Hawks got it together and can keep it together after this season, too

KJ and CliffOver the last three weeks, the
Seahawks’ defense has gone on a tear
unlike anything it has done under Pete Carroll and the Hawks have
re-established themselves as the Super Bowl repeat threat we all expected them to be.

Assuming the rejuvenated Seahawks maintain their dominant play and take it to the same conclusion as last year, the big question will become: How do they keep this going to create that dynasty we all projected?

Carroll and general manager John Schneider certainly have learned their lesson about the fragility of team chemistry and obviously will be even more sensitive to it going forward, leaning on young veteran leaders while building even stronger depth.

On Monday, Carroll talked about how his youthful team is learning how to maintain a superlative level of play.

“Our guys have been together a long time now,” Carroll said. “Even though they’re still only four years old in the league or whatever, they have still been together a long time and done a lot of stuff together. So they’re coming together and they’re learning one another and they’re learning what it takes to play at a really high level.

“Anybody can do it sometimes,” he said. “The challenge is: Can you do it consistently and find a way to always be on your game? That’s the tremendous challenge of the coaching staff and the team and the team leaders and all of that, so we’re trying to figure that out and see if we can do it one more time.”

Assuming they can do it again this season, how can they keep doing it next year and beyond?

It starts with keeping the key pieces, of course, and the Seahawks will have a great chance to keep most of this team together — thanks to a projected $39 million in space under the recently projected $138.6 million salary cap next year. The cap could hit at least $140 million when it is all said and done, meaning the Hawks could have at least $40 million to use in 2015.

Either way, the Hawks will be among the top six or seven teams in cap space (according to potential rollover amounts by NFLPA and figures by OverTheCap.com).

That is plenty of money to extend quarterback Russell Wilson and re-sign most of Seattle’s key free agents.

Four defensive starters top the list: defensive end Cliff Avril, linebacker K.J. Wright, cornerback Byron Maxwell and defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Top backups Malcolm Smith and Jeron Johnson also will be free agents.

The Hawks could bring them all back, if Avril and Maxwell are reasonable about their price tags, and still be able to keep many of their role players.

Here’s a look at Seattle’s projected 2015 free agents and possible offers for each:

DE Cliff Avril
Projected offer: 4 years, $28 million
The market for pass rushers has been depressed in the last couple of years and the Hawks should be able to retain Avril on basically the same deal they gave Michael Bennett.

LB K.J. Wright
Projected offer: 4 years, $16 million
Wright is a versatile linebacker and there is a chance he will command more from another team, but this offer seems to fit the Hawks’ comfort zone.

CB Byron Maxwell
Projected offer: 4 years, $20 million
Will his injury history scare off other suitors or lower his value? The Seahawks, who are deep at corner, seem unlikely to offer more than $5 million a year.

DT Kevin Williams
Projected offer: 1 year, $2 million
If the Hawks win the Super Bowl, it is easy to see the 34-year-old retiring. But he has played quite well; and, if he wants to return, the Hawks — who prefer veteran D-linemen — probably would be happy to pay him what they are paying him this season.

OG James Carpenter
Projected offer: 2 years, $5 million
Carpenter has finally found his spot on the line and has played well enough, but he still can’t stay healthy and the Hawks could replace him fairly easily if he somehow finds a bigger offer.

WR Jermaine Kearse
Projected offer: 1 year, $2 million
A restricted free agent, Kearse seems likely to get a second-round tender (as Doug Baldwin did) but not necessarily a new contract (as Baldwin did). Kearse likely will lose his starting job to Paul Richardson at some point next year.

TE Tony Moeaki
Projected offer:  2 years, $4 million
Moeaki could be the most interesting free agent outside of the starters, and his value is hard to judge because he has missed so much time due to injuries during his career. The Hawks have a lot of options at tight end, but Moeaki is easily No. 2 to Zach Miller, and the Hawks might like to see what the two of them could do together in 2015.

SS Jeron Johnson
Projected offer: 2 years, $3 million
Only three Seahawks have played more special-teams snaps than Johnson, who is making $1.5 million this season. The Hawks are thin at safety and probably would like to keep him until they can coach up a better backup (Eric Pinkins? Dion Bailey?) to Kam Chancellor.

C Lemuel Jeanpierre
Projected offer: 2 years, $2 million
Seattle’s fourth center this season, Jeanpierre is really No. 2, and the Hawks probably would like to keep him — especially considering that Max Unger has had a string of injuries the past two seasons.

LB Malcolm Smith
Projected offer: 1 year, $745,000
He has been a valuable backup ‘backer and a key special-teamer, but the Hawks have Kevin Pierre-Louis and won’t pay the Super Bowl XLVIII MVP big money.

LS Clint Gresham
Projected offer: 2 years, $2 million
Gresham is as solid as long snappers come and should be an easy re-sign — as he was in 2013.

QB Tarvaris Jackson
Projected offer: 1 year, $870,000
Jackson should be an easy rolling one-year re-up, assuming the Hawks don’t find a backup they like better.

DE O’Brien Schofield
Projected offer: 1 year, $745,000
Schofeld has played in 36.8 percent of the defensive snaps, which ranks 12th on the team. He’s a cheap backup — assuming no other team wants to pay him more (what say, Giants?).

LB Mike Morgan
Projected offer: 1 year, $660,000
Morgan leads the team in special-teams snaps (77.2 percent) and is OK as an emergency backup linebacker. He will be a restricted free agent, but the Hawks seem unlikely to tender him for more than $1 million and probably will just re-sign him for one year.

TE Anthony McCoy
LB Heath Farwell
DE Demarcus Dobbs
OG Stephen Schilling
DL Greg Scruggs (RFA)


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