Words like “dynasty” have been thrown around following the Seattle Seahawks’ victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. While that may be a bit premature, the Seahawks are the second-youngest Super Bowl champion in history and will return the majority of an outstanding young core for at least next year. Although these young stars will have to be paid eventually, the Seahawks have been constructed to be successful for at least the next couple of years.
Still, the Seahawks have a number of critical free agents that could make an impact if they were to sign elsewhere. Here’s a look at some of those players and the likelihood that they return to Seattle.
Michael Bennett, DE
For the majority of the season, Bennett was the unsung hero of the Seahawks’ defense. The speedy edge rusher totaled 8.5 sacks and disrupted offenses more often than that number would indicate. He gained some national notoriety for returning a fumble for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on “Monday Night Football” December 2, and was a star throughout the playoffs. Overall, Bennett has elevated his game to become one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL over the past two seasons.
Bennett is a game-changer, and the Seahawks’ front office is well aware of it. He won’t come cheap, but locking up Bennett will be Seattle’s number-one priority this offseason. Expect him to stay in Seattle.
Golden Tate, WR
Even with multiple no-show games, Tate had the best year of his career by far with 898 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Those aren’t prototypical number-one receiver numbers, but the Seahawks proved they could win with Tate as the primary option. He was particularly impressive Week 17 against the St. Louis Rams, totaling 129 yards despite taking some vicious hits from a Rams’ secondary that had an egregious taunting penalty from Week 8 on its mind. Tate has tremendous athletic ability and is just 25-years-old, and putting him on the same field with Percy Harvin is going to give defenses a lot to think about.
Tate has discussed a “hometown discount,” but it is uncertain how much that could potentially be. If the Seahawks can re-sign him for about $6 million a year, they will pull the trigger. If it’s much more than that, Tate is likely gone.
Doug Baldwin, WR
Baldwin is yet another example of the ability of Pete Carroll and John Schneider to find talent. An undrafted free agent, Baldwin led the team in receiving his rookie season before having a down year in 2012. He put up similar numbers to his breakout rookie season this year with 778 yards and 5 touchdowns, and had a record-breaking performance in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers.
As he is a restricted free agent, it’s going to take a lot from another team to pry Baldwin away. The Seahawks aren’t going to let both Tate and Baldwin go and should be able to re-sign the latter at a reasonable price.
Brandon Browner, CB
Browner became the forgotten Seahawk during Seattle’s playoff run but holds a special place on this team. He came to the Seahawks in 2011 and helped establish the “Legion of Boom” identity with his physical play. This season, injuries and an indefinite suspension knocked Browner out, and the Seahawks got even better play from backups Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell.
He still has some ability, but Browner is all but gone. Teams aren’t going to risk much on a suspended player and the Seahawks have too much depth at cornerback.
The Seahawks’ offensive line was the worst unit on the team in 2013, particularly in pass protection. Giacomini was far from the problem and even played well at times but took far too many frustrating penalties and has a tendency to let his emotions get the best of him.
There are more pressing needs on the offensive line – particularly at guard – but it’s time for the Seahawks to move on from Giacomini and save some money. They have an interesting in-house option with Alvin Bailey, or could very well look to the draft for a right tackle.
Tony McDaniel, DT
The Seahawks used a deep rotation of defensive tackles this season, with McDaniel being one of the standouts. He had a career year with 52 tackles and 2 sacks, and did a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage at points.
Those numbers aren’t flashy, but McDaniel is effective against the run. The Seahawks will likely look to bring him in for another year or two at a modest price.
Clinton McDonald, DT
In contrast, McDonald put up bigger numbers than McDaniel and made a number of big plays. McDonald enters free agency at just 27-years-old after a 5.5 sack season.
For that reason, he is probably going to be too expensive to retain. The Seahawks already have a big contract at defensive tackle with Brandon Mebane and will likely look to the draft to add some depth.
Walter Thurmond, CB
Thurmond emerged off the bench in place of Browner, starting seven games and playing noticeably well. Unfortunately, Thurmond was suspended for four games himself late in the season, allowing Maxwell to crack the starting lineup and play even better than his two predecessors. Thurmond returned in the playoffs as a slot corner and continued his high level of play.
He seems likely to be a causality of the Seahawks’ depth at cornerback. Thurmond will be a nice pickup for somebody but will cost too much to be stuck behind Maxwell and Richard Sherman on the depth chart.
Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press
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