likes of Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner and a few others — they may face something of a mini rebuild down the line.
Replacing guys they’d otherwise really love to keep.
Here’s an example. What happens when K.J. Wright hits free agency in a years time?
Ideally you’d re-sign him. But he’ll know his value is considerably strong as a Super Bowl Champion and starter for the ‘en vogue’ team in the NFL.
Jacksonville will be waiting to pounce on any players who slip through the free agency net. You can pretty much include every other team in the league with money to burn.
Starters, depth players and even practise squad guys — the sharks are circling around the Seahawks.
And this could be the first year where a few tough decisions needs to be made.
Here’s the list of free agents hitting the market in 2014:
Michael Bennett, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Breno Giacomini, Steven Hauschka, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, Michael Robinson, Tarvaris Jackson, Chris Maragos, O’Brien Schofield, Paul McQuistan, Kellen Davis, Anthony McCoy, Brandon Browner and Lemuel Jeanpierre.
According to Ian Rapoport, the Seahawks “will” re-sign Michael Bennett.
PFT later disputed this report, saying no deal was close to being finalised.
However, I think Rapoport’s point is there’s going to be mutual interest. Bennett has spoken warmly about his return to Seattle and the Seahawks know how important he is to the defense.
This deal will get done. The question is, how much will it cost?
Rapoport also says they will try and keep Golden Tate if they have room.
This looks like one of the first big decisions they’ll face.
Tate’s most productive year for yardage came in 2013 — with 898 yards. He added five scores — two less than 2012.
Judging his value is going to be tough. On the one hand, his increase in yardage isn’t a total shock given the injuries to Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. He’s never been a production machine and he does have games where he simply doesn’t make much of an impact.
At the same time, there are plenty of games where he’s essentially been the MVP. The victory in St. Louis in week eight was pretty much down to his huge downfield score and earlier touchdown in the red zone.
He gets under the skin of defenders and has a knack of making big plays when they’re needed.
He appears tight with Russell Wilson and is one of the players who’s shown real progression in the last two years.
The Seahawks don’t have great depth at receiver. If Sidney Rice is a cap casualty and with Harvin’s health problems, would you really want to lose him?
And yet receivers consistently get overpaid in free agency — and there will be teams out there showing interest in Tate. Keeping him might just be too expensive without letting him test the market first.
Essentially you run the real risk of losing Golden Tate. But such is the situation.
With a deep class of receivers in the upcoming draft, they may have little choice but to invest in youth and grit their teeth on this one.
Another thing to consider — Doug Baldwin is a RFA this year and will likely be tendered and therefore kept. But in 2015 he’ll need paying too, and I’d argue he’s shown a ton of value to this team as a reliable third down converter.
With a hopefully healthy Harvin as an X-factor, you can perhaps prioritise a longer team deal for Baldwin over paying Tate.
Unless there’s a way to keep both, but that could be expensive given Harvin’s massive contract.
Breno Giacomini is one of the more underrated players on the team, but he can’t expect to continue on a salary that pays him $4.75m a year. I suspect there’s a deal to be done here, with the 28-year-old taking a smaller annual salary for long term security.
The tackle class in the draft has also been weakened somewhat with a number of players opting to stay in college.
Steven Hauschka had a sensational season, and truly deserves an extended contract.
But here’s the issue. Dan Bailey just signed a 7-year $22m extension in Dallas, setting the market for kickers of this standard. The cap hit for Dallas in 2014 is $1.75m, but it gradually progresses to a peak of $4.2m.
The Seahawks, unlike the Cowboys, won’t be paying their kicker that kind of money.
Like Tate, it might be a situation where you let Hauschka test the market to see what kind of money he can get. He’s at least as good a kicker as Bailey, and yet earned just $620k this season.
He’d have to be crazy not to at least see what’s out there.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Seahawks have done serious due diligence on the college kickers turning pro. The Minnesota Vikings had Blair Walsh tied up for four years earning an average salary of $500k per year after drafting him in 2012.
As good as Hauschka was this year and deserves to be rewarded, you have to pick your battles carefully.
Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald had fantastic seasons, emerging from nowhere to be key contributors. Again, you’d be stunned if Gus Bradley and Jacksonville weren’t showing interest here. Other teams will be too.
Jordan Hill might have to step up in year two to replace McDonald, and he’s capable.
I’d love to think they can keep McDaniel, but it might just be too expensive.
Michael Robinson has probably played his last down in the NFL — and what a fitting way to depart. You’d love to see him continue, but I think a career in the media now awaits Mike Rob.
On Tarvaris Jackson — give him a modest two-year deal if he’ll take it and keep a backup who knows the offense like the back of his hand. I think the time has passed where teams will consider giving him a chance to compete to start.
