Following the most impressive season in franchise history, the reigning NFL champion Seattle Seahawks will look for an equally impressive encore performance in 2014. While most pundits would agree that it is ridiculously early to talk about a “repeat” Super Bowl appearance, fans in the Pacific Northwest have come to expect nothing short of dominance from their Seahawks over the past two seasons.
Of particular note is Seattle’s defense, which ranked first in the NFL last season due largely to their imposing secondary known league-wide as “The Legion of Boom.” Adding fuel to their fans’ proverbial fire is the fact that Seattle lost very little in free agency. However, some fans may not even recognize a few of the players who will be competing for snaps this year, perhaps even within their infamous secondary.
While players like Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Golden Tate may have become household names during their tenure in Seattle, the Seahawks were thoroughly prepared to lose each of those players in free agency. Perhaps more importantly, though, was the fact they received only minor backlash from their fanbase over the loss of those players.
This allowed head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to stay the course with their intentions for the franchise. This allowed them to re-sign key defensive cogs like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, essentially keeping the core of their dominant defensive unit intact.
Despite their proven track record, it is fair to question a few bold moves made by the Seahawks’ front office this offseason, particularly those involving their well-established secondary. After all, they stood by and watched as two talented defensive contributors – and former Legion of Boom members – left in free agency as Walter Thurmond III signed with the New York Giants and Brandon Browner signed with the New England Patriots. However, rather than chase marquee free agents or spend high draft picks to bolster their secondary, Seattle seemed perfectly happy to allow young players on the roster a chance to compete.
While no one can argue Browner’s value as a physical press corner, there was a good reason Seattle didn’t extend him a contact offer — his history. Prior to his arrival in Seattle, Browner went undrafted in the 2005 draft despite having obvious talent. Though he signed with the Denver Broncos as a priority free agent, he suffered from a plethora of injuries and was subsequently released.
Spurned by the NFL, the seemingly forgotten Browner was offered a contract to play in the CFL where he was able to shirk the injury bug and quickly became an All-Star defensive back. This led to a second chance opportunity with the NFL in 2010 when Carroll was hired to coach a Seahawks team in serious need of a makeover. Browner would go on to become a starter in Seattle, helping to transform an organization with little direction into a legitimate powerhouse in three short years.
However, in 2013, after failing a second drug test in as many seasons, Browner found himself suspended and sidelined for Seattle’s epic Super Bowl push; a decision deemed selfish by his teammates, and one which forced the organization to rely heavily on backup Byron Maxwell.
Maxwell immediately proved his value becoming the latest in a long line of mid-to-late-round draft picks to have success under the Carroll-Schneider regime. In fact, it was likely Maxwell’s late season heroics that allowed the team to feel comfortable showing Browner the door and with good reason.
In his five regular season starts, Maxwell had four interceptions, a forced fumble and seven pass deflections. He performed extremely well throughout the playoffs as well, which only further entrenched him as the starter opposite Pro-Bowler Sherman, making Browner expendable. Choosing to back a young, promising talent like Maxwell rather than shell out a high-end contract for a player who struggled to pass random drug testing should come as no shock.
Replacing Thurmond could prove more challenging, though Carroll and Schneider seem plenty confident in cornerback Jeremy Lane. He has shown real promise in limited duties over the past two years as both a slot corner and special teams gunner. His competitive attitude and hustle on the field likely contributed to his earning more opportunities this year, allowing Seattle to move on from the oft-injured Thurmond.
See if Maxwell and Lane can step into the roles that Carroll has become so heavily reliant upon in the secondary by getting your Seahawks tickets today.