Seattle Seahawks under the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era is so unconventional. Think about all the "old school" ways of football teams are constructed: Competition? What’s that???????? Coaches worried about wins and losses, so established veterans played; rookies sat and watched. Have cap room Mr. GM? Well shit I better spend it and get the team better; otherwise I might lose my job next year if we go 2-14! Let’s throw a butt load of signing bonus money to the best free agents on ESPN’s top free agent list and make a splash!
That is not the Seahawks way. When Pete and John arrived they said they will be bold and unconventional I thought they were just bull shitting us. After 3 years we now know they mean business. So I decided to see how they build their roster compare to other legitimate Superbowl contenders for 2013. The analysis are based on what the roster looks currently. With free agency and draft still to come obviously things can change. Here are some of specific things unique about the Seahawks roster.
1) Competition means the best player plays, period. It all starts with scouting and drafting well, but have a coach that is not afraid (hey Douchbag Harbaugh, I’m talking to you) to play rookies and 2nd year guys are key not only to player development but crucial to cap management.
2) Spending wisely on star players. I’m not talking about being Howard Schultz like frugal (rumor has it he gave $5 Starbucks gift cards to every 2004 WNBA champion Seattle Storm players… wtf???), but focus on paying stars with heavy base salary versus overleveraging signing bonuses.
Let me know show you what I mean:
So above are the top SB contenders. Bear in mind that these numbers are a current snap shot so all could change in a few weeks, but this gives us a good idea how each contender is built.
The first column is a ratio of Signing Bonus plus Dead Money divided by the Base Salary that each team is spending so far for their 2013 teams. So you can see the Broncos, Packers and the Seahawks are the teams with the lowest ratios. That will tell you that they have made a conscious decision not to go crazy on their signing bonuses. Signing bonuses are like overspending on credit cards, eventually you will pay for it, with interest. In addition, this strategy keeps the highly paid players motivated because they want to earn that non guaranteed base salary year over year. (I can hear Pete yelling on top of his lungs… WIN FOREVER!!! COMPETITION!!!) Employing this method of high base low bonus also allows the team to cut and replace non productive stars with new stars easily, as teams don’t have to worry about huge signing bonus turning into Death Star size dead money. Teams like the Patriots, Ravens, and Giants might look ok to good on their cap situation now, but in two to three years they will be cutting players and eating up precious cap room. Smart Gms will use signing bonus’ with moderation so not to regret later if he has to cut a player.
Starters over 5 million cap number / under 2 million cap number
The third columns’ story leads to number in the second column. That is, if you have a coach like Pete Carroll who will start a 4 foot 10 7th round quarterback from China (someday….) as long as he is the best player on the roster it leads to the Hawks leading the way with 8 starters having a starting salary of less than 1.5 million. Based on my research those are usually 1st and 2nd year guys. And when you have 36% of your starters getting paid nothing in NFL standards, then you get the privilege to have a whopping 45% of your starters as highly paid important players.
The third column also speaks volumes of the work John Schneider has done to unearth so many gems from rounds 2 through 6. Who in the last 20 years have drafted a franchise QB in the 3rd round and an all pro CB in the 5th? It ain’t luck folks. If you look at teams similar to the Hawks, the Packers and Texans definitely comes close in how they chose to build their teams. This way strongly depend on you do two things super well: draft well deep into the draft, and have the audacity to play the youngsters. If you look at a team like the Broncos or 49ers, they run the risk of falling off the cliff if their star players are hurt or their production drop off because of the head coaches’ refusal to play the young players. Their reliance is more on the seasoned veterans who usually are dependable but will rarely have the potential to have breakthrough performance like young players do (I.e. Wilson, Wagner, Turbin in 2012, or Sherman, Chancellor in 2011). Keep in mind too in 2015 after we win back to back Superbowls in 2013 and 2014 we will have to pay Wilson AT LEAST 20 mil a year. Teams that have that elite QB cap slot only has 5 to 7 players making 5 million or more (Pats, Broncos, and Ravens). Which is why you are seeing us loading up this year and next to take advantage of the our ability to afford this many star players and going all in.
If JS/PC stick with their plan: strong competition, draft well, manage the cap effectively and if we get lucky and have minimal injuries, then we will be entering a 3 year window of unprecedented Seattle football bliss. Think Sonics 94 to 96. Mariners 97 to 01. This is our decade folks. Nothing will stop us but us.