Welcome to "Enchanted Uncharted Territory."
I'll be your host, Kenneth Arthur.
Here at the EUT, also known as the offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, you'll notice a lot of familiar faces and places. As usual, there will be cap casualties, franchise or transition tags, free agency, retirement, the scouting combine, the draft, the undrafts, the minicamps, the megacamps, the post-draft, looking-for-one-more-chance free agents, the Jay Glazers, Adam Schefters, Jon Claytons, and Michael Claytons.
Oops that last one was just a DVD copy of my favorite George Clooney film.
But everything else is still here in the EUT with one slight difference of course; The Seahawks are now entering the offseason as the unquestioned champions of the world.
Does that add to the pressure to do well in the offseason or lessen it? Or is it business as usual? While it would be nice to say that every day in the NFL is the same whether you win the Super Bowl or not, isn't it also kind of awful to say? What did Seattle win the Super Bowl for if not for some added benefits? Or hardships?
Very soon -- possibly before this article is published -- the Seahawks will really start making offseason news. It will likely start with the releases of some popular veterans, and possibly some other re-negotiations. As of February 17, OvertheCap.com says that the Oakland Raiders have over $60,000,000 in cap space for next season. Per Davis Hsu's latest projections on next years Seattle roster, the Seahawks are spending $60 million on the offense and defense... each.
OtC also says that as of now, Seattle is in the red. By almost 700 thousand dollars. That's going to change soon and with a few moves, the Seahawks should have enough room to re-sign some of their own players and make a few low-key free agent pickups.
Today I'm going to go through the moves that I think I would make (with the help of some other Seahawks bloggers) in the offseason and get all the way to a 53-man roster for Week 1 of the 2014 season, where the Enchanted Uncharted Territory -- the defense of a Super Bowl title -- continues.
As Danuel L Kelly would say: Hold onto your butts.
The Seahawks have no choice but to part ways with some players this year, and they'll likely be guys that have been around since the beginning of the era. Bryant was here before Carroll, Clemons came over in 2010, Rice, Miller, Farwell, and Carpenter all joined the team in 2011. That's really when the plan started to come together.
I love it when a plan comes together.
The good news is that the plan worked out in a Super Bowl championship, with Clemons, Bryant, and Miller all contributing significantly to that title. (No offense to the others, but there's gotta be some hierarchy of value here.) That hierarchy is also why it's feasible that they could be brought back at a lower price, but not that feasible.
As much as everyone wants to find a way to keep Miller or Bryant or Clemons at a cheaper price, you really have to do some soul searching and evaluate the reality of this:
Miller, 29, averaged 339 yards per season with Seattle, but has the eighth-highest average annual cost of tight ends in the NFL at $6.8 million. You could ask him to take a pay cut, but you're not going to get him at under $2 million. Sound like a steal?
Jimmy Graham's APY until hitting free agency this year: $824 thousand dollars.
Thousand. With a "th." If you can't trust Pete and John to find a tight end in the draft that can produce 339 yards, who can you trust? Donald Trustington, Lawyer at Law?
Well Trustington says: Schneider can find a good tight end in the draft this year. Just as he did with Luke Willson last year, a player that will be under contract until 2016 and costs a total in four years of a little more than $2 million. As Davis Hsu told me, the Seahawks plan is not to necessarily pay for one position, but instead put money into an aspect of the game.
In this case. the "pass game" that consists of QB, WR, and TE. And he said that the spending is probably "normal" as compared to other teams. Still, right now that means that Seattle is spending a pittance on their quarterbacks, which allows them to spend a ransom at other positions.
But that's not going to last for much longer.
Russell Wilson is set to make less than $1 million in each of the next two years, but will get a huge raise before he enters the fourth year of his rookie contract. Though he's set to make $800k in 2015, I think he will get more than that. However, I don't think that they need to give him a huge raise on his 2015 base salary because he's already under contract at a small amount. They can still give him a big bonus so that he can buy his own Children's Hospital and still make it affordable to pay for the "pass game."
They've given a big deal to Percy Harvin, they'll need to give a big deal to Wilson. And even if you can afford Miller in the pass game next season, there's still other things to consider, like the fact that Doug Baldwin is getting a raise and the free agency of Golden Tate.
The release of Rice saves over $7 million against the cap, and there's no question that he's going to hit free agency. Rice has been vocal about his love for the city and the team and coming off of an ACL injury, could be brought back later in the year on a one-year non-guaranteed contract.
