As with all Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks must stand still as others pick off their feathers in free agency. They are not yet naked.
Seahawks fans: Be you doomsayers, or pollyannas?
Doomsayers believe the predations of free agency left the roster vulnerable, beyond off-season repair and likely consumed in the fall by the hellfires of the NFC West. Pollyannas believe that the losses were mere flesh wounds, easily salved by the potions of Pete Carroll and John Schneider, who have nearly divine knowledge of football talent scorned by others.
My guess is the doomsayers moved into the lead Wednesday after news that free agent defensive end Jared Allen found a better financial deal with the Chicago Bears, failing to sufficiently value in the intangibles of the lakeside grasslands of Renton and the pitiless roar that consumes opponents foolish enough to play football downtown.
Allen was to have helped fill holes created by the departures of ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. Instead, he opens holes in the 12th Man’s chainmail.
In regard to the Seahawks’ ability to successfully defend their NFL championship, I will take a position rarely assumed in the instant punditry demanded in sports media industry: I can’t tell whether personnel losses, and the subsequent inability so far to back-fill from free agency, are collectively major or minor.
I would submit no one else can, either.
That’s not only because the draft isn’t until May. It’s also because no one can assign any form or template to which talents GM John Schneider or coach Pete Carroll will select, then draw out successfully.
We have seen that they can do it. But observable metrics, and even a vigorous divining of intangibles prior to the fact, cannot plumb the mysteries of Seahawks talent acquisitions.
Sure, some have been no-brainers: Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Golden Tate. Others had proven themselves in the NFL: Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, Chris Clemons.
But finding two Pro Bowl defensive backs with fifth-round picks in Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman? Getting another Pro Bowler, Brandon Browner, out of Canada? Snatching Breno Giacomini off the Packers’ practice squad, and grabbing Michael Robinson after the 49ers cut him?
Then there is, of course, Angry Doug Baldwin, the metaphor for all things dime-store about the Seahawks selections: An undrafted free agent who wakes up mad and gets hotter as the day progresses. Not to mention Malcolm Smith, the Super Bowl MVP who was a seventh-round selection in the 2011 draft.
All splendid successes.
Yet the Carroll/Schneider system is hardly perfect: They have expended first-round draft picks on James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin and a second-rounder on Christine Michael, and spent millions on free agent quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Flynn.
Followers of the Seahawks know the story well: Carroll and Schneider are willing to gamble on guys with unusual, specific talents who may have screwed up or otherwise have an itchy-burn to disprove naysayers.
The Seahawks made a move two months ago already long forgotten: They signed out of the CFL Chris Matthews, a 6-5, 220-pound receiver who was the CFL’s rookie of the year in 2012 out of Kentucky from Los Angeles, where Carroll knew him from high school. I have no idea if he can be made into NFL caliber. If he can, I suspect Carroll knows how to push the buttons.
A guy doesn’t win two national titles in college and one in the NFL without knowing how to help people reach their full potential.
Nevertheless, Matthews is a relative unknown, and the Seahawks will need to fill their roster holes with many of similar mysterious pedigree, because knowns, like Jared Allen, have options to get more money elsewhere.
Fifteen point five million dollars guaranteed for a soon-to-be 32-year-old defender in the NFL is sweetness defined. Congratulations to him. Under the salary cap with big salaries to pay on the horizon, the Seahawks weren’t going to match the Bears’ offer.
According to overthecap.com, the Seahawks are $15.2 million under the $133 million cap for 2014. Giving half of that to Allen would have limited their ability to plug other holes from free agency losses, and giving him a second year, as did the Bears, would have made it worse in 2015 for paying Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks will make a priority of replacing the two losses on the offensive line: Giacomini and Paul McQuistan. In seventh-round pick Michael Bowie and undrafted Alvin Bailey, they may have them in house already. Both showed promise in a Super Bowl season, and they have the requisite Baldwin-esque mad-ons.
But their progress awaits training camp, as does the case for in-house defensive linemen Greg Scruggs and Jesse Williams, both hurt last year and both capable of providing the D-line depth Carroll cherishes.
As for now, there are no answers, no grades, as a team that already reached the pinnacle gets picked apart. So feel free to weep or cheer about this time on the NFL calendar, but a shrug is not only legal, it’s wise.