STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The title of Pete Carroll's 2010 book is "Win Forever." The subtext to the Seahawks' 2014 season is proving that's not implausible.
Many thought it implausible that Carroll's "rah-rah gimmicks" would work in the NFL, but the "Pete Carroll Way" from the draft to practice to defense is much more than catchy slogans and good vibes, as the Seahawks demonstrated last season in as thorough a beatdown as the Super Bowl has ever seen. The superlatives are endless for the demolition the Seahawks inflicted on the Broncos' all-time greatest offense, but consider this: According to Advanced NFL Stats' in-game probability tracker, Seattle had an 84 percent chance of winning with 4:26 remaining ... in the first quarter.
Still, many teams have risen never to rise again, especially in the salary cap era. The Seahawks watched 11 players walk in free agency, chief among them, cap casualties Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, who anchored a defensive line last season that was arguably the greatest strength of a historically great defense. Unable to sign free agent Jared Allen, the team turned to the aging Kevin Williams and the return of second-year players Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill and 310-pound Greg Scruggs, who combined for four games last year due to injury, to fortify the D-Line rotation. The team also drafted defensive end Cassius Marsh, and Bruce Irvin, who moved to linebacker last season, could return to end, at least in nickel packages. The cost-saving course helped the team to ink free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman, arguably the league's best at their respective positions, to multiyear extensions. Depth is a slight concern for the Legion of Boom, though, after losing Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond.
The offense lost wideout Golden Tate, but that's palatable with healthy seasons from Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. If those two get hurt not unlikely rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood will join the emerging Jermaine Kearse and the steady Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson's most-trusted receiver. Although the Seahawks are still a run-first team, Wilson could throw more this year, too, after Seattle ranked 31st in attempts last season. Harvin, as he showed in the Super Bowl, adds an extra chapter to the playbook, and Richardson's 4.4 speed gives Wilson a deep threat he's never had. If nothing else, the Seahawks might want to spare Marshawn Lynch some punishment after he totaled the second-most carries in the league last year (301).
The Seahawks face a tougher schedule this season with the AFC West (including a Week 3 rematch with the Broncos) replacing the inept AFC South, and every opponent will be aiming to bring down the Super Bowl champs. But if Harvin stays healthy and the defensive line comes together, the Seahawks might be better than last year, which would make winning forever one step closer.
Kevin Williams - DT, Vikings
Past his prime, but adds depth to the a D-Line that took a hit in free agency.
Justin Britt OT, Missouri (Round 2, 64th Overall)
At 6-6, 325, he could be an immediate starter at right tackle.
Paul Richardson WR, Colorado (Round 2, 45th Overall)
His 4.4 speed gives the passing game the deep threat it's lacked.
Kevin Norwood WR, Alabama (Round 4, 123rd Overall)
Has the size (6-2) and speed (4.48) to develop into a playmaker.
Red Bryant DE, Jaguars
Was a key player and team leader, but Seattle couldn't take the $8.5M cap hit.
Chris Clemons DE, Jaguars
Had a bigger impact than his 4.5 sacks would suggest.
Brandon Browner CB, Patriots
His departure is cushioned by the emergence of Byron Maxwell.
Walter Thurmond CB, Giants
Key Legion of Boom member last year, whose exit makes DB depth a concern.
Golden Tate WR, Lions
The team's leading receiver from last year, but not irreplaceable.
IS THE DEFENSIVE LINE STRONG ENOUGH?
The Seahawks accomplished their No. 1 offseason priority by re-signing defensive end Michael Bennett, but they failed to replace salary cap casualties Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Attempting to sign Jared Allen (and reportedly coming close) is an acknowledgment that the D-Line needs help. Instead, the Seahawks settled for free-agent Kevin Williams, who is no longer the dominant force he once was, and will lean on lesser-knowns Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill and Greg Scruggs, who are returning from season-ending injuries. Meanwhile, draftee Cassius Marsh may be a factor at DE, as could OLB Bruce Irvin, who may be used as a speed rusher on passing downs as he was as a rookie in 2012. The starting front four (Bennett, DE Cliff Avril, DTs Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel) is solid, but the defensive line rotation, which also lost Clinton McDonald, enters the season not nearly as deep.
LET RUSSELL BE RUSSELL
The Seahawks had an efficient passing game last season, ranking second in yards per target (8.4) and third in yards per completion (13.1). They just didn't throw much, ending up 31st in pass attempts. That could change this year. Entering his third season, Russell Wilson has a better stable of receivers than he's seen in Seattle. The addition of Percy Harvin, who played a handful of snaps in one regular-season game last year, brings ample options to the game plan. And the defensive attention he receives should open up things for teammates. Doug Baldwin proved last season he's more than just a slot guy, taking over flanker after Sidney Rice went down. Rice provides a 6-4 red-zone threat, and 6-1 Jermaine Kearse has the look of an emerging playmaker. Seattle also added intriguing wideouts in the draft speedster Paul Richardson and size/speed combo Kevin Norwood. Golden Tate is now in Detroit, but the Seahawks don't look worse off, which is probably why they made him a contract offer that Tate deemed "laughable." The Seahawks are still a run-first team, but putting the game in the hands of Wilson, who throws a great deep ball, wouldn't be a bad thing. And it might help Marshawn Lynch, too (see below).
Not only is Marshawn Lynch coming off consecutive 300-carry seasons, but his 988 touches since 2011 lead the NFL. It wouldn't be shocking if Lynch, whose running style does him no favors, broke down this season. Even if he has another 300 carries in him, with a $9 million cap hit next season, the only way he returns to Seattle is at a severely reduced price. So either way, the Seahawks have an incentive to get backups Robert Turbin and Christine Michael more involved. They could also balance the playbook after rushing on 52.3 percent of their plays last season only the 49ers ran more (52.5).
Rising: As a fantasy QB, Russell Wilson finished 14th in points per game. That could improve this season with a more robust passing game.
Declining: Marshawn Lynch is not declining per se, but consecutive 300-carry seasons should draw caution, and a $9M cap hit next season could force the team to develop his backups.
Sleeper: Jermaine Kearse has a lot going for him: Golden Tate leaves behind 98 targets, Percy Harvin will draw double teams, Doug Baldwin is a possession receiver and Sidney Rice is injury prone.
Supersleeper: Paul Richardson could be a downfield weapon, but he'll have a hard time seeing action unless Rice and/or Harvin get hurt.
Bobby Wagner - LB
Racked up 120 tackles, five sacks and two interceptions as the team's middle linebacker last season.
Earl Thomas - S
The league's highest-paid safety is good for 100-plus tackles, along with 3 to 5 picks.
Richard Sherman - CB
Baits QBs into throwing his way and has recorded a league-high 16 interceptions over the last two years.
RotoWire Rank: 1