If you ask anyone in the Seattle Seahawks organization when the road to a Super Bowl victory truly began, they will say January 14th, 2013. For those without a perfect memory, that is the day after the playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They called it the championship offseason. Fueled by Pete Carroll’s “always compete” philosophy and Russell Wilson’s “why not us?” mantra, the goal was clear. So, after attaining the franchise’s first ring, how do the Hawks have another championship offseason?
For those who say it is too soon to look forward, note that Coach Pete and general manager John Schneider (of WWE belt Internet fame) disagree. Their meetings for the 2014 campaign have already begun.
One of the many steps to a championship offseason is contract management. As boring as it sounds, this phase is crucial. The Seahawks have a relatively small number of free agents to sign (Golden Tate, Michael Bennett and Steven Hauschka are notable unrestricted free agents). However, now is also the time to think about things like signing players, such as Richard Sherman, to a contract extension to keep him, and others, off the market. All of this while playing within NFL’s salary cap.
Some of this will center on restructuring existing contracts. Sidney Rice’s contract will certainly be examined. Media reports indicate that Rice is likely to be cut, saving the team over $7 million in cap space to sign other free agents. Rice is set to earn over $9 million in 2014 and is no longer the team’s number one option at receiver, especially with emerging receivers like Doug Baldwin (a restricted free agent) and Jermaine Kearse (a fellow Washington Husky!) Tight end Zach Miller will, more than likely, be approached with a pay cut option to save space as well.
However, the Seahawks unparalleled combination of success and popularity may help them here. Pete Carroll was recently named by a survey the coach that players around the NFL most wanted to play for. Of course, who doesn’t want to play for a robber baron with a Super Bowl ring? Golden Tate has already stated that he’d take less money to stay in Seattle with Carroll. With attitudes like that, Schneider and Carroll might be able to work some more magic. Accio second Super Bowl ring!? Any other football fanatic, Harry Potter nerds out there?
The other big step is the NFL Draft. To me (a professed draft amateur), the obvious approach is offensive line, an extra weapon at wide receiver to add depth and to continue to bolster the ferocious defense. However, if there is one thing you can expect John Schneider to do, it is not to do what is expected.
Much like Dr. Erskine’s formula in “Captain America,” the recipe for by the Hawks front office is shrouded in mystery (if there aren’t other Harry Potter fans, there must be at least a few comic book nerds…). I’ll admit that I’ve been among those gleefully retweeting the articles blasting the Seahawks 2012 draft class, including Russell Wilson and Bruce Irvin. Even as I mock these hilariously wrong (in hindsight) analysts, I don’t recall being on my soapbox singing the praises of the draft class. John Schneider’s talent seems to be finding talent where no one else does. And it can’t just be a fluke. Malcolm Smith, the Super Bowl MVP, was the 242nd pick in the 2011 draft. Richard Sherman was a 5th round pick. Perhaps the most startling fact is that 21 of the 53 players on the active Super Bowl roster were undrafted free agents. That’s nearly 40% of a team that dominated Super Bowl XLVIII. With success like that, it is hard not to wonder exactly what deity Schneider may have made a deal with…
There is no doubt that the Hawks smell blood in the water. They are the youngest team to ever win the Super Bowl. Some other teams to make that list include the 1981 San Francisco 49ers and the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers. Combined, the two franchises won more than a handful of rings over their next few years. There is a strong correlation between youth and prolonged success. Especially when you have the mentality of a championship offseason.
By the way, it is worth noting the only younger team to make the Super Bowl (although they did not win), is the 1971 Miami Dolphins. You might know what the Dolphins did the next year. The only team to ever have a truly perfect season, winning every game from week 1 to the Super Bowl. Just sayin’. Ok, I’m not calling a perfect season for the Hawks but still…