Tip of the cap to Seattle's sustained success

ASSOCIATED PRESS Seattle coach Pete Carroll said his team isn't in position for a 'big fallout' after winning the Super Bowl.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Seattle coach Pete Carroll said his team isn't in position for a 'big fallout' after winning the Super Bowl.
Posted: February 05, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Seahawks obliterated Peyton Manning and the Broncos Sunday night, partied till dawn, sent Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith off to Disney World to see Mickey and Minnie and the gang, grabbed a couple of hours of shut-eye, then gathered their Lombardi Trophy and flew home to Seattle, where they will be the guests of honor tomorrow at a victory parade in the city.

After that?

After that, they will start preparing for the 2014 season, of course.

"The first meeting that we'll have will be tomorrow," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at yesterday morning's news conference. "[The preparation for next season] starts tomorrow. Our guys would be surprised if we didn't.

"We really have an eye on what's coming, and that we don't dwell on what just happened. We'll take this in stride, and we'll have a big celebration on Wednesday in town and enjoy the heck out of it. We won't miss the fun part of it, but that doesn't mean we can't set our sights on how this is going to go."

Every year after the Super Bowl, we ask the same question of the winners. Is their success sustainable? Can they repeat?

If you look at the Seahawks right now, you would have to say they absolutely can. They are the second youngest team in the league. They have a dominating defense, an outstanding young quarterback, one of the league's very best running backs and a playmaking wide receiver/kick returner.

But history isn't on their side. Since the advent of the salary cap in 1993, only two teams have managed to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles - the Broncos in '97 and '98, and the Patriots in '03 and '04. And Eagles fans will go to their graves believing that the only reason the Patriots won that second Lombardi Trophy was because Bill Belichick cheated.

Neither of the previous two Super Bowl winners - the Giants in '11 and the Ravens in '12 - made the playoffs the year after their trips to the top of the mountain.

Only 13 of the 20 Super Bowl winners in the salary-cap era have qualified for the playoffs the year after they won. Only four of those 13 made it past the divisional round.

The Seahawks are in good cap shape, primarily because their quarterback, Russell Wilson, must play one more year on his third-round rookie contract before he can ask for a redo, which he almost certainly will.

Their two most significant free agents are wide receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, neither of whom you would consider irreplaceable. They combined for only 114 receptions, 1,676 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

"I think we are in a fortunate situation," Carroll said. "[General manager] John Schneider has done an extraordinary job of structuring this roster contractually and with the vision of looking ahead, so that we can keep our guys together.

"One of the things that happens every so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl. We're not in that situation. We'll be battling and competing. We don't need to be in that situation. We've done that with foresight, with looking ahead so that we would be prepared [for the future]."

A sizable number of the Seahawks' top players are only second- or third-year players. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright and left guard James Carpenter all are 2011 draft picks. Cornerback Brandon Browner was signed out of the CFL in '11. Wilson, right guard J.R. Sweezy and linebackers Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin came out of the 2012 draft.

The Seahawks won't start to get squeezed by the cap until after next season, when they will have to address Wilson's contract situation as well as the players from their '11 draft class, including Sherman.

"That's the genius, if you will, of the salary cap," former Colts president and general manager Bill Polian, who now works as an analyst for ESPN, said yesterday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike Show." "It's designed to do this to exactly the kinds of things Seattle has.

"To stay up there [at the top] requires great drafting, great use of low-budget free agents who will sign 1-year deals for $2 million to $3 million. Those guys are available, but you have to get the right guys. Arizona did that last year and resuscitated their team. But that's only a 1-year fix and you keep turning those guys over."

The Seahawks, like the Eagles, are benefiting greatly cap-wise right now from having a midround starting quarterback on his rookie contract. Neither Wilson nor the Eagles' Nick Foles will count more than $800,000 against the cap next season.

"When Russell's time comes [to get paid], that's going to take a huge chunk out of their salary cap," Polian said. "Once that happens, you really only have room to pay the quarterback and maybe nine or 10 other players. Everybody else has to be on a minimum contract or a very low rookie contract.

"So the question is, who are those nine or 10 players you have to pay? And that tells you how you have to build your team once your quarterback gets paid. You saw that in Baltimore this past year [when the Ravens gave Joe Flacco a new contract]. They had to let go of a great many veteran players who contributed greatly to their success that they didn't want to let go of, because they have to make everything fit."

Polian knows of what he speaks. He had to let a number of key veterans from the Colts' '06 Super Bowl team go because of Peyton Manning's huge salary-cap number.

"It's wonderful to have a great quarterback," he said. "But what do you do from there? It's really, really difficult. The system is designed to hurt good teams. That's the essence of it."

The Seahawks hope to grab at least one more Lombardi Trophy before the salary cap takes a bite out of them.

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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