Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Not Standing Pat
By Zach

On February 5th, the Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl. Since that point in time, they've done everything they can to ensure that they get another crack at it in 2006.

Heading into the offseason, the team's priorities (in my opinion) should have looked something like this:

1) Resign Steve Hutchinson
2) Either sign Shaun Alexander to a lucrative but fair deal, or find a replacement
3) Add a pass-rusher on defense
4) Figure out the safety situation
5) Retain guys like Ryan Hannum, Mack Strong, Joe Jurevicious, and Josh Brown

The big news over the last week was the 7-year, $49 million contract Hutch signed with the Vikings. Since the Seahawks had given him the transition tag, they had the right to match the deal. But the Vikings included a provision that Hutchinson had to be the team's highest-paid lineman at all times or else the rest of his contract became guaranteed. The Seahawks were already paying Walter Jones more money, and they (and the league) felt that such a provision was against the CBA. Long story short, and arbiter ruled otherwise today, and Steve is now looking at luxury cruises on Lake Minnetonka.

Some people have said that the team should have used the franchise tag, to ensure that if Hutch left, Seattle would get two first round picks in return. While that's certainly true in hindsight, at the time the transition tag meant more sense. If franchised, there was a good chance that Hutch would have refused to sign a long-term deal, and required the franchise tag against the next year. Instead of a steep, but managable cost of about $6.9 million in 2006, his cap cost would balloon to $8.5 million or so in 2007. The team gambled that no one would sign Hutchinson to a massive deal, and they lost. Even so, had the Vikings not included a clause specifically so that the Seahawks couldn't resign him, they probably would have. I fully expect to see a rule passed to close this loophole, but not in time for it to do Seattle much good.

So they've lost an All-Pro left guard. That's not a great way to start off that list. Either Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack or Chris Spencer will probably fill that role, or Spencer could start at center and Pro Bowler Robbie Tobeck could slide over. Either way, the line may be slightly weaker, but should still be among the better lines in football.

Beyond Hutchinson, it's been a fantastic off-season for the team. They retained Alexander with a cost-effective deal, with most of the money coming in the next three years, when he still figures to be an elite back. If he plays past then, great, but if not, the team can dump him without it being too costly. Plus, he gets a chance to make a run at the Super Bowl, and the Hall of Fame, and do it in a Seahawk uniform. Good news all around.

The team also retained defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, who was one of the main reasons why the team led the NFL with 50 sacks. Rocky and his "Sugar Bear Shake" should continue to improve with more playing time, and he'll team with Marcus Tubbs to form one of the best young tackle tandems in the NFL.

Earlier tonight, word came that Seattle had also reached a deal with former 49er linebacker Julian Peterson. Julian is a former All-Pro who's had some injury problems the last two years, but when healthy he's among the best linebackers in football. He's just 27, and will combine with Lofa Tatupu and LeRoy Hill to form the best young LB corps in football.

Plus, the team might still add pass-rusher extraordinaire John Abraham. They've reached a deal with the Jets, in which Abraham heads west in return for the 31st pick in the draft. To complete the deal, the Seahawks need to reach a long-term contract deal with Abraham, who is also negotiating with the Atlanta Falcons. He's another injury risk, but when healthy is able to generate pressure on the QB like few players in the league. Plus, his run defense has steadily improved.

The 2006 Seattle Seahawks could feature a line of Grant Wistrom, Rocky Bernard, Marcus Tubbs, and John Abraham, with Bryce Fisher, Chuck Darby, and Russell Davis (another free agent signing) rotating in. Lofa Tatupu, LeRoy Hill, and Julian Peterson would be the linebackers, while the secondary would feature Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon at the corners and Michael Boulware and Ken Hamlin (if healthy) at the safties. There are six to eight potential Pro Bowlers on that side of the ball.

So far this offseason, the Seattle offense may have taken a slight step back, but the defense has jumped from a good unit to one of the best in the league. It's enough to make me think that they're good enough to get back to the Super Bowl...and maybe even win it.


Blogger Zach Landres-Schnur said...

that peterson signing is huge. he's a beast on D and will make the hawks' defense that much more intimidating. seattle's gotta be the early favorite to win the NFC.

2:55 PM  

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