ESPN rated the Seahawks No. 2 in their NFL Future Power Rankings over the next three seasons.
An obvious — and maybe the most important — question facing the Seahawks as they enter the 2017 season is if their window of opportunity is beginning to close.
The Seahawks are no longer the up-and-coming potential dynasty they were in 2013 when they became the second-youngest team to ever play in a Super Bowl and the youngest to win one.
Because of all the rookies and second-year players on their roster, Seattle is still young overall.
But the heart-and-soul core is aging — the Seahawks have six projected starters on defense this season age 28 or older with three linemen (Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Athyba Rubin) 30 or older.
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And the jury remains out on whether the recent drafts will adequately fill in the team’s needs as the veterans begin to move on — as has been detailed pretty extensively, Seattle hasn’t drafted a position player who has made it to the Pro Bowl since 2013 after drafting eight players from 2010-12 who have made at least one and signing another (Doug Baldwin) as an undrafted free agent.
But if any of that is cause for your concern, here comes ESPN to offer an encouraging word about Seattle’s future Tuesday via its annual NFL Future Power Rankings, which rates teams based on how well-positioned they are to be successful for the next three years.
Seattle comes in second, just behind New England.
Wrote ESPN’s Field Yates in assessing why the Seahawks were rated where they are: “Does any team find more value in places that are otherwise not regarded as gold mines? The Seahawks build the depth of their roster through late-round picks — as is the case around the league — but also have found stars that are foundational pieces at discounted rates in free agency (Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril arrived on modest deals) and in the middle rounds of the draft (Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and more).”
No question that the Seahawks did that from 2010-13. The question remains if they can continue replenish the roster in the same manner — there hasn’t been a fifth-round pick like Sherman or Chancellor since 2011, though admittedly that’s a really high bar that the team has set for itself.
Louis Riddick, meanwhile, assessed the Seahawks’ biggest worry going forward this way: “The Legion of Boom’s reign is coming to an end, with Sherman and Earl Thomas both carrying $10 million-plus cap numbers in 2018, and Chancellor, the team leader, about to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018 at the age of 30. That Seattle drafted four defensive backs this past spring is further proof that change is coming. This unit has been the heart and soul of the Seahawks for the past five seasons; when the transition is complete, where will the team get its attitude and spark?”
There may indeed be no more pressing question about Seattle’s future — a case can easily be made that neither Sherman nor Chancellor will be with the team for more than another year or two, with the Seahawks acknowledging that by trying to acquire reinforcements in the draft, as Riddick points out. We’ll know a lot more 12 months from now on that front.
ESPN’s Mike Sando, meanwhile, tackled the question of what could change for the better for Seattle going forward this way: “The Seahawks could realistically outperform their No. 9 ranking in roster outlook after selecting six players in the second and third rounds of the 2017 draft. No team in the common-draft era (since 1967) has selected more total players across those rounds in a single draft. Quantity does not necessarily equal quality, but the Seahawks did give themselves a chance to restock an already strong roster.”
No question about that, either, as the future of the franchise could well rest on how the last two drafts pan out. Seattle drafted 21 players in 2016 and 2017 and all but one remain on the roster (running back Zac Brooks). But if the season began today, only right tackle Germain Ifedi would seem assured a starting job.
Granted, a handful of others could well emerge as starters before the season is out, as well, and the hope will be that like Sherman, Chancellor, Wilson and others acquired from 2010-12, they win those jobs because they simply couldn’t be kept out of the lineup, quickly emerging as some of the best in the NFL at their positions.
ESPN’s experts banking on that happening with every Seahawks fan hoping they are right.