Tough Decisions Ahead
Stingy management and an emphasis on building from within, mostly via the draft, have landed the Seattle Seahawks their first Super Bowl and the opportunity to defend their title in the year to come.
But with new found success, so too comes an equally daunting set of challenges for John Schneider and Pete Carroll to now overcome.
Chief among these will be deciding which parts of their championship roster they let test the waters of free agency and ultimately depart; conversely, finding the appropriate price for those they aren’t willing to part with presents it’s own set of difficulties.
Golden Tate, Michael Bennett and Breno Giacomini highlight the list of Seahawks set to hit unrestricted free agency, while Doug Baldwin and Lemuel Jeanpierre headline their list of restricted free agents.
Who stays? Who goes? What’s the right price on Player X? These are just some of the questions Seahawks brass will toy with in the weeks leading up to free agency.
And it doesn’t end there. As a means of accommodating some of the moves John Schneider envisions, the job security of several key contributors could come into question.
The release of Sidney Rice seems all but imminent, save for the oh so litigious June 1st designation that could shift half of the dead money on his contract into the 2015 season.
That move will save the Seahawks somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7-plus million against the salary cap, but will management stop there?
Pass rush mainstay and fan favourite Chris Clemons could find himself in similar territory – the key difference here being that the Clemons’ era to this point has been anything BUT disappointing.
Zach Miller, who’s cap hit eclipsed double-digits last season, has found himself in equally murky waters. Miller’s name continues to frequent the web, as speculation continues to mount that he will need to take a pay cut to stay with the team or take a hike.
Miller’s value as a blocking tight end is unmatched in the NFL, but the once highly touted free agent signing has yet to pass the 400 yard mark in his three seasons with the Seahawks; and he didn’t get as high as 50 yards in Seattle’s Super Bowl run.
I’m sure I haven’t covered all the ground John Schneider will be navigating in the coming days, but surely you get the point by now. I can think of no better way to describe these challenges than as a balancing act.
The decision to keep one, both or none of their impending receiver free agents is of the utmost intrigue. If they manage to keep both Tate and Baldwin, it will be significant insofar as Pete Carroll will be stepping away from his affection for lengthy receivers outside the numbers.
If Seattle brings back both of Tate and Baldwin, they will all but assuredly lack a receiver that tops six-feet in their starting offense – even taking into account three receiver sets.
With the Zach Miller quandary, Carroll finds himself in another ideological catch-22. The idea behind signing Miller was to introduce more heavy sets, with John Carlson anchoring the other side of the line and the two forming a formidable set of receiving tight ends.
Carlson spent that first season on IR, then departed for Minnesota in free agency; Miller turned out to be half the receiving tight end Seattle hoped for. Keeping Miller all but guarantees that for another season Carroll will lack the ability to keep defenses honest in heavy sets.
As for Clemons, where exactly does one start? Not to downplay his importance to this team, but the additions of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett made his absence hardly noticeable in the early goings and his return seemed almost a luxury.
The reason for this was Avril’s sudden ability to not be a completely unmitigated disaster in run defense. The decision between these two as pass rushers seemed almost a wash, but never did Seattle expect Avril to be as good a fit as their LEO as he turned out to be.
Releasing Clemons would free up money to keep Avril long term and potentially lock Michael Bennett up for next season and beyond, while signifying a youth movement on the defensive line. At 32 it seems entirely plausible that Clemons best years as a pass rusher are in the rear view, but he’s almost a lock for seven to nine sacks. Can the Seahawks part with that?
There’s a lot more questions than there are answers, and at the end of the day I’m just glad I’m not the one to deal with them.