When the Seahawks put together the best run in franchise history, winning 36 games and a Super Bowl from 2012 to 2014, they did it with about two dozen core players — a third of them named Pro Bowl players during that time.
After “resetting” the team this offseason, the Seahawks have just six players left from that Super Bowl core — and a couple of those guys might not be long for the roster.
That brings us to the No. 1 goal this year, aside from trying to contend for the Super Bowl (we put their O/U at 10 wins): John Schneider and Pete Carroll need to establish the new core for the next championship window. It all starts Thursday when they begin training camp.
The 2018 draft class looks like it could bring a handful of candidates to that foundation of Super Bowl veterans. Add three new core vets, five proven young players and six to eight other potential mainstays, and that’s around two dozen candidates for the 2018-21 window.
After the departures of Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett and the career-ending injuries to Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, the leftover core includes Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin and Justin Britt. As ridiculous as it seems, Thomas looks like a short-timer, too — whether it’s this year or next year. That would leave five core Super Bowl vets, assuming Schneider and Carroll don’t decide to let Wilson, Wagner and Wright go, too.
Three outside vets could be part of this core for the next two or three seasons: Duane Brown, Bradley McDougald and Ed Dickson.
Add to those vets a group of proven young Seahawks — Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, Nazair Jones and Tyler Lockett — and that would give the team 13 core starters.
Then there’s a dozen young guys who need to prove themselves in 2018: Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson, Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic, Amara Darboh, Nick Vannett, Will Dissly, Delano Hill, Justin Coleman, Dion Jordan, Rasheem Green and Shaquem Griffin. All but Coleman and Jordan are Seattle draft picks on their rookie deals.
Beyond the three Super W’s, the Hawks have to consider whether they want to extend Brown, Clark, Lockett, Coleman and Jordan for 2019 and beyond. It will depend on performance and price, of course.
Brown, 33 in August, definitely deserves a short extension, and Schneider has said he wants to get one done. It likely will cost $10 million a year; three years and $30 million seems fair.
Clark is worth around $10 million, too, although he will point to Danielle Hunter’s $72 million extension as evidence he deserves more. The Hawks won’t pay $14 million APY though, so Clark probably will have to play out his rookie contract and sign elsewhere next year. Of course, he might choose to push the issue now by holding out alongside Thomas. That would put the pass-rush-poor Hawks in a bit of a temporary jam, but it wouldn’t get Clark his $14 million.
Fellow 2015 pick Lockett, meanwhile, has to prove he can return to his old form after he struggled to come back from a broken leg in 2017. Assuming he has a stellar season, as we fully expect, he should merit a new deal next year. If the Seahawks could somehow get him to sign a cheaper extension now — say $5 million APY — that would be great. But he would be smart to play out his contract and see if he can get upwards of $8 million APY.
Coleman and Jordan showed some great stuff last year and will get a chance to prove they are worth long-term deals as they play 2018 on restricted tenders. Jordan might not end up worth it, given his ongoing knee issues. But Coleman — their top nickel back and a good playmaker — should merit a new deal, especially if he ends up as the No. 2 starter opposite Griffin.
Wright, 29, definitely should get an extension. He has been a stellar Seahawk since he arrived in 2011 — securing his place as one of the best (top five) linebackers in team history. His game is built on savvy and length, and he has been very durable, which means he should have four good years left. Of course, Schneider has become gun shy about third deals for Seattle’s vets, so Wright might have to play out his deal and see what happens. Fortunately for the team, he seems fully prepared to do that.
Wilson and Wagner will be due big extensions next year, and the leaders of the offense and defense obviously should get them (even if Wilson’s agent might already be posturing for a franchise tag instead). Schneider would be a total idiot not to continue to pay the stars market value.
In 2019, the biggest roster holes the Seahawks will have are cornerback and guard, with defensive end and receiver possible problem spots if Clark, Jordan and Lockett are not re-signed.
Seattle is projected to have the fourth-most cap space in the NFL in 2019 — $66 million, per OverTheCap.com. And the Seahawks have a nearly blank check beyond that. That means they will be able to pay the guys they think will help them win at least one more Super Bowl in Carroll’s final few years with the team.
Now they just need to determine which guys those are. That process starts Thursday.