The release of Clemons saves $7.5 million against the cap, and he's just as likely as Rice to go. Clemons just doesn't produce at the level that he did when he received that contract and as the oldest player on the team, he doesn't really jive with a youth movement.
The release of Bryant saves $5.5 million and while he hasn't really lost a step in his value, he does turn 30 and does cost a considerable amount to really only do half of the job of a complete defensive end.
The release of Carpenter doesn't save much -- less than $2 million -- but it's probably time to move on. The release of Farwell also saves a little more than $1 million.
An earlier version of this plan had the release of Carpenter and the reason that I'm leaving it in but marked out rather than just delete it entirely is because I felt it was important narrative to say "You're on thin ice, James." But the truth is that the team is already thinning on the offensive line with the free agency of Giacomini and McQuistan, so Carp gets one more year. After I had made all my other moves, I could afford the less than $2 million of Carpenter.
The player that was closest to being a cap casualty without being one was Max Unger. While it's difficult to let a Pro Bowl player go after one (possibly) bad season, Unger is paid quite a lot for a player of his position. If Lemuel Jeanpierre was re-signed and given a full offseason as the starter, could he do a whole lot worse than what Unger did this year? A re-negotiation could also be on the table but after the release of six players, Seattle will have created enough cap room to lose a bit of leverage in talks with Unger and his agent. He'll stay on for another year but he's going to need to have a really good season to avoid being a casualty in 2015.
Cap room added due to those six releases: $25.5 million
2014 dead money due to those six releases: Roughly $8.5 million
Total estimated cap room as of now: $25.1 million (Please note that salary cap estimates are only that: Estimates. And it seems like they change every day by at least a few thousand. Still, this should be close enough for this exercise to be able to work with.)
When I spoke to Hsu, he told me that he has Tate re-signing and under the cap for 2014 at $2.5 million. While I understand this decision and am an ardent supporter of Tate when talking to fans of other teams that don't understand his value, I simply don't think that he's going to be affordable for this team moving forward. After four seasons, perhaps Tate has hit his peak of what he can produce with the Seahawks.
He may be able to do a lot more with another team, and therefore if I'm in Tate's camp, I'm telling him to go somewhere else. If I'm the GM of another team, I do offer him a little more than Seattle, or at least try to. Agents and players want to test the market, so despite the extra negotiating period with Tate, I don't see him not testing free agency. It could literally cost him millions of dollars not to wait it out.
In talking to Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog, he told me that the wide receivers in this draft are a "class for the ages." If Seattle wants to spend their first pick on a receiver, they should be getting a good one. If they want to dip into free agency, I think they'll also find some interesting options. We'll get into both of those in a bit. But Tate doesn't have a lot of leverage right now given the other options that won't cost a 4 or 5-year commitment.
I believe Thurmond has priced himself out of a job with the Seahawks and will be getting even more snaps somewhere else, like in San Francisco perhaps. Seattle has proven more than capable of finding good cornerbacks and Tharold Simon could be getting a promotion next year.
Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel could be the hardest to replace but it wasn't long ago that they were the replacements. I think the Seahawks depth at defensive tackle is underrated, so long as one of Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, D'Anthony Thomas, Michael Brooks, Jared Smith or Dewayne Cherrington enjoys a 2014 breakout. As my favorite lounge singer once said, "It's not unusual."
I have a younger option in mind for Wilson's QB backup.
Giacomini has already lost his job to Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey, in my mind.
Seattle gets even younger...
The too youths
You would think that a Super Bowl-winner would continue to get older, like the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to always do, but Seattle should be an even younger team next year than they were last year. And they were the second-youngest team last season.
The average age of Jackson, Clemons, Bryant, Rice, Farwell, Robinson, Miller, Davis, Browner, and McDaniel alone is 30.3. You're basically getting rid of your entire 30-and-over crowd, making Jon Ryan the oldest player on the team by about the length of one of his masculine, booming kicks.
Bennett was a surprise signing last year, and what was even more surprising was that he only cost $5 million on a one-year deal. Was Bennett taking a discount to come to a stacked team with his best chance at winning the Super Bowl? Maybe, but he was only taking a discount so that he could play his way into a life-changing contract in 2014. (Hmm, is $5 million not "life-changing" or have sports contracts completely disintegrated my respect for dollar vaue?)
