After the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII, there were serious questions regarding the team's ability to hold it all together. Defensive stalwarts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would no longer be in the picture, and quarterback Joe Flacco was due to be given a mammoth contract -- which led to the loss of receiver Anquan Boldin, his best target. The 2013 Ravens sputtered on offense, struggled to maintain their defensive presence, and finished 8-8. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The 2014 Seattle Seahawks will not have the same types of questions to answer on the heels of their Super Bowl XLVIII win. They are the youngest team ever to win a Super Bowl, and they are a testament to the power of intelligent team-building. There are some who are already calling this team a dynasty in the making, and they do resemble two recent dynasties -- the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990s, and the New England Patriots in the early years of the new millennium. Both of those teams came together with the perfect coach, great personnel men, and an unyielding vision that took the NFL by storm.
But before we can estimate Seattle's dominance over the next few years, it's important to see where the work still needs to be done. To that end, here's where the Seahawks stand as they go into the 2014 offseason.
According to the calculations made by Overthecap.com, the Seahawks come into the 2014 league year with $2,201,197 in salary cap space and $907,367 in dead money. They've got two restructures or cuts right off the top, with receiver Sidney Rice ($9.7 million cap number) and defensive end Chris Clemons ($9.66 million cap number) as aging players who have not been as productive of late. Tight end Zach Miller is a $7 million cap presence in 2014, and though his stats would seem to be out of line, he's a key blocker in Seattle's frequent two-tight end packages. Defensive end Red Bryant has an $8.5 million cap hit, but given his importance to Seattle's run defense, he's not going anywhere.
The real payments come due in 2015 and beyond, when quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman, and safety Earl Thomas would be available on the open market. The team will do everything possible to lock Thomas up before, and Sherman is a similar necessity.
In the shorter term, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider must make decisions on some key men. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate are free agents, though Baldwin is restricted, which makes him the better candidate for a return. The Seahawks could very well send Tate on his way with Percy Harvin in the fold, though it's known that some in the building see him as a huge priority. Defensive end Michael Bennett came in from Tampa Bay on a one-year deal and was absolutely dominant, doubling his value by playing well when asked to move inside to tackle at times. The Seahawks will almost certainly re-up with him. Right tackle Breno Giacomini is a coaches' favorite because he plays hard, but he's also penalty-prone and can be beaten inside and on the edge.
Other candidates for re-signing are defensive lineman Tony McDaniel, cornerback Walter Thurmond, kicker Steven Hauschka, fullback Michael Robinson, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, offensive lineman Paul McQuistan, and outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield. But the Seahawks have their core group for at least another season, and that's on Schneider and the team's front office, who have done an amazing job over the last four years.
Given Seattle's all-time defensive performance in Super Bowl XLVIII and general excellence in that department over the last two seasons, it's no surprise that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was in the mix for several head coaching positions as jobs became open. He said that he would have taken the Cleveland Browns' open position that went to former Jets and Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine had the timing been different. But after the Super Bowl win, Quinn told me that he's learned an incredible amount from Carroll, and my sense is that he'll be happy to let that process go another year. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has been named in some searches over the last couple of years, through he's a more under-the-radar personality.
Line coach Tom Cable was the Oakland Raiders' head coach from 2008 through 2010, though he hasn't been outwardly interested in a return to that position anywhere else. Carroll has said that it's a sign of his own success when his assistants go on to their own greater opportunities, and he's not shy about helping that out.
From his Super Bowl post-game podium, Schneider was already talking about the draft work he and his staff had done when they were locked away in a New Jersey hotel during Super Bowl week. And there is still work to be done. The Seahawks need a better and more consistent presence at the guard position, and that goes for both sides. Line coach Tom Cable likes big guys with power who can still move in zone. Baylor's Cyril Richardson, a mammoth man at 6-foot-5-inches and 348 pounds, could be a good fit at the end of the first round. In addition, the likelihood that Sidney Rice is out of the picture leaves the Seahawks in need of a bigger receiver who can pluck the ball down in red-zone situations. Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews would fit the bill. One thing's for sure -- Schneider and his crew will make unexpected decisions in the draft, and there's a good chance they'll pay off.
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