I couldn’t think of a more perfect off-season. We extended our most important guys – Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and now Doug Baldwin – we lost a few pieces, but mostly among our depth (which should be easily re-stocked), and our biggest hit was only Golden Tate. Considering the circumstances – with Percy Harvin’s contract taking up so much cap space – it would’ve been difficult to envision a scenario where the team was able to keep Tate, without losing the ability to do everything else we’ve done (Bennett, Thomas, Sherman, Baldwin, etc.).
If you asked me, when this whole Free Agency period started, who I’d rather have between Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, I would have told you, unequivocally, Doug Baldwin. In fact, I did tell you. The same arguments still apply. We now have Doug Baldwin signed through the 2016 season, which is just amazing. If you consider 2013 the start of our “prime” in this championship/dynasty window, the next three years (2014-2016) are well within that wheelhouse. We have practically the entire core of our team signed through at least 2015, with the very most important pieces (as well as the last two rookie classes) signed through 2016 and/or beyond. As long as this team doesn’t run into a plague of injuries, you’re looking at a front-running championship candidate for the foreseeable future.
Getting Doug Baldwin on board, and at a somewhat reasonable figure, is just another huge weight off of our collective shoulders. The only other extension you’d like to see – though I doubt it’ll be broached until the 2014 season is finished – is possibly Cliff Avril. But, I feel like if he has a season in 2014 like he did in 2013, we’ll figure out a way to pay the man what he’s worth.
If you had a chance to listen to Sports Radio (I think it was KJR) on one of the draft days, you would have been delighted by a Doug Baldwin interview they did. In addition to practically predicting (by name) the Seahawks’ first draft pick, he talked about something I found very interesting. It falls in the “team chemistry” arena, which stat-heads don’t like to think about because there’s no way to put a number on how players get along. But, anyway, Baldwin was talking about certain receivers and how well they fit in with the “receivers room”. You’ve got to have a certain mindset, a certain passion for the game, and a certain level of intensity if you’re going to make it as a receiver for the Seahawks.
This isn’t a case of the inmates running the asylum, but you gotta look at it this way: the group is already really good. Really talented, really hungry, and really smart. If you’re not putting in the work and the effort, it will be noticed. While the players don’t have the power to hire and fire people, they can still make it clear to coaches when a player doesn’t belong. They don’t even have to say a word; you’ll see it out there on the field when someone doesn’t have what it takes.
I like to hear that the players we have on our roster are setting the example, setting the tone. I like knowing that when new players come in – Richardson & Norwood, for example – they’re coming into a difficult environment. If they make it through to the other side, they’ll be better players for it. Of course, it’s not easy. In that sense, there’s probably a higher failure rate. But, in the end, you don’t really care how many people fail; you just want to see the best five or six guys on the roster, regardless of where they came from or how highly they were rated.
That’s the story of Doug Baldwin to a T. He’s been setting that tone since he came into the league. He’s worked harder than anybody, because he’s had to work harder than everybody. Undrafted free agents are at the biggest disadvantage. They have to go above and beyond, and even then nothing’s guaranteed. He’s established himself over his first three years and now we have him for the next three years. We’ll have his production on the field, but more importantly, we’ll have his leadership behind the scenes.
In the end, it’s players like Doug Baldwin who make your team better. What’s so special about him, though, is that he, himself, is also getting better.
When he started out, he was relegated to being a simple slot receiver. However, over his short career, he’s proven that he’s up to the task to play all receiver positions. Yes, his bread and butter is being that 3rd down security blanket – finding holes in the defense, making circus catches along the sidelines – but he also high-points the ball with the best of ’em. He can make the big play down the field, and he has a knack for finding the endzone. Not too shabby when you consider this is a ball-control, run-first offense.
Yes, it’s been a picture-perfect championship offseason. The rest of the NFL should be very concerned.