Bennett has said that this is life, "not Costco," and that there would be no discounts this year. I don't know, man. Costco is pretty awesome. Are you at least going to give Seattle some free samples or cheese-infused little smokies or what? I'm pretty sure I see an old little smokie in that beard somewhere.
Though signing Bennett seemed more like a luxury than anything else, he proved to be one of the most valuable players on the best defense in the league. He's not someone that you can expect to lose and still field a defense just as dominating next year. However, if there's a snag in negotiations, it's playing time.
Bennett was a force when he was on the field, but like Red, he's not on the field as a full-time player. He played in about 2/3rds of the snaps of a player like Robert Quinn even though he was active for all 16 games. That's not entirely Bennett's fault and it's a byproduct of having a stifling defense that forces a lot of punts and a rushing offense that wants to win the TOP, but does it come up at the negotiating table?
Eventually I think both sides know what's best for each party, and that's to keep this marriage together for the kids. Who cares if it blows up in an ugly divorce for three years, at least Billy will have graduated from high school by then.
Last year, Michael Johnson of the Bengals got the franchise tag and cost over $11 million. That's a far too big number for Seattle to swallow and so it's going to have be deal or no deal, which means we are going to have to shave John Schneider's head with a Bic razor.
The Seahawks actually have three of the 14 biggest AAV contracts for defensive ends, showing that they are willing to spend huge numbers on their "pass rush" part of the game, but I have two of those contracts going away. That puts some of the money in the pockets of Bennett. But for how much?
Hsu has Bennett re-signing at three years and $21 million with a cap hit of $4.2 million in 2014.
There are the ridiculous "out there" contracts of Mario Williams, Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson and Jared Allen that Bennett will not come close to. Then there are the "expensive, considering" contracts like those of Carlos Dunlap and Cameron Wake.
Last year, Dunlap signed a six-year, $40 million extension with the Bengals.
Two years ago, Wake signed a four-year, $33 million extension that actually is a really good deal for the Dolphins.
But Bennett is turning 29, so what kind of years can he expect from a team that values getting players in their mid-twenties and building off of that? Well, Clemons signed a three-year, $21 million deal when he was 31. He won't make it to the end of that deal, but the franchise showed a willingness to sign him through age 33.
I think Bennett would be a great get at a four-year, $35 million contract similar to that of Wake, who played near-identical snaps this season with a high-level of production. His $8.75 AAV would put him in the top 10 of DEs in the NFL and certainly isn't a Costco contract.
Though again: Have you ever been to Costco, Michael? It was literally one of the only stores I wouldn't let my mom go to without me. One time she went without me and I didn't speak to her from age 7 to 10.
This should put his first-year cap hit around $5 million.
McCoy showed a lot of promise in 2012 but missed all of 2013 with injury. Given that he's a 6'5, 27-year-old receiving threat that should come in at a cheap, one-year prove-it deal, and that the Seahawks need a tight end following the release of Miller, this is a no-brainer. McCoy shouldn't cost more than a million. The tight end Alex Smith signed a one-year deal for $840k last year.
Tom Crabtree was worth about $800k a year for two years. McCoy is something like one of those.
I keep around Jeanpierre merely for the fact that I want to keep Unger on his toes. It's not just about bringing in anyone to sit behind Unger, I want him to be challenged and Jeanpierre at least has experience and familiarity with the team. My hope is that he comes in at about $600k and doesn't find a job somewhere else.
Added to the 2014 salary cap: $6.4 million
Adjusted 2014 salary cap space: $18.7 million
The franchise tag
Steven Hauschka, $3 million
It makes me nervous to give $3 million to a kicker, but not as nervous as either:
A - Giving an actual contract to a kicker
B - Not having a good kicker
Hauschka is one of the top five kickers in the NFL, and also handles kickoff duties well. However, the position is so volatile that not even Hauschka himself was able to stick with an NFL team once upon a time, therefore making him available to the Seahawks. The tag allows you to keep Hauschka around but have no obligations to him in 2015. I realize that you could potentially draft a kicker in the seventh round, or UDFA, or free agency, and pay him about 1/8th of $3 million, but is it worth risking losing a game. Or two games. Or a playoff game. Because you went with Josh Brown or some other trashy kicker. (Haha, Josh Brown.)
Remember there was a time when this team kept two kickers? We actually did that.
Adjusted 2014 salary cap space: $15.7 million
The sweet, loving tender
Doug Baldwin, 2nd round, $2.1 million
When you crush it in the UDFA market, you can keep a player in his fourth season for barely more than $2 million.
