NFL Seattle Seahawks

5 Seattle Seahawks Storylines to Follow Leading Up to Free Agency

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Five Seahawks Storylines To Follow Leading Up To Free Agency

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks will enter the 2014-15 NFL season as defending Super Bowl champions. They will most likely open their season against the San Francisco 49ers. Their division rivals will get to watch the Super Bowl banner be raised by the 12th Man, which for the last two seasons is what has appeared to be Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick’s kryptonite. In fact, it can be argued that before the 49ers decide to give Kaepernick the $17 million contract he so desperately covets, he should prove that he can get past the Seahawks first. The Seahawks return most of their Super Bowl team intact, but still face some pretty serious questions.

Every year for over the last 11 years, one team has gone from worst to first in the NFL. In the NFC West, the last-place team last season was the St. Louis Rams. The Rams own two first-round draft picks and an improving defense that has given the Seahawks fits over the last couple of seasons. The Arizona Cardinals are the last team to win in Seattle, proving that the Seahawks aren't invincible in the Pacific Northwest. And then there are the 49ers, which have to be itching for another shot at the Seahawks considering they came one Richard Sherman batted pass away from beating them in the NFC Championship Game.

Needless to say, the Seahawks have their work cut out for them on their way to building this dynasty. They've already begun to make some difficult decisions in preparation for free agency and the upcoming season. Here are five storylines to follow for the champs leading up to free agency.

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5. Will the Seahawks replace Sidney Rice and Michael Bennett?

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Sidney Rice and Michael Bennett were key parts of the Seahawks’ success the last two seasons. Rice had 50 catches for 748 yards and seven TDs in 2012, while Bennett had 8.5 sacks this past season. Both are now unrestricted free agents and are sure to draw varying levels of interest from different teams. Rice is coming off a torn ACL, so he’ll have to show teams that he’s fully healed. With Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy signing his franchise tender, Bennett becomes arguably the best defensive end on the market. Both won’t be back with the Seahawks, so it’ll be interesting to watch who they are replaced with.

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4. What will Golden Tate’s market be?

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Another key contributor for the Seahawks this past season was WR Golden Tate. He notched 64 catches for 898 yards and five TDs while providing quality punt returning. Tate has expressed a desire to remain with the Seahawks and has even suggested that he’d take a hometown discount. However, New York Jets GM John Idzik (formerly a member of the Seahawks’ front office) was the man who scouted Tate. What market develops for Tate’s skills, and in turn how much of a discount he’s willing to give the Seahawks, will be interesting to follow.

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3. Richard Sherman’s looming payday?

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the best CB in the entire NFL, Richard Sherman became eligible for a new contract on Dec. 29 once his third year in the league came to a close. Sherman is set to earn $1.3 million next season if he plays out his rookie deal, although some have speculated that he wants to usurp the title of “highest-paid cornerback in the game” from Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Darrelle Revis. It’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks think Sherman’s market value is.

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2. Russell Wilson’s looming payday?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title in only his second season as a starting quarterback. He did this while earning $662,434, or roughly what Hall of Famer Peyton Manning earns per game. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, the Seahawks will have Wilson under their control for his third-round contract through at least 2014. Being that Wilson is one of only three quarterbacks who have a QB rating of over 100 over the last two seasons (Manning and Aaron Rodgers being the other two), the Seahawks (or someone else) will be paying him. How the Seahawks attack free agency this season should give you an idea as to how much money will be left for Wilson.

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1. Championship Hangover?

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The 2003-04 New England Patriots are the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls. In fact, the Patriots are the last team to even return to back-to-back Super Bowls. There is a theory that states that champions aren't as hungry during the season after winning the title because they've already accomplished what they needed to accomplish. Watch how many Seahawks attend the optional mini-camps that will begin in the next couple of months to gauge how hungry the Seahawks are; it’s something GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll will be monitoring as well.