Over the course of the last two weeks, the Seattle Seahawks have successfully signed their two most valuable players to contract extensions. On April 28, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas inked a four-year, $40 million deal ($27.725 million guaranteed) to remain in the Emerald City.
I am blessed to announce that the Seattle Seahawks and I have reached an agreement on a contract extension. The goal has always been to stay in Seattle and continue to play for the Seahawks. With this chapter closed, I can continue to focus on what is important – defending our Super Bowl Championship and being the best cornerback in the NFL.
Sherman’s new contract will pay him $57.4 million total ($40 million guaranteed) and run through the 2018 season.
Richard Sherman's cash flow through 2016 is $35M ($12.431M in '14, $10M in '15 & $12.569M in '16). He makes $11.431M & $11M in '17 & '18.— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) May 7, 2014
Clearly, Seattle did what it had to do to keep the most talented secondary in the NFL together. Yet there’s no question Sherman’s extension gives the Seahawks the ever so daunting task of salvaging an elite roster. Such an undertaking isn’t something many teams have been able to master in the salary-cap era.
But if there is one team that can do it, it's the Seahawks. Since head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over in 2010, they have built a dominant team with a strategic offseason blueprint.
That offseason blueprint includes calculated risks in free agency, building through the draft and proper long-term salary management. No matter the situation, the Seahawks always plan for the future. They are never shortsighted in the moves they make.
With the amount of money spent on Thomas and Sherman, and the money eventually needed to retain franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, there's a really good chance that defensive end Cliff Avril, running back Marshawn Lynch, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and center Max Unger could be on the chopping block at the end of the 2014 season.
Why? Because Avril, Lynch, Mebane, Baldwin and Unger will cost the Seahawks too much money to retain.
Lynch carries a $9 million cap number in 2015, Unger a $5.6 million cap number, Mebane a $5.7 million cap number, and Avril and Baldwin are both scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
But the good news is that the Seahawks prepare for things like this. Case in point, look at how they have handled the running-back position since the 2010 season.
Despite having Lynch in the prime years of his career, Seattle made it a point to address the position during the draft in 2012 and 2013. Schneider and Carroll knew Lynch’s window with the team would close at the end of the 2014 season, so they spent a fourth-round pick on Robert Turbin and a second-round pick on Christine Michael.
The way in which the Seahawks addressed the defensive-end position prior to the 2013 season also demonstrates their forward thinking.
The Seahawks D-line already has 216 QB pressures after 186 last season. Michael Bennett & Cliff Avril making a difference.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) December 4, 2013
Even though Red Bryant and Chris Clemons had proved to be adequate players for Seattle, the Seahawks signed Michael Bennett and Avril in free agency. In addition to upgrading the position, the Bennett and Avril signings allowed the Seahawks to free up salary-cap space by moving on from both players at the end of the season.
Whenever the Seahawks make a roster move or select a particular player in the draft, there’s always a well-thought-out reason behind it. Carroll and Schneider rarely allow their personal feelings to get in the way. They do what is best for the future of the team. It’s that simple.
And if the Seahawks want to unceasingly build for the future and salvage their roster along the way, they will have to continue to follow the blueprint they implemented in 2010.
All that money committed to Thomas and Sherman would be problematic, but locking them down before the salary cap balloons is savvy business.— Alessandro Miglio (@AlexMiglio) May 7, 2014
In addition to following their own blueprint, the Seahawks may be banking on some help from the NFL as well. According to ESPN.com, league sources told NFL insider Adam Schefter that the salary cap could break the $150 million mark by 2016.
If that sentiment ultimately rings true, now is the perfect time for Seattle to extend existing contracts. Some teams overspend in hopes of catching up when the cap rises, but the Seahawks are getting out in front of the jump.
This will prove to be huge, because Seattle has other young players to attend to in the coming years. Aside from Wilson, cornerback Byron Maxwell, outside linebacker K.J. Wright and inside linebacker Bobby Wagner will all be looking for new deals.
However, none of this is news to Schneider. He told Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times that the team has been planning for this for several years. He also said the entire 2014 offseason was predicated on creating the necessary cap space to re-sign Thomas, Sherman and Wilson.
Obviously, the Seahawks' offseason strategy to free up cap space caused Seattle to take a few hits talent-wise, but again, that was all by design, via Condotta:
Part of Seattle’s long-term thinking involved the 2013 draft. Many of the 11 players selected were taken not so much with the idea that they would play in 2013 but that they would fill in voids down the road. Notable examples include cornerback Tharold Simon, who the team knew was battling a foot injury that required him to sit out last season but who now could be thrust into a key role with the loss of Browner and Thurmond; and defensive linemen Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams, who will be called on to help replace the likes of McDonald, Bryant and Clemons.
With the Thomas and Sherman contracts now behind them, and the Wilson extension on the horizon, the once daunting task of salvaging an elite roster doesn't seem so daunting.
The groundwork has been laid, and Seattle has a unique plan that extends beyond the 2014 and 2015 seasons. It’s safe to say the Seahawks are in good hands and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.