So much attention has been paid to the players the Seahawks have let leave, and the new players the Seahawks have been unable to secure, it is worth remembering what this off-season is about. Seattle came in trying to keep the best coach in the game, the best safety in the game, and the best cornerback in the game all on the same team for years to come, with an eye on being sure the most successful young quarterback in NFL history stays around as well. Carroll had his press conference. The measure of this off-season will come in the name, or names, that come next.
Seattle has to sign Thomas. Not only is he the best safety in football, he is arguably the best player on the best defense in the NFL. Add to that, the strategic importance of locking Thomas is as it relates to the next guy on the list. Thomas ambiguously tweeted last night. His deal could be right around the corner and should be a lock before the draft.
Something GOOD is coming right around the corner!!
— Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) April 7, 2014
ODDS: Better than I thought
Sherman is a great player and has been a great person in all my interactions with him. He is also shrewd and completely capable of making the right business choice even when it is the unpopular one. He knows what his market value will be. He knows the Seahawks have to sign Thomas and Wilson. His mentality would seem to drive him to get his fair, and maximum, market value. Seattle runs a scheme that allows them to generate capable edge corners regularly. Those two things seemed to make a franchise tag and holdout situation highly likely next year. There are increasing indications that things will get resolved far more amicably than that. Sherman could quickly follow Thomas in the news, and that would be major victory for the Seahawks. Success would be signing Thomas to an extension and bringing back Michael Bennett. They are on track for both. Finding a way to agree with Sherman would be over-achieving. It would leave only Wilson as a major negotiation next year, and greatly reduce the uncertainty about future cap space to play with. It would also speak volumes about Sherman as a person. His willingness to negotiate now instead of fighting with the organization through holdouts and bitter public exchanges would continue the development of his complex public persona.
ODDS: Over 50%
I wrote prior to last season that the organization was going to have to choose between Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. All indications were that Tate was the favored son. He was tops in targets. He was the highest-drafted receiver of the Carroll era, and there was rarely a moment that Carroll did not take an opportunity to praise him publicly. He even graced the splash screen for the team's mobile app. Baldwin would go stretches without being involved in the game plan. Percy Harvin overlaps more with his role in the slot than Tate's role at split end. And as a restricted free agent, Baldwin's negotiating leverage is almost non-existent. The team can have him for another year at $2M, and push back any extension until he proves again that he is worth it next year. But then the team made Tate a "we feel obliged to make this, but know it is insulting" offer that forced him out of town. Seattle has yet to add many outside free agents. Based on where things stand now, Seattle could very well choose to sign Baldwin to an extension now at a rate that will be favorable to both sides. The team gets a great receiver at a below market value, and Baldwin gets security that most undrafted, restricted free agents do not see.
Wright has his deal end after this upcoming season. He has played all three linebacker spots, and is a very good player. He is not, though, a Pro Bowl-level player yet. His best position is SAM, which is also where the team has Bruce Irvin under contract for another year. Wright is setup to be pitted against Malcolm Smith the way Baldwin was with Tate. It is unlikely the team will keep both. And it makes sense that they will want to see how it plays out over the next season.
ODDS: Very low
Being named the Super Bowl MVP has it's perks, but it won't get Smith an early contract. The former 7th-round pick is due to become a free agent after this year, and his position on the Seahawks team is not yet cemented. Most likely, he becomes the starting WILL in place of Wright, who probably will move back to SAM. That gets the best three linebackers on the field in their best positions. Irvin will have something to say about that. If the team drafts another great linebacker in May, it is even possible that neither Wright nor Smith will be back after this season.
ODDS: Very low
Maxwell is a great corner opposite Sherman. He will get his payday, but not from Seattle. The team simply cannot afford to pay Kam Chancellor, Thomas and Sherman the top salaries for their position, and pay the opposite starting edge corner a sizable salary. Maxwell could end up being the top corner on the market next year outside of Darrelle Revis.
Most people saw Avril's contract as a two-year rental. Both Seattle and Avril probably did as well. It worked out so well, and his chemistry with Bennett became so powerful, that the team has to be thinking about keeping him around for longer. The bigger development here has been the team's inability to attract another edge rusher for a reasonable price. Avril is really their only proven edge rusher at this point, and he has to be licking his chops at the deals people are signing this year. It would not be a shock to see the team try and add a few more years to his deal during training camp. The wildcard would be whether Avril wants to forego his chance to make a splash in free agency.