February 5, 2014 in Sports

Seattle poised to repeat as Super Bowl champions

Bob Condotta Seattle Times
 
Associated Press photo

Defensive end Michael Bennett is a free agent and Seattle seems willing to pay whatever it takes to keep him.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

SEATTLE – The Seahawks will parade through Seattle today celebrating their first Super Bowl title. Then they may not be seen again as a team until Organized Training Activities and minicamps in the spring.

When they return, they won’t be completely the same – no NFL team is from one year to the next.

But with most of a youthful core under contract for at least another season, the Seahawks could have pretty remarkable continuity, one reason Seattle has already been established as a favorite to repeat in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz.

Here’s a quick look at each position group and some thoughts on how the roster might look like at the start of next season:

Quarterback

Here’s one spot with no questions moving forward. Russell Wilson will be Seattle’s QB for years to come, the only question being how much money he will get after the 2014 season, when he can finally get a new deal. Tarvaris Jackson is a free agent but seems an ideal backup at this stage of his career if he’s willing to accept that role for another year. The team likes the potential of practice-squad QB B.J. Daniels, as well.

Running back

Marshawn Lynch has two years left on his deal, and at 28 next season, should have some wear left on his tires. An intriguing training camp battle could loom at the backup spot between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Veteran Michael Robinson, one of the team’s more influential locker-room presences, was noncommittal before the Super Bowl when asked if he wants to keep playing. Either way, Derrick Coleman could have a larger role next year at fullback, as could Spencer Ware, a rookie limited to two games this season.

Tight end

Zach Miller will have a $7 million salary-cap hit next year, leading to some thought that the team might look to restructure his deal or examine other options to clear some cap space. Luke Willson showed potential as a rookie, Anthony McCoy should be healthy by the spring, and there are some intriguing draft options this year, as well (Austin Seferian-Jenkins?).

Wide receiver

Golden Tate is an unrestricted free agent and could command some heavy offers after another step-in-the-right direction season and entering his prime at 26 when next season begins. Another team could give Seattle a tough decision there. Doug Baldwin is a restricted free agent, so Seattle can keep him if it desires. There seems no way Sidney Rice returns under the terms of his current deal (scheduled to make $9.7 million in 2014). Seattle will hope for a full season from Percy Harvin in 2014 to anchor its receiving corps, as well as assuming increased production from Jermaine Kearse.

Offensive line

Here’s one position group that could look a little different next year. Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung are proven players entering the prime of their careers, but both battled through injuries this season. Okung could be asked to restructure a contract with an $11.24 million cap hit in 2014. J.R. Sweezy seems to have earned the team’s confidence at right guard. Right tackle Breno Giacomini is a free agent, though, as is left guard Paul McQuistan. And the jury still seems out a bit on the other part of the left-guard tandem, James Carpenter, due to have a $2.4 million cap hit in 2014. The team likes the potential of Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey, who could give Seattle some options, and this also seems a spot the Seahawks might address heavily in the draft.

Defensive line

Here’s another spot where salary-cap issues could take a toll. Michael Bennett is a free agent, and Seattle appears willing to pay a lot more than the $5 million he made this year to keep him. Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel are also free agents, and some wonder if Seattle might have to part ways with Red Bryant ($8.7 million in 2014) or Brandon Mebane ($5.7 million) to make it all work. And many think it almost a certainty that Chris Clemons, who turns 33 next October and will have a $9.6 million cap hit next year, won’t be back. One factor is how much Seattle thinks it can count on Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams, rookies in 2013 who battled through injuries – Williams missing the entire season – and little-used Benson Mayowa from Idaho. Another spot Seattle could also address in the draft.

Linebacker

This looms as one of Seattle’s most stable spots going forward with the four players who started this season – Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin – all still under contract and relatively cheap. Irvin might present the biggest intrigue here. Somewhat lost in the Super Bowl excitement is that Wright started at the strongside spot where Irvin had started the previous 14 games. Irvin instead played primarily at defensive end. We’ll find out later if it was just an alignment change for Denver’s one-back offense or if the team has decided its three best linebackers are Smith (the Super Bowl MVP), Wagner and Wright and want to keep them on the field together.

Secondary

The end-of-season starters (safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell) are under contract for 2014, though the team may look to extend Thomas and/or Sherman before the season. Nickelback Walter Thurmond is a free agent and could give the team a tough decision with Jeremy Lane emerging and 2013 rookie Tharold Simon, who missed the season with a foot injury, also in the fold. Promising DeShawn Shead, who can back up at safety and corner, also provides some options.

Special teams

Kicker Steven Hauschka is an unrestricted free agent and likely due for a raise from his $715,000, but also likely to return. Punter Jon Ryan is under contract for one more year. Harvin’s health would solve the kickoff-return duties. Tate’s value increased markedly this year with his emergence as a legitimate punt-return threat, something Seattle will have to consider as it assesses its options there. Seattle restructured deep snapper Clint Greshman’s contract shortly before the 2013 season to take it through 2014.

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