There are many reasons why a great team stops being great. Age, injury, coaching retirement, they are all merciless when it comes to even the best of the best. Michael Jordan’s Bulls, Derek Jeter’s Yankees, Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers… Nothing lasts forever, and now it would seem that the Seattle Seahawks great defense, behind which it nearly won a pair of Super Bowls, will end. signaling
The opening salvo of the Seahawks offseason was made yesterday when John Schneider and Pete Carroll decided to send their defensive end Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles for the relatively low sum of a fifth-round pick and backup wide receiver Marcus Johnson.
Bennett arrived in Seattle as an under-appreciated free agent in 2013 on a one-year, $4.8 million deal. It was a criminally low price for a player that was one of the best run-playing ends in the league with Tampa Bay. He would soon turn that run defense prowess into exceptional pass rush ability, as he racked up 39 sacks for Seattle.
Bennett was the kind of monster that Seattle’s ridiculous defense was built on. The 2013 Seahawks are one of the best defenses to ever play. They will be remembered with the likes of the 2002 Buccaneers, 2000 Ravens, and 1985 Bears as a unit that lifted their team to a championship. They nearly did it again in 2014, but for Tom Brady and Malcolm Butler.
The Seahawks have been built on a front four that can attack the quarterback alone, a secondary that wipes out downfield throws, and underneath coverage that is so fast and such sure tacklers that it limits yards after the catch. It was a combination that caused every offense problems, and Bennett was a huge part of that.
But nothing lasts forever.
The salary cap is a cruel mistress, and with an offense that is devoid of talent and no cap space, Seattle had to do something to address the other side of the ball after five years of defense-first management. Bennett is just the first casualty.
Legion of Boom
Along with the news of Bennett’s trade, reports surfaced once again that All-Pro corner Richard Sherman will be on the move. After years of worsening relationships, at least in the press if not in actuality, and whispers last year these new reports have the air of accuracy to them.
Sherman turns 30 this month and carries a $13.2 million cap hit in 2018, the final year of his four-year, $56 million contract. Moving on from Sherman would almost double the cap space Seattle has to work with, but it would change their team radically.
The cover 3 press they played predominantly in 2013 and 2014 was revolutionary. It was almost indistinguishable from a cover 1 man, but only possible because the corners, Sherman and Brandon Browner, were long, physical players that most teams had overlooked due to a lack of agility and high-end speed. Their physicality allowed them to muddy the release of receivers though. Their length made it tough for quarterbacks to fit passes over them and into the receivers, especially with Earl Thomas flying across to break it up as well. Those long cornerbacks are no longer undervalued, they are the prototype for modern NFL corners.
Quarterback after quarterback was left in the pocket waiting to see what the coverage on the outside was while Michael Bennett and his buddies drew ever nearer.
Seattle’s coverage has evolved over the years, but they still like to play a physical style that is viable because Sherman is so damn good at being in a receivers face at the line of scrimmage and 25 yards down field.
If he moves on, even if Earl Thomas stays and Kam Chancellor recovers from his neck injury, the Seahawks will not be the same. Nothing lasts forever.
This is not a rebuild
There has been some panic from fans that the Seahawks are in full rebuild mode, but that is not the case. This is more of a remodeling than a rebuild.
While reports are Seattle will listen to offers for Earl Thomas, it will take something truly special for them to part with him. Bobby Wagner is still there, as is Russell Wilson. That core can keep the Seahawks competitive as long as Schneider and Carroll don’t completely botch this years draft and free agency period.
Chancellor’s neck injury is a huge concern and could end his career. The same goes for Cliff Avril, who joined with Bennett in 2013 on a similarly cheap deal to terrorize quarterbacks, and the team will need contingency plans for them at the least.
Seattle missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since they assembled all this defensive talent. In 2013 it was young and cheap, the Seahawks could afford veterans like Percy Harvin, Tony McDaniel, and Brandon Mebane. The 2017 Eagles had incredible roster depth because of stars on cheap contracts, and so did the 2013 Seahawks.
The 2017 Seahawks lacked that depth because of the big money that had been paid to keep the core of the defense together. Now it is time to remodel.
Pete Carroll cleaned house in the coaches room, moving on from both coordinators and the offensive line coach, citing the need for “fresh ideas”.
Well, the fresh ideas seem to include fresh players. Change is coming in Seattle. Nothing lasts forever.
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