The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have many questions to answer in the offseason. Those questions are looming larger than life since free agency and the defections have started. The Seahawks have lost four players in the last 24 hours, including some of their best playmakers.
The Seahawks have lost top receiver Golden Tate (to the Detroit Lions), defensive linemen Clinton McDonald (to Tampa Bay) and O'Brien Schofield (to the New York Giants), and special teams ace Chris Maragos (to Philadelphia). Seattle had previously released defensive lineman Red Bryant and Chris Clemons along with often injured wide receiver Sidney Rice. They did manage to re-sign defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
The loss of so many key players leads to the first question the Seahawks must answer this offseason:
1. Can they keep the key players together?
The fact of the matter is the Seahawks didn't have to make any roster changes. They were young enough that all they had to do is re-sign the entire roster and they would have had a great team. The players liked Pete Carroll and his style and for a while it seemed the team would remain intact. Now the Seahawks are looking at scrambling to replace lost players. It is important for them to keep the rest of the team intact at a reasonable price.
2. What will their strategy be regarding players?
The Seahawks have some choices to make regarding personnel issues. They can either play it conservatively (like the Broncos) and re-sign their veterans for big bucks and add a few high priced free agents or they can continue to do it the Pete Carroll way.
If Carroll follows the same plan that he used to build the team in the first place, expect more players to leave. The Seahawks were built with low-paid players and short contracts. Carroll clearly believes that three younger players at $3 million each is better than one star at $9 million. He also avoids getting locked into long contracts. This is how he has built the Seahawks and it is probably how he will continue. He would rather have depth than stars.
Don't expect any huge deals this year, especially since next year Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas all need to be re-signed. The Seahawks will be looking at cap space for next year, and signing a high priced player this year will hurt them later when they need the money the most.
The Seahawks will stick to their game plan of drafting young players and finding bargain basement priced players that are looking to rebuild their careers. Carroll isn't afraid to part ways with players because he knows he can replace them with someone just as good.
3. Will Marshawn Lynch be productive next year?
Every Seahawk fan remembers Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks rode him to a Super Bowl in 2006, but he never regained form after that. The Seahawk offense relied on Lynch's 1257 yards this year but the question is can he do it again or will he suffer the same fate as Alexander?
Lynch's running style is brutal, and the stress on his body has to be taking a toll. He's 27 years old and has played seven tough seasons already. How much more can he take without losing a step or a major injury? If he is not productive next year, who will step up and replace his yards?
Backing up Lynch is Robert Turbin, who has been solid but not spectacular. Turbin is averaging 3.9 yards per carry to Lynch's 4.2 yards per carry. A wild card in the mix is second year player Christine Michael, who many expect to be a factor next year.
4. Can the Seahawks get a passing game?
If Lynch does go down, the Seahawks will have to get better in the passing game. The Seahawks only averaged 202 yards per game passing last season. Although quarterback Russell Wilson is highly respected, the question is can he carry the Seahawks with his arm if they need him to?
With the departure of Tate, the Seahawks will be relying on Percy Harvin to carry the load at receiver. Harvin demonstrated his explosiveness in the Superbowl with his kickofff return for a touchdown but he is often hurt and only played in three games last year. The Seahawks desperately need more depth at wide receiver, especially with Doug Baldwin being a free agent. If Baldwin leaves, the Seahawks will have to find a decent free agent receiver to replace him.
Wilson has demonstrated he can make the throws, but he needs an upgrade in receivers for the Seahawks to have an effective passing attack. Can the Seahawks find some receivers for the prices they are willing to pay?
5. Can they repeat?
This is the biggest question of them all. Can they win two Super Bowls in a row? The odds are against them, but don't count out the Seahawks. They showed their grit and determination to win all season last year, and that should carry over and be a prime motivating force. This is a team that loves to beat the odds.