Yes, I know it’s been less than a week since we put the pussy on the chainwax, but already you’re starting to see articles and posts looking forward to next year. How can we keep the good times going!?
Well, we gotta work around that salary cap for starters. We need to clear up some money for guys like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Michael Bennett (and eventually Russell Wilson). Those guys won’t come cheap, so we’ve really got our work cut out for us.
Fortunately, the easy moves are there. Sidney Rice probably doesn’t need to come back. That’s a healthy chunk of change. And, based on his output (and how he was outplayed by guys like Bennett and Avril), Chris Clemons probably shouldn’t be making as much as he’s set to next year. You cut both of those guys, and you’ve got a nice head start on keeping this team together without losing too much. Rice missed half the season, and Clemons played like half of his usual self. We can get by without those two and not skip a beat.
Now, by all means, you can’t just cut those two guys and expect to have enough money to bring back all of our free agents. They are many, and for the most part, they’re due to get raises. We’ll have to pick and choose who we want to bring back, and that will open up some more money to extend the superstars.
But, one name I’ve been reading about (and, to be honest, writing about) is Red Bryant. His cap number peaks in 2014 at $8.5 million. It drops to $7 million in 2015 and bumps back up to $8 million again in 2016. That’s a lot of money. If we were to cut him before his roster bonus comes due, we’d save $5.5 million in 2014 (not to mention his base salaries in 2015 and 2016).
Now, if you’re telling me it’s going to come down to: you can either have Red Bryant or Earl Thomas, then fine, I’m going to pick Earl Thomas. But, I have a hard time believing that we’ve painted ourselves into this corner so soon. There HAS to be a way to keep both.
Obviously, if Red agrees to a restructured contract, then fine. Everything will be hunky dory. But, even if he doesn’t, we MUST find a way to keep him around.
Red is too important in our run-stopping game to just cut loose. There is no one else on the roster who comes CLOSE to measuring up to the impact he has on this line. And, I doubt we’d be able to find anyone on the free agent scrap heap either. What it would come down to is drafting someone and hoping that either he or Jesse Williams can be productive enough and stay healthy enough to fill the man’s shoes. I’m just not buying it.
Guys like Red Bryant, with his size and his strength and his passion don’t just fall out of the sky. And when they do, they tend to arrive with knee problems that prematurely end their careers. The very fact that Bryant has been as healthy has he’s been, and has played as long as he’s played, shows you that he’s a special type of football player.
Now, he may not have too many more healthy seasons left. A body like that, playing the position he plays, doesn’t have the longest shelf life in this game. But, I would ride this horse as far as he’ll take me. Meanwhile, you try to draft with an eye towards replacing him once his legs go out, but you DON’T cut him when he’s still got good mileage left.
Regardless of what people might say, there IS a blueprint if you want to copy what the Seahawks do on defense. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy for these other teams. It’s like putting together a child’s swingset when the directions are all in Japanese (assuming, of course, the hypothetical person in this scenario can’t read Japanese).
It starts with the secondary. You get some tall, athletic corners and put them on the outside. You fill in your nickel corners with shorter, faster guys. You get a speedy, tall linebacker and put him at strong safety, then you draft the best free safety in football. With me so far?
Then, at linebacker, you go for a combination of height and speed, finding guys who can rush the passer just as well as they can cover the league’s best tight ends.
Finally, along the line, you rotate like a madman to keep everyone fresh and healthy all season. Get yourself a big, beefy nose tackle, a do-everything defensive end, a do-everything defensive tackle, and a big bad man to play the other end. That big bad man on the Seahawks, of course, is Red Bryant. This particular line combination doesn’t get the best pass rush, but it shuts down the run like nobody’s business. Then, behind them, you fill out with pass rushers at both the end and tackle positions. Interchange them at will (and as the situation dictates).
The Seahawks really only have two BIG run-stuffing maulers along the defensive line: Mebane & Bryant. Clinton McDonald is more of a pass rush guy, Jordan Hill is still a little under-sized, and Mayowa and Schofield are both pass rush ends. All we’ve got is Jesse Williams, who spent his entire rookie season on IR.
If you ask me, I’d rather retain Red Bryant – who absolutely BLEEDS Seahawks blue – than pick up some questionmark big man who’s never played 5-technique defensive end and try to insert him in there.