Baldwin, like Tate, has a lot of hidden value that could perhaps be more valuable to another team. He can make plays that few receivers in the NFL can make, though the targets he receives aren't going to be as much as on another team. Unlike Tate, Baldwin pretty much has to stay on a reasonably small, one-year deal that's a steal for this team. They could negotiate an extension, but it's not their top re-negotiating priority. A team could swoop in and workout a deal with Baldwin, while sending a pick to the Seahawks. That extra pick wouldn't be a terrible thing but given the moves I've already made, it would make the team extremely vulnerable at wide receiver for next year.
Adjusted 2014 salary cap space: $13.6 million
Carroll and Schneider have said that they don't really plan to be very active in the free agent market. This is sensible because typically good teams don't have a lot of cap room and bad teams are the ones that hit the free agent market looking to spend big and make themselves contenders immediately with veteran assistance. This is what the Seahawks looked like before, when they made the moves to get Rice and Miller. The trade for Harvin was another example of big spending, but that was one very special opportunity.
You can't pass up a top-15 NFL talent when he's available to you.
The moves last year to add Bennett and Cliff Avril were too cheap to be true. And as such, this team will be attractive to older players looking to win a Super Bowl before they retire (Notice a team like the Patriots adding guys like Junior Seau, Randy Moss, and Brandon Lloyd, who signed for an abnormally cheap deal given the season he was coming off of.) as well as younger players that want to play for one and two years to up their value.
Like Bennett and Avril.
Positions to target:
Backup QB, WR, TE, G, T
Kenny Britt, one-year, $1 million
Britt played so poorly last year that they couldn't even trade him for a seventh round pick, he's had numerous issues both on the field and off throughout his career, and he's got an injury history. Both Hsu and Stanton stated vehemently that this guy was not someone you want to attract to your football team and is just as likely to be arrested as he is to score a touchdown. But does Carroll shy away from those guys if they've got the ability to play football? He enjoys the challenge of trying to turn around men just as much as he enjoys turning them around as players.
This guy has ridiculous athletic ability and on the right team, could still be a 80-catch, 1,200-yard receiver.
He's also only 25-years-old, the target age for most of Carroll and Schneider's free agent targets.
Britt can come play for the champion, try to remain healthy, and provides a 6'3 complement to Harvin and Baldwin, while coming in at a much cheaper price than Tate. It's a risky move except that if it's not guaranteed, it's not a risk at all. Britt didn't do anything last year, so he's not going to be worth a guarantee.
Blaine Gabbert, two-years, $2 million
After he's released by the Jaguars, Gabbert won't immediately be exiled by the entire NFL. He's still a 24-year-old, 6'4 QB with 777 pass attempts under his belt. 777 mostly-bad pass attempts, sure, but that's still something to consider when looking for a guy to step in for the guy in a bad situation.
"But Gabbert doesn't fit the "mold" of what Carroll looks for!"
There seems to be an assumption that because Wilson is a 5'11ish, athletic, running-ability, scramble-ability, black quarterback, that any quarterback they bring in will be the same. It doesn't really work like that. Not just because Wilson is obviously a one-of-a-kind QB (Not just hyperbole or bias, it's just true that you won't find another "Russell Wilson" to backup Russell Wilson) but because teams are never designed to be a fit for their backup QB. They're designed to be a fit for the starter.
Tarvaris Jackson was recently the starter and is 6'2, 226 lbs.
Charlie Whitehurst was once added to be the starter and is 6'4, 220 lbs.
They even brought in the 6'4 Brady Quinn just one year ago to compete for the backup job to Wilson, despite not possessing basically any of the traits of Wilson.
Gabbert isn't going to get a shot at starting in the NFL. Now begins the "David Carr phase" of his career. He's primed to be a long-time NFL backup and should want to play on a winning team, just in case he is called upon to play at all. In that moment he might be able to do enough to get a shot somewhere else, and knows that it's more valuable him to be a backup on a great team than a starter on a terrible one.
He's younger than Tarvaris and potentially still has some potential to... potentialize.
The Seahawks could go with Wilson and Gabbert, with BJ Daniels in camp and potentially another UDFA if they see one that they like.
Alex Carrington, one-year, $1 million
Last year, the Hawks picked up Tony McDaniel, a 6'7 DT who had played seven mostly non-descript seasons with the Jaguars and Dolphins, for one year and less than a million bucks. He parlayed that into the best season of his career, by far.
