Former Seahawks Receiver Golden Tate will not celebrate with the 12th man again, after leaving Seattle for Detroit.
It is always tough for the Super Bowl champions to repeat. The Seattle Seahawks always knew that it was going to be a touch road if they wanted to lift the Lombardi trophy again this season. However in an increasingly tough NFC West, some are now questioning if they are even a lock to make the playoffs again this season, after a very tough free agency period for the team.
For the Seattle Seahawks, their free agency goals were simple. Keep the core of their team intact, while making incremental improvements through free agency and the draft. The team did not have a lot of cap room, and a some key free agents. But, as defending champions they were expected to have enough extra leverage to be able renegotiate enough deals, and negotiate enough home-town discounts to keep the core of their unit intact.
Unfortunately for the current Super Bowl holders, free agency has not gone quite as expected for the team.
Bringing in big name talent was always going to be a tough ask for a team with such limited cap room, but their failure to hold on to their own has come as a surprise to everyone. So far, the team have lost no fewer than seven players to other teams during free agency, re-signing just three, and bringing in only one outside player.
Amongst the players lost are starters like Golden Tate, Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons and Breno Giacomini, as well as promising youngsters and development players like Chris Maragos and Clinton McDonald.
The only players currently re-signed are kicker Steven Hauschka, Tony McDaniel and backup quarterback Tavaris Jackson, while their only signing is the injury prone, and unproven wide receiver Taylor Price, who was drafted in 2010 by the New England Patriots, and has since played for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Half a dozen other free agents are still unaccounted for, but all signs point to at least one or two more of these testing the free agency waters, including Sidney Rice, whose role becomes all the more important in Seattle after the loss of Tate.
All in all, this is a tough situation for the Seahawks to find themselves in.
Perhaps the most crushing of all the free agent losses was that of Golden Tate, whose contract the team had hoped to extend. Tate was integral an part of the Seahawks Super Bowl winning season in 2013, and his role in the offense has grown year-on-year, with 2014 expected by most to become his true breakout season.
Tate had indicated his desire to stay in Seattle, even indicating that he was willing to accept a lower salary to remain with the club. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the offer they made to him was described as “laughable”. The 5-year, $31 million Tate ultimately signed with the pass happy Detroit Lions demonstrates just how out of touch with their players the Seahawks are.
Tate described how he is “going to earn in one year at Detroit what Seattle was going to pay me for two years.” He added “Seattle offered numbers that were laughable.” If this is how the Seahawks value their own players, it certainly calls into question the long-term ambitions of the team. Though they have demonstrated a unique talent for locating starters in all rounds of the draft, their apparent unwillingness or inability to keep the core of their team intact should leave fans concerned.
For their part, the Seahawks nearest rivals in 2014, the San Francisco 49ers have had a much more productive free agency period so far in spite of similar cap concerns. They have been busy shedding excessively large contracts, while largely offsetting those losses with more affordable alternatives, which should not result in a significant drop in performance. They have also put themselves in a position to extend the contracts of key players, including star wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and look set to do the same for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The Arizona Cardinals—the only team to have beaten the Seahawks at home in 2013—have also made strides, addressing their key area of concern, and adding a legitimate NFL left tackle in Jared Veldheer, who will solidify the Cardinals offensive line alongside returning 2013 first round pick Jonathan Cooper. The team have also added speedy receiver Ted Ginn Jr, versatile backup running back Jonathan Dwyer and seem to still be in play for one or two big-name free agents, including cornerback Antonio Cromartie. In 2013, the Cardinals slow-played the free agency market to perfection, scooping up top-tier talent late, and appear set to do so again in 2014.
Though both teams have lost some players from their already successful 2013 teams, they have also made some strides forward, both in terms of short-term improvement, and long-term stability.
With the NFC West already unbelievably closely matched, and with the improvements made by their opponents, it is hard to consider the Seahawks the outright favourites to win the division again in 2014, and as the Arizona Cardinals found out in 2013, the Wild Card spots can be harder to come by than you would expect.
While we still expect the Seahawks to challenge in 2014, as things stand, given their losses, and lack of forward progress, it’s hard to envision them dominating in the way that they did in 2013—especially at home—again in 2014.
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