Are the Seahawks aiming to become the West Coast version of the New England Patriots?
There’s worse things, even if you don’t like the sound of it.
If our inference is correct, it means that Richard Sherman – and everybody else on the Seahawks roster -- is on the market for the right price.
In the NFL, you do what works. And there’s no denying the effectiveness of Bill Belichick’s cold-blooded approach to roster construction.
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It seemed an interesting (and uncharacteristic) revelation of Seahawks GM John Schneider, during a 710 ESPN radio appearance Wednesday morning, that they’ve studied how the Pats have made a habit of “moving on from players.”
Schneider always has been a Ron Wolf acolyte from the Green Bay Packers School of Draft-building and Free-Agent patching.
You build a core of stars and sustain competitiveness by filling the spots around them with young (cheap) draft picks on their way up, with a few target free-agents sprinkled in.
Belichick and the Pats, meanwhile, have constructed a renewable dynasty on the old-growth-forest theory: Young seedlings can’t develop when overshadowed by the stately old trees, which need to be felled when still at a high value.
Sentiment, loyalty, camaraderie have no or limited bearing on the decision.
Go back to near the start of the 2003 season when New England’s team captain Lawyer Milloy was cut because they couldn’t renegotiate his contract. He was the heart of that defense, and Belichick called it the toughest move he had to make.
But he did it. The players were stunned, but not so much that they couldn’t go 14-2 and win another Super Bowl that season.
Ask yourself this: Which is more shocking, the Patriots’ release of Lawyer Milloy in 2003 or the Seahawks considering a trade of Richard Sherman now?
Surely it’s letting go of Milloy with nothing in return.
As Schneider said Wednesday, the goal of staying competitive often will mandate “a real hard decision or two.”
He cited the 2014 release of veteran favorites Red Bryant and Chris Clemons as examples.
No, those were totally logical moves regarding aging defenders. They were fan and locker room favorites. But neither was an All-Pro; neither was at his peak.
Sherman, though, is hugely valuable as trade bait; he never misses games and remains an elite cover corner who is fiercely competitive. Last season was not his best, but wasn’t necessarily a sign of irreversible descent.
His sideline disruptions last season earned a few obvious demerits. In the big picture, it’s a small issue, but it could nonetheless alter the tipping point when weighing an offer.
What is his value relative to cost? What is the value of the trade return, dictated by the market? The difficulty of replacement? These are the factors.
The bloodless Belichick way would not consider what the fans will think, or how other teammates will react.
Clubhouse chemistry is important in Seattle. Coach Pete Carroll talks about it all the time.
The Patriots Way, though, is to analyze the benefit/cost ratio with an eye to the future, erring in favor of moving on too early rather than too late.
As Schneider mentioned, few believed they could keep together the main trio of the Legion of Boom – Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Sherman – as long as they have.
This trio of All-Pros has a combined cap total of $32 million this season. Thomas turns 28 soon and is coming off a broken leg. Chancellor is 29 and missed seven games due to injury the past two seasons. Sherman just turned 29.
How long can that status remain quo?
Schneider acknowledged that the media leaks that contended the Hawks have listened to trade talks regarding Sherman are true, but it’s all merely a part of due diligence.
It’s not a threat to Sherman, nor a specific message that he needs to toe the line. It’s a matter of learning whether the market values him more than they do.
If it does, then it’s time for one of those “hard decisions” based on the need for constant renewal.