Pro-Football-Reference credited him with 9 AV (Approximate Value) after a career when he never topped a '3' in a single season.
Seattle's job isn't to give a player the contract he necessarily earned in their system, but to develop a system that allows players to excel and earn that contract somewhere else. That next player in my plan would be Carrington, a fifth-year defensive end/tackle/LB that played in just three games with the Buffalo Bills last year due to a torn quads muscle. Carrington is 6'5, 285 lbs, and was a third round pick in 2010 out of Arkansas State, where he was the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.
These offseason plans are easily scrutinized due to the fact that there are hundreds of free agents and only a few openings on each team, so I could be way off-base here, but Carrington fits the mold of what I'm looking for: Cheaper than he should be.
Adjusted 2014 salary cap space: $10.6 million
There will obviously be more than three free agent signings, but I think that these three standout as filling three important, high-profile needs and perhaps the likeliest to make the final 53.
Earl Thomas, six-year, $54 million extension
When Thomas was drafted in 2010, it was only nine picks after fellow safety Eric Berry. The difference in those nine picks was quite costly, however, with Berry getting a six-year, $60 million deal with $34 million guaranteed and Thomas signing a deal for five years and just $21.1 million.
It's time to pay the piper.
Thomas is a three-time Pro Bowl, two-time All-Pro, one-time Champion safety that's arguably the best at his position in the NFL. He's one of the three top players on the NFL's best team.
Thomas already carries a 2014 cap hit of ~$5.5 million and it shouldn't effect the 2014 cap. There should be some wiggle room in there with forward thinking on what a Wilson extension will look like in 2015 and make it all work together. Despite his many accomplishments, Thomas doesn't even turn 25 until May.
That keeps him in Seattle through 2020, when he'll be 31. Safety isn't a position that usually shows deteriorating ability until considerably later than other positions.
While Berry's contract isn't a good benchmark for free agent contracts, given the ludicrous situation with rookie deals until the new CBA, Earl's deal is reasonable. Eric Weddle and Dashon Goldson have signed 5-year deals in recent years for roughly $40 million each, but both were a bit older than Thomas; Goldson moreso than Weddle.
At an AAV of $8 million for those guys, given an extra year and one more million per year, Thomas's deal comes out to a total of $54 million.
Richard Sherman, no extension
With no disrespect to Sherman intended, I'd rather play out the final year of his rookie contract and see what happens. He can't hit free agency next year if the team gives him the franchise tag, and that might only be at $11 million or so.
I would rather not pay Sherman the $16 million annual salary of Darrelle Revis, even if it's non-guaranteed, but there's no doubt in my mind that Sherman has worked as hard as he has with the intention of being the highest-paid corner in the league. If Sherman wants to sign a deal at an AAV for $12 million, then it's something to consider, but there is a huge divide between the $16 AAV of Revis and the $10.6 million AAV of second-place Champ Bailey.
Basically, Revis Buc'd us over.
You can have Sherman this year at $1.4 million and next year at $11 million and that guarantees you two more years of Sherman at an AAV of only ~$6 million, or you could offer him a raise this coming season and an AAV of $11 million for five years, but I don't know that he'd accept that. I spoke with Chris aka 30 Acre Fortress (in real life!) and he turned me onto this idea.
It makes a lot more sense than a long-term deal. At least at this time.
Seattle currently has
six seven (5th rd from OAK in Matt Flynn deal) draft picks for the 2014 NFL draft, with their third round pick going to the Minnesota Vikings from the Percy Harvin deal. They draft last in every round because of how awesome they are.
Despite the fact that the Seahawks probably can't add six players to this roster from the draft, I still think that they'll be moving down and adding picks along the way. They would rather have more darts rather than a bigger target. So while they might be adding three picks in the draft, they'll still likely only walk away with four or five new members of the team at most. They just hope that one of those three picks they added is the next Richard Sherman, or Byron Maxwell, or even a Luke Willson.
I asked Rob Staton about the possibility of Seattle moving out of the first round.
On trading down -- I think they'll find it incredibly difficult to trade down in round one. Since they switched the draft so day 1 = round one only, none of the Super Bowl winning teams have traded out of the first. Essentially, the other teams know that after your pick they get a whole night to take stock, make calls and form a plan. Nobody is picking after you until the next day, so it really hammers the ability to deal unless you're willing to accept a token gesture trade.
