The NFL is a copycat league. Now that the offseason is in full swing, with the National Football League annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis from Feb. 22 – 25, it’s time for the copycats to get copying.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The current Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, are probably about to receive a lot of flattery. Unfortunately, that “flattery” comes in the form of the other 31 NFL teams vying for the Seahawks’ players not under contract, in addition to snapping up the best collegiate talent.
The Seattle Seahawks became champions the good old fashioned way: Dominating defense, rugged and reliable running game, and top-notch special teams. They played the 2013 season hard-nosed, fast and furious. They didn’t fool anyone. The key to the Seahawks’ dominating, No. 1-ranked defense is not scheme. It’s “our guys are better than your guys.” The Seahawks’ running attack is equally inelegant. It’s “hand the ball to the Beast.” Success in both regards requires top talent.
The NFL is all about talent acquisition right now. Schemes can be tweaked, junked or improved behind closed doors, but now is the time for all teams to improve themselves via roster additions and subtractions. The Combine highlights the best or near-best of the collegiate crop, where all teams will vie for the same pool of athletes.
Some teams require leaders and proven winners — not just young collegiate talent — to take the next step. Those teams are likely on the hunt for a handful of Seattle Seahawks that are scheduled to become free agents or are likely to become free agents due to having their contracts terminated.
Historically, Super Bowl winners tend to lose free agents to other squads, as last year’s runners-up try to become the next team of destiny. They want performers that have the Super Bowl shine. Here is Seattle’s list of free agents and likely free agents-to-be. Get ready to see more than a few of these players in a different uniform next season.
Wide receiver Golden Tate put up a career year in 2013 and is looking at commanding in excess of five or six times his 2013 salary of $880,000. The Seahawks may be able to get Tate to give them a discount, but they’ll have to jettison Sidney Rice and his overpriced $8.5 million 2014 salary first.
Wide Receiver Sidney Rice will be let go due to his high 2014 salary and recent lack of availability.
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin is a restricted free agent. The third-year player put up a career year in 2013 and will be due a significant increase over his most recent salary of $560,000. Having joined the team as a free agent, Baldwin may be looking to make up for lost ground having played at league minimum for three years.
Defensive lineman Michael Bennett is an unrestricted free agent, having signed a one-year deal to join the Seahawks prior to the 2013 season. With 8.5 sacks from several defensive line positions, Bennett has earned a substantial new contract. He knows it, too. While open to returning to Seattle, he has stated publicly he does not intend to offer Seattle a hometown discount. With such short tenure in Seattle, Bennett may be a very likely departure for greener pastures elsewhere.
Defensive end Chris Clemons is in the final year of a three-year, $22 million contract, scheduled to pay him $7.5 million this season. With only 4.5 sacks in 2013 — a significant drop from his previous three years of productivity — Clemons is either going to be a cap casualty or be asked to renegotiate his Seahawks contract at a significantly reduced rate. These factors usually spell R-E-L-E-A-S-E.
Kicker Steven Hauschka is an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He produced a career year in 2013 and will be the most highly sought-after veteran kicker available. Kickers are probably the most transient of NFL positions, so it is quite likely another team will make a very strong offer for the well-traveled 28-year-old kicker extraordinaire.
Defensive back Brandon Browner is a restricted free agent in 2014. However, he is done in Seattle and may very well be at the end of his NFL career, due to league suspension.
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini is an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He did not play up to his 2013 contract, due to unavailability (seven games missed). He will only be brought back to Seattle at a reduced rate, so he is more likely to find suitors elsewhere.
Backup quarterback and former starter Tarvaris Jackson is an unrestricted free agent in 2014. In the very unlikely event that another team will consider him a starter, he would depart for that opportunity. Odds are he will return as the perfect complement to Russell Wilson.
Versatile guard/swingman Paul McQuistan started 14 games for the Seahawks. He is an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He may face stiff competition to hold a starting spot in Seattle in 2014 and beyond and may be better suited for a team that sees him as regular starting material.
Cornerback Walter Thurmond is an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Right now, he could challenge for the starting cornerback role opposite Richard Sherman, but may see significant interest on the free agent market. Seattle may opt to draft a player to take his spot. They have Byron Maxwell under contract.
Additional free agents: Kellen Davis, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, Michael Robinson, O’Brien Schofield.