Last seen parading through the streets of Seattle in front of hundreds of thousands of fans, the Seahawks reconvened in private this week to start the road to what they hope is another Super Bowl title.
The Seahawks on Monday officially began phase one of their offseason workout program at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, two weeks of strength and conditioning drills. Next on the agenda is the NFL draft May 8-10, and then a few weeks of organized training activities and minicamp before summer break, and then training camp in July.
It’ll be a while before we know the answer to the one pressing matter that looms — can the Seahawks repeat as champs?
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Q: It sure seemed like the Seahawks lost a lot of players in free agency. Why was that?
A: Seattle did indeed lose stalwart players such as receiver Golden Tate, offensive linemen Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan, cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, as well as releasing defensive linemen Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, all regular (or semiregular) starters in 2014.
Seattle, meanwhile, signed just three unrestricted free agents from other teams, none of whom are locks to make the roster — receiver Taylor Price, offensive lineman Stephen Schilling and cornerback Phillip Adams.
But while fans may have grown weary of watching popular players leave, it was all part of the team’s strategy to create as much cap space as possible to ensure that the most critical members of the team — namely quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas — can be re-signed at some point over the next year or so. With roughly $15 million in salary-cap money remaining for the 2014 season, Seattle appears in good shape to get that done.
In fact, reports circulated early this week that the Seahawks and Sherman have made significant progress toward getting a deal done. The general expectation is that the Seahawks may be able to sign both Sherman and Thomas before training camp begins in July, possibly at the same time.
Also, consider that Seattle will be eligible for compensatory mid-to-late-round draft picks in 2015 as payback for their net loss in free agents, likely getting the maximum four.
Q: Is Percy Harvin healthy?
A: The never-ending question of 2013 apparently can be answered with a definitive “yes’’ as 2014 begins. Harvin is participating in the team’s current workouts, which are officially voluntary, by all accounts having recovered from the injuries of 2013.
Seattle’s assumptions that Harvin will be healthy were one reason the team didn’t get involved in a bidding war to retain Tate.
Q: What are the biggest holes left by the free-agent losses?
A: As noted, a healthy Harvin could make up for the loss of Tate, and Seattle might also add a receiver in the draft. So the bigger issues may be who fills in at right tackle for Giacomini, and how the Seahawks make up for the depth lost on the defensive line. Second-year man Michael Bowie may be first in line at right tackle — he started seven games there last year when Giacomini was injured. But the Seahawks could look to the draft for help up front, as well.
As for the defensive line, Seattle will hope young players such as Greg Scruggs, Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams — all presumably healthy — can progress quickly to fill in the void. The draft could also yield some help. But the Seahawks may also simply ask vets such as Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel to play more snaps this year than in 2013, when no one on the line played more than 57 percent.
Q: With Tate gone, who returns punts?
A: Good question. Recall that Harvin is essentially just a kickoff returner — he’s never returned a punt in the NFL. Sherman was actually the listed backup there at the end of 2013. Free-agent signee Adams could be one candidate, returning 33 over the past two years for the Raiders. But others will surely get their shots.
Q: Will the team be spoiled by the success of 2013?
A: That will be one of the key yearlong questions that also won’t be properly answered until the season is over. Players and coach Pete Carroll, though, seem to be embracing what has been a historically tough challenge — just eight teams have repeated — saying whenever asked that the goal is to win another Super Bowl.
Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith said all the personnel change, which will throw some younger players into larger roles, could actually be a motivating force.
“Winning is cool,’’ Smith said. “But at the same time we feel like we have a lot to prove personally, and I feel like that will make us a lot better team.’’
Hawks bring in Ireland
With the NFL draft approaching, the Seahawks have added some extra help for their war room — former Miami general manager Jeff Ireland. Ireland, who was the Dolphins’ GM from 2008 until deparing in January, will for now serve as a consultant for the draft, which will be held May 8-10, a league source confirmed. It’s unclear if he will have a longer term role with the Seahawks.