A couple of years ago Denver went from around #25 to #35 and essentially swapped 5th rounders with Tampa Bay. They didn't even get an extra pick. That's the type of trade Seattle can expect at best IMO. I think they'd probably have a lot of interest in moving down given it's a very deep draft filled with quality, but the offer just might not be there.
Well, that sucks. Maybe. Not really. The Seahawks can still get a good receiver or defensive lineman at 32 and then move down in round two, plus constant dealing on day three.
Last year the Seahawks traded away their first round pick for Harvin and still had 11 draft picks. Out of those 11, only Willson, Spencer Ware and Bowie really even played. They didn't have a first and they barely activated Christine Michael. It was their last pick overall, Bowie, and an undrafted free agent in Alvin Bailey, that really got the most run. Though Willson, their sixth pick in the draft, was also a big contributor.
That's what Seattle does.
Rob's latest mock draft has Ra'Shede Hageman, DT out of Minnesota, as Seattle's first round pick. I'm not just saying this because Rob has always been a very kind online friend to me, but he literally is one of the best mock drafters in the "business" if such a thing exists. But in the world of mock drafting, Rob knows more than 99% of the experts and weirdos that do a mock draft. The Huddle Report is a site that gives scores to people who do mock drafts every year, and in 2013, Rob finished eighth out of 115 people that were monitored.
Now, even Rob would admit that a mock draft in February is hardly anything compared to your final mock draft -- the combine hasn't gone down yet -- but Hageman or a receiver seems more than reasonable. I'm not sure I buy the argument from some other experts that say Seattle will take an offensive lineman.
Rob says that the guards in this class are overrated, and I tend to think that Tom Cable can find a big man somewhere in the sixth or seventh round to fill his needs. He's already been doing that for the most part anyway.
He also likes Brent Urban, DE, Virginia and Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh.
I let McDaniel and McDonald walk away, I released Clemons and Bryant, and I signed Britt to supplement my receiving corps for the time being if he stays on good behavior. If an excellent receiver prospect falls down the board, then I certainly could see the Seahawks going in that direction.
They drafted Tate in the second round, Chris Harper in the fourth round, Kris Durham in the fourth round, Harvin for a first round pick, Rice to one of the biggest contracts of the current regime, and have tapped into the veteran market among the likes of Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant. They value receiver as much as any team in the NFL and they'll place a high value on a guy that they think can be a game-changer. Rob doesn't think that the middle portion of the draft class at receiver is very talented (he thought that Chris Boyd of Vandy was an interesting prospect with a questionable off-field issue) so if you're gonna pick a receiver, you might wanna do it early.
However, I'm gonna just play it safe and go with Rob's own current pick, Hageman, to take the place of McDonald and/or McDaniel.
1st round pick - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
I'm not doing a seven-round mock, geez. Beyond being a ridiculous waste of time given that most mock drafts are usually pretty far off-base after the first four or five picks, it's just... no, that's it. That's the reason.
However, we can slide in some positions and go from there. They'll be shown in the final roster below.
Practice Squad considerations, training camp competitions:
Will Cooper Helfet be able to win a job on the roster in his third season or beat out a sixth round tight end? With Kellen Davis leaving, a third tight end of a similar mold could also be brought in on low-key free agency. A name like Jeron Mestrud of the Oakland Raiders, Jim Dray of the Arizona Cardinals, or Jeff Cumberland of the New York Jets.
Under my plan, the top four receivers are Harvin, Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Britt. That leaves one more opening for a guy like Phil Bates, Arceto Clark, Bryan Walters, Ricardo Lockette, a fifth round rookie, or another free agent I haven't mentioned yet. Rice is one possibility.
Others include Damian Williams, a former player of Carroll's at USC, or perhaps Marc Mariani, a player I've always liked that has now missed the last two seasons with injury. Mariani could also fill in on special teams in place of Tate, possibly. I've decided to place Lockette on the team, but as a sixth WR, special teams ace.
Rice is so fond of the team, I see him coming back at a minimum salary and trying to heal up in 2014, but perhaps not making the final roster but being on speed dial during the season. Much like Mike Rob this year. I'm gonna go out on a limb: Arceto Clark was well-regarded last summer, and becomes a "Jermaine Kearse" of 2014.
