In the weeks following the Seahawks’ demolition of the Denver Broncos, in what was anything but a Super Bowl, a collective anxiety seems to have stricken the entire football fan base of Seattle. The hair pulling and gnashing of teeth that’s resulted from players leaving for greener pastures, and seemingly every other NFL team loading up to knock the Hawks off the perch they now occupy, has made much of the 12th man forget that our World Champions (Admit it, you still pinch yourself at the sound of that!) are in a lot better shape than the general consensus gives them credit for. While perhaps not being as good as a prescription of Lexapro for our distressed Hawks’ lovers, here are a few practical steps that the brass has taken and still can take in order to make sure they stay on top for the foreseeable future, which may help alleviate a few worries:
Step 1 (Complete) – Get your most effective and versatile pass rusher locked up in Michael Bennett. Bennett offers value equal to the league leaders in Sacks, QB pressures, and QB knock downs. In addition he plays the run well both as a defensive end, and as a defensive tackle in passing situations making him invaluable, and without a match in free agency, or within the upcoming draft.
Step 2 – Extend Earl Thomas for 5-6 years, and make him the highest paid safety in the league (he’s earned it). Our league leading defense is enabled by the play of our two safety’s in Cam and Earl. The NFL as a whole continues to be more of a passing league, and Earl’s unmatched ability to read quarterbacks and cover ground virtually eliminated the deep passing game of opponents for the last two years. Cam was locked up and rewarded last year, Earl is priority #1 to continue this defenses’ dominance for the foreseeable future.
Step 3 – Extend Sherman 5-6 years(probably highest paid corner, but he earned it too). Sherman has unmatched production, and eliminates receivers to his side of the field. He studies like crazy, and communicates better than any corner in the league whether it is with his own teammates or he is discussing things with the opposition.
Step 4 (For 2015) – Extend Russell Wilson 5-6 years(somewhere in the top 5 highest paid). Russell is the heart and soul of the offense. It is true Beast Mode embodies the style this offense plays with, but Russell makes it all happen. He routinely makes something out of nothing, and this guy will only continue to grow and get better. As long as he is a Seahawk for the core of his athletic prime this will be a winning team.
Step 5 – Develop internally or find an effective DT to spell Mebane and McDaniel. With Red leaving and McDonald getting a new deal as well our rotation looks much thinner, but remember McDonald was released last year, and by the end of the season he had 5.5 sacks. There are too many weapons on defense for the OL to worry about, and our coaches consistently maximize the player’s potential. Look at the out of nowhere performances on defense from McDaniel, Malcolm Smith, even Maxwell at DB. All were unheard of and not counted on last pre-season to contribute to the 2013 season, and all played critical roles as the year developed.
Step 6 – Draft a high quality receiver in round 1 or 2 & bring in a mid-level veteran for competition. Bringing in Jackson from Philly would be flashy, but would tie up too much money in a de-emphasized position on this team. A solid veteran, possibly bringing back Sidney Rice if/when healthy, and a rookie to groom and develop would be upgrades to the offense the Hawks operated with for the majority of last year. Losing Tate hurts, but having a healthy year of Percy should offset his loss, the key will be actually getting a healthy year of Percy in 2014.
Step 7 – Continue to build offensive line depth. Losing Guacomini decreases the edge the line plays with, but functionally it won’t be a huge loss. Either Bailey or Bowie will be much better next year, and exhibited strong abilities to run and pass block effectively. Based on the usage last year I think Bowie has the inside track, but I like Bailey to blossom and play regularly next year as well. Adding depth and versatility via the draft in the middle rounds will be necessary.
Step 8 – Lock up Pete Carroll to a 5 year extension (Again, he’s earned it). He is one of the highest paid coaches in the league already, but he salvaged a flailing franchise and has turned around the energy, passion, skill, athleticism, and competition. For the first time in Seahawks history we are the envy of the league both for winning the Super Bowl, but for the opportunity to continue to win more Lombardi’s in the near future.
Follow these steps in the next year, and we are set up much better than the Niners to dominate for the next 4-5 years and compete for multiple Superbowls. I know it is difficult to look at the losses of Tate, Clemens, Bryant, Guacomini, Thurmond, Browner etc., but take heart, none of those players were in the top 10 total contributing players on the team, and likely not in the top 15, so although it hurts to lose them, keeping the core top players together over the long term and continuing to bring in quality young players is the key to future Hawks domination.
Clint Elsemore has been a fanatic Seattle sports fan for his entire life, and possibly several past lifetimes, should reincarnation be proven to be real.