For the long haul though it’d be nice to see the Seahawks drafting quarterbacks and developing their own guys. Logan Thomas’ stock has slipped considerably over the last two years. If he’s available in round four or five, I’d be all over that as a developmental pick.
Chris Maragos restructured his contract in 2013 from $1.3m to $700k plus a $155k signing bonus. He’s a nice special teamer and backup and there’s possibly a deal to be done here too. Demand elsewhere will be limited.
I would expect O’Brien Schofield, Paul McQuistan and Kellen Davis to move on. We may see Anthony McCoy return for camp to compete for a spot, ditto backup centre Jeanpierre.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Browner. I don’t think anybody is.
Walter Thurmond is a tough one to judge. He’s another candidate to be reunited with Gus Bradley — and it wouldn’t surprise me if the 49ers and Rams showed interest to bolster their secondaries.
He’s also coming off a recent suspension which will damage his stock, not to mention all the injuries he’s suffered in his career.
This coaching staff prides itself on being able to find and develop starting corners. So Thurmond might be replaceable.
It’s really about damage limitations in terms of losing starters (eg Giacomini) while trying to keep a high level of overall quality. I’d argue keeping Bennett and Giacomini will benefit the team more than keeping Tate, especially with the great receiver class this year in the draft.
But the thought of losing such a core player who’s been with the team since 2010 is tough to take. This is the kind of heart wrenching scenario facing the Seahawks.
Make no mistake, Thomas is getting an extension this off-season. It’s a matter of when, not if.
With Sherman they could theoretically run his contract down. You’d have the security of the franchise tag, knowing there’s nobody else who would really warrant it in 2015. Plus in a years time we might see contracts like Cliff Avril, Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane leaving the books to free up some room.
This might push back an extension for Russell Wilson until his rookie deal expires, but again — you’d have the franchise tag as security in 2016 and it should be a pretty easy deal to negotiate anyway.
There are going to be some cap casulaties to raise cash. Rice is likely a gonner earning close to $10m a year. Chris Clemons’ swansong might be a Super Bowl ring and a sack in the big game. Cutting both saves around $14m.
I suspect they might keep hold of both Bryant and Mebane for another season for continuity’s sake — especially if they lose both McDaniel and McDonald. If either or both re-sign, obviously that potentially changes the situation.
Seattle has become a very attractive place to play football. Don’t be surprised if there’s a couple of eye catching free agent moves that are pretty cost effective.
My prediction? Jared Allen on a one or two-year deal at a very reasonable price to replace the veteran departure of Clemons.
He had 11.5 sacks in 2013 on a bad team. Reports emerged via Adam Schefter prior to the trade deadline that Seattle was interested in acquiring Allen from Minnesota. Nothing came of the story, although there’s no smoke without fire and all that.
Allen turns 32 in April and hasn’t been to a Super Bowl. He’d likely get better offers elsewhere, but he’s at that stage now where it’s another pay day versus the chance to win a title.
Would he be interested? Perhaps.
Plus, it’d fill the yearly quota for ex-Vikings moving to Seattle.
Lamar Houston might be another one to watch. Like Bennett last year, he might not find an amped market for his tweener skill set. If he’s willing to play on a similar ‘prove it’ deal if his market is fairly cold — it’s a situation worth monitoring.
But hey, we’re a long way off discussing potential free agent signings.
As for the draft — well we’re well under way there. The combine takes place at the end of the month and we’ve already seen in the Senior Bowl.
Tape is starting to emerge from the event in Mobile, so we can finally get into that.
I still believe the #1 priority for this team should be a big receiver, with adding depth to both lines a close second.
The sheer depth of first round talent at wide out makes it an obvious option for the Seahawks, now that we know they’ll be picking at #32.
Here are the last five players taken with the final pick in round one:
2013 — Matt Elam (S, Florida) – to Baltimore
2012 — David Wilson (RB, Virginia Tech) – to NYG
2011 — Derek Sherrod (T, Miss. State) – to Green Bay
2010 — Patrick Robinson (CB, Florida State – to New Orleans
2009 — Ziggy Hood (DT, Missouri) – to Pittsburgh
As you can see, none of the previous five Super Bowl winners made a deal to move back into round two. With it being the final pick on day one, it might be difficult to trade.
If there’s a player you just have to have at the bottom end of the first round, you typically don’t wait until pick #32 to get on the phone. There’s actually been a handful of deals over the last few years just ahead of the final pick, but none of the Super Bowl Champions have moved down.
So let’s celebrate and then get back into it.
Even with that elusive Championship finally in the bag, it’s going to be another very interesting off-season in Seattle.
Would you expect anything else?
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