Bowie and Bailey are the obvious candidates to start at right tackle, with Bowie likely having the inside track as of today. Bailey could have more value as a do-it-all backup and was very interestingly used in the playoffs as a sixth offensive lineman. Caylin Hauptmann is promoted from the PS to provide depth on the o-line, while a very cheap veteran option like J'Marcus Webb or Marshall Newhouse could also be brought in.
Austin Howard of the Jets would be a very good pickup, but likely too expensive.
Sweezy and Carpenter aren't the best guards in the league, but they're all we got. Are they all we need? No. But the team can't really afford to get fancy in free agency at the guard position. After all, they just won a Super Bowl with the guards that they do have. A rookie will be brought in, and probably a couple of UDFA rookies in addition to one being drafted, but I honestly can't stand the idea of another year with Paul McQuistan.
Gabe Carimi is a free agent that they could kick the tires on. If people think that Webb and Carimi aren't good examples of players that the Seahawks go after because they were bad with the Chicago Bears: You must have forgotten about Frank Omiyale. Bailey and Jeanpierre provide depth at guard as well, just in case.
Edit at 14:02 PM PT: And less than two hours after publishing this, Carimi signed with the Falcons! I won't change the final roster after the fact, just slide in "Carimi" for some other vet.
Losing Farwell, Morgan, and Schofield might not seem like a lot, but those are three linebackers that were on this roster last year. They either have to be kept on in some capacity or replaced. Farwell is a high-level special teams player, but not worth his weight in a million+ dollars just for that.
Morgan is a free agent that has played so little, I will bring him back on a minimum salary.
I don't feel great about this choice, but I'm also promoting Korey Toomer and hoping that this is his year. The truth is that I just don't know what to expect from Toomer, but he's in his third year now and I need another linebacker on the roster. I'd rather go with Toomer than some unknown rookie or player from another roster. At least not yet.
2014 Week 1 Roster ******************
QB - Wilson, Gabbert
RB - Lynch, Turbin, Michael, Coleman
WR - Harvin, Baldwin, Kearse, Britt, Clark
TE - Willson, McCoy, (Rookie TE, 6th Rd)
OT - Okung, Bowie, Bailey, Hauptmann
OG - Sweezy, Carpenter, Carimi, (Rookie, 7th Rd)
C - Unger, Lemuelpierre
DT - Mebane, Hageman, Carrington, Hill, J Williams
DE - Bennett, Avril, Scruggs, Mayowa, (Rookie DE, 2nd Rd)
LB - Wagner, Irvin, Wright, Smith, Morgan, Toomer
CB - Sherman, Maxwell, Lane, Simon
S - Thomas, Chancellor, Shead
K - Hauschka
P - Ryan
CS - Gresham
ST - Lockette
- I'm carrying six wide receivers instead of eight defensive backs. However, Lockette is staying on for a special teams role that is vacated by the departed Chris Maragos, who was basically just on the roster for his special teams performance. The loss of both Farwell and Maragos is enough of a reason for me to keep around Lockette, plus there's still some value there in him as a one-off receiver.
And the team could use more help at receiver than in the secondary.
- Defensive end and the pass rush in general are a bit more of a mystery than last year, what with the releases of Bryant and Clemons and basically asking for a lot between Mayowa, Scruggs and Carrington. But it's the only way I could afford Bennett, who is too valuable to lose.
- If anything happens to Harvin, which sometimes feels more 'probable' than just 'possible' or 'plausible', the receiving unit could just flat out be bad. Carrying Harvin and Britt puts the talent and depth at risk, but if it all goes right, it could also be one of the best receiving corps in the NFL.
I simply didn't want to pay Tate long term.
- Offensive line, specifically at guard. Despite the fact that it's mostly the same unit from last year starting at guard, it would have been nice to upgrade. Maybe they can do that in the draft, but I didn't.
- Wilson, Lynch, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor, Okung, Harvin, Bennett, Avril, Wright, Wagner, Smith, Mebane, Irvin, Maxwell, Baldwin, Kearse...
Yes, this team should still very much be considered the favorites for the Super Bowl next season. Davis told me that you've got to give yourself $10 million to stay under the cap after other considerations, like rookies, contracts for players on the back end, and the practice squad, and I managed to do that while keeping Bennett, Hauschka, McCoy, Jeanpierre and adding some interesting parts in free agency. We also extended Earl and have a plan for Sherman.
While walking around in Enchanted Uncharted Territory, I think with this plan, we did quite well.
Thanks for joining me in the EUT. Please tip your writer. (No seriously, send me money. Like... $5 million seems reasonable?)