The Seahawks didn’t exactly give up the future for the 2017 season.
But at no point in the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era have the Seahawks appeared to so avidly play for the present as they have this year.
During the team’s rise to two Super Bowls and even in the two years that followed, the Seahawks kept the long view close at hand, holding onto most high draft picks (with a few notable exceptions for players considered in the primes of their careers) and handling their salary cap in a manner that suggested they believed their window was stuck on open.
That, though, began to change a little as 2017 approached.
As training camp opened, the Seahawks gave veteran strong safety Kam Chancellor a three-year contract extension that seemed as much about quieting a potential distraction in the present as it did securing the future of the Legion of Boom.
Then, as the season neared, they traded a 2018 second-round pick (as well as receiver Jermaine Kearse) for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who has one year left on his contract, doing so only after altering Doug Baldwin’s contract to defer some of his cap hit into the future, the kind of “credit card’’ approach to the salary cap the team had never done in the Carroll/Schneider era.
Then, at midseason, came another big trade, a 2018 third-round pick and a 2019 second-rounder for 32-year-old left tackle Duane Brown (along with altering Russell Wilson’s contract to move some of his cap hit into the future).
Seattle has hardly mortgaged 2018 and beyond. As long as Wilson is around, there will always be hope.
But the moves sent a message that the future is now.
And never has the future been more now than Sunday, when the Seahawks play a game that will go a long way toward defining the success or failure of the moves made over the last few months.
There won’t be any trophies awarded after Seattle’s 1:05 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday at CenturyLink Field. But scenarios for Seattle winning the NFC West without beating the Rams require a lot of neck-craning.
If Seattle beats the Rams, each team will be 9-5 with two games left but with the Seahawks holding the tiebreaker thanks to a 16-10 win in Los Angeleson Oct. 8. At that point, the Seahawks would need to just win their final two games – at Dallas and at home against Arizona – for a second straight NFC West title and fourth in five years no matter what the Rams do.
Lose, and Seattle falls two games back with two to go. In that scenario, Seattle could still win the NFC West, if it won its last two while the Rams lost at Tennessee and at home against the 49ers. The Seahawks would then be the NFC West champs via a better division record.
But there might be a better chance of Percy Harvin returning to Seattle.
Seattle has had other games in recent years with division titles and top seeds on the line, but never when there seemed so much could be lost and with the future in such flux.
A loss would give Seattle a sixth defeat at the earliest point in a season since 2011, the year before Wilson arrived and the rise began, and would make even getting to the playoffs improbable (the website 538.com estimated this week that the Seahawks would have just a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs if they lose to the Rams).
Not that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would admit that the stakes in this regular-season affair might be as high as any in his Seahawks career.
“Next week will be the exact same thing, regardless of what this outcome is,’’ Carroll said. “It doesn’t matter. You have to win next week.’’
Well, that’s true.
But first the Seahawks have to win this week or next week may not mean as much.
With Carroll trying to stick to the party line that every game is a “a championship opportunity,’’ it was left to others to admit that some games stand out more than others.
“In moments like these, I think guys either rise up or you don’t,’’ said Bradley McDougald, in his first year with the team and now standing in at strong safety for Chancellor, who is out for the year with a neck injury. “This is a big game. I think everybody knows this is for the division, playoff implications. I mean this game is big. … I mean this is a big-time game. A lot of our season falls into this one game.
“We are controlling our own destiny right now, and that is the beauty of it and I think guys love it. I love it. We control what we do. We win, we know what happens. We lose, we know what happens. I think that is where everybody’s mindset is at.”
The present – if not the future – depends on it.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.