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Only One Thing Can Stop a Seattle Seahawks Dynasty in 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

 

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks' running back.

Let me ask you a question, 12s. Have the San Francisco 49ers been the same since they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship playoff game a year ago? That narrow loss to the eventual Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks may very well have altered the course of the Seahawks’ historically fiercest rival. Their 2014 story: No playoffs; fired coach; major questions. 

What remains to stop the Seattle Seahawks from becoming the NFL’s latest dynasty?

Challenge Flag

Let’s look at the challengers. 

As gut-wrenching of a loss the 49ers suffered in January 2014, this Sunday’s devastation done to the 2014 season’s top NFC contender, the Green Bay Packers, may cause newfound reasons for the Packers to change course — certainly at all levels of the organization below the head coach. After giving away a sure victory in what was the worst 98 percent of a game the Russell Wilson-era Seahawks ever played, the Packers are reeling — reeling in a way that is sure to reverberate through the offseason and into the 2015 season. 

The Seahawks did not just defeat the Packers in such improbable fashion. They set forth a wave of repercussions that will change that franchise’s — the current top contender to Seattle’s NFC dynasty — course for next season and possibly beyond. They might have made next year’s Packers into this year’s 49ers.

We’ve certainly seen the last of a few Packers players (Brandon Bostick [brain cramp], Tramon Williams [age, expense], A.J. Hawk [ineffectiveness, expense], Brad Jones [ineffectiveness]. More even bigger names will have decisions made about their future due to contract situations, including starters Randall Cobb, Julius Peppers, Bryan Bulaga, Mike Daniels, John Kuhn, Letroy Guion and more key role players. It’s unrealistic to expect all to return. Without question, a few coaches are going to be asked to ply their trades elsewhere. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum tops that list. 

Closer To Home

Don’t count on stiff resistance from the St. Louis Rams (the only NFC West team to beat the 2014 Seahawks) in the foreseeable future. They’ve been Kroenked. Owner Stan Kroenke has made his intentions clear: He is moving the franchise to Los Angeles at the first possible chance. No lame duck NFL team — and their lame duck status will drag on for multiple seasons — can expect to build into a contender. 

The snake-bitten Arizona Cardinals are probably the toughest out for the Seahawks to once again claim the NFC West title in 2015. With no long-term answers at quarterback and running back, and a historically shaky ownership / organizational structure, the Cardinals are Wild Card material at best. Still.

Head East

The rest of the NFC North is full of teams rebuilding, or in the case of the Detroit Lions, not quite there yet. If you want to keep an eye on the Lions as a possible contender, they will be coming to Seattle to play the Seahawks next season — a lucky bit of scheduling in the Seahawks’ favor. 

The NFC East sports three teams in disarray and the occasionally formidable Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys, who took a victory from the regular season Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, are no sure bet to repeat their unexpected and remarkable 2014 season. They face serious cap problems that will almost certainly see them part ways with one of their top two offensive playmakers not named Tony Romo: Dez Bryant and NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray. Both are free agents-to-be. Owner Jerry Jones has already admitted that it will be hard to keep both. At least one will be playing elsewhere next season and several other key Cowboys will be asked to restructure contracts or leave town. 

The NFC South … well, they had to be mentioned. The four teams do exist.

That Other Conference

The Seahawks may be fortunate in that they do not play in the AFC. Two of their four losses in 2014 came against AFC opponents and they let the pitiful Oakland Raiders hang around at home much longer than they should have. 

The 2015 Seahawks will almost certainly be favored in each of their 2015 AFC opponent games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (home), Cleveland Browns (home) and Cincinnati Bengals (away). They may even be favored at the Baltimore Ravens. 

Apart from that lot, the Seahawks need only concern themselves with whatever Super Bowl opponent the AFC dares to throw their way in February 2016, right? Actually, the main factor preventing the Seahawks from solidifying their legacy doesn’t come from the football field.

The New Era

The biggest reason why the Seahawks may get stopped for speeding on the way to Dynastyville is the salary cap. Pumping the brakes just a tad, we should acknowledge that the Seahawks do have one more game to play this season. I hear their opponent is pretty good … but I don’t want to inflate their egos. 

Assuming the Seahawks can take care of business in Super Bowl XLIX against the New England Patriots, Some may say dynasty status will be achieved. Perhaps. But let’s face it, the talk of a “three-Pete” will start long before the afterglow of such a victory will have worn off. 

In the modern salary cap era, two back-to-back Super Bowls may qualify as a dynasty. That’s a fair perspective, but it certainly didn’t used to be the standard. To me, a repeat champion is a repeat champion. A dynasty is two-plus championships. Even if the Seahawks fall short in two weeks but still manage to get back on top in 2015/16, it might not be too generous to call them a dynasty. The Seahawks’ 2015 (and beyond) salary cap is key. 

If the Seahawks intend to keep the good times rolling in 2015, they’ll be doing it with a nearly entirely new pay allocation structure than they’ve enjoyed to date. 

The key difference: Russell Wilson’s compensation. Perhaps you’ve heard a time or 12 that Wilson is playing for mere pennies, as mandated by his third-round draft choice rookie contract. That contract will be renegotiated this offseason and will balloon up to a minimum of $22 million per year — if not more. That’s $22 million-ish that will come out of the salary cap somewhere else. In other words, the nearly free pass the Seahawks have enjoyed being led by a franchise quarterback will no longer exist — levelling the playing field for the blue birds at the same strata as all the other contenders who are paying market value for their franchise quarterbacks. 

Naturally, cuts will be made. Some familiar faces and stalwart Seahawk contributors will be sent packing, just like this past offseason. Two years in a row of paying league-high salaries to key performers (Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman) will take its toll. The Seahawks have been undeniably great over the past two seasons. In their third leg of their dynasty quest, the makeup of the team will be entirely different — win or lose on February 1.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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