And so the Seahawks’ much-publicized, longshot pursuit of Jared Allen ended in typical fashion. He declined to take less money to play for the defending Super Bowl champions. Instead, he took more to play for the Chicago Bears, one of a dozen or so NFL teams whose hopes to contend reside around “maybe.”
This was the expected result, especially after Allen twice visited the Seahawks but couldn’t consummate a deal, but the disappointment is surprisingly high. Allen toyed with the idea just long enough to get you dreaming of the addition of a future Hall of Fame end to a defensive line that already gobbles up quarterbacks. He toyed with the idea just long enough to get you dreaming that, for a second straight offseason, the Seahawks would be able to pull off a coup of a discount.
A year ago, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett took short-term contracts at midlevel salaries to join the Seahawks’ funhouse, chase a title and prove their worth on a big stage. It worked. Bennett, who signed a one-year deal, led the Seahawks in sacks and turned it into a lucrative new four-year contract that guarantees him $16 million. Avril, who will be in the second and final year of his contract next season, hopes to do the same after 2014.
But as good as that tandem is, as well as they fit in the Seahawks’ defense, they’re not Jared Allen. He’s older, more accomplished and more acclaimed. He carries a résumé with 128½ career sacks and seven straight seasons with double-digit sacks, and he has the ego that comes with those numbers. He saw defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers get big deals in free agency, knowing that he’s a better combination of production and health. So Allen wanted to be paid similarly. At this level of pro sports, players often equate money with respect, and Allen wasn’t going to settle. He even suggested he would retire out of pride rather than take what he considered a low offer.
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The Seahawks didn’t lose Allen. They never had him. They wanted him, but it wasn’t enough to blow up their long-term plans to extend the contracts of Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson, all of whom will likely cost them $30 million-plus guarantees. The fact that the Seahawks came close enough for the superstar defensive end to take two visits says much about the allure of this championship organization.
But in the end, the Seahawks were reportedly offering a deal in the vicinity of $6 million to $7 million per year for two years. The Bears nabbed Allen with a four-year deal that guarantees him $15.5 mil.
Before you go screaming at Allen for being selfish or greedy or even unconcerned about winning, remember the coldhearted manner in which the Seahawks do business to manage the NFL’s hard salary cap. Consider it a survival tactic. They have two choices: Be financially responsible, almost to the point of frustration, or watch the system dismantle a championship contender far too soon.
Going all-in on Allen would’ve been foolish. He’s a special talent, but he turns 32 next week. You don’t mortgage your future to sign a 32-year-old to a four-year deal. Yes, the Bears can get out of the final year of that deal. Yes, the $8 million price tag is worth it in the short term. But the Seahawks have homegrown talent that deserves to be retained and will play a bigger role in whether this franchise sustains success.
The Seahawks didn’t need Allen. They wanted him at the right price. Sometimes, the aging superstar without a championship will sacrifice anything to chase a ring. Most times, there is greater importance placed on earning as much money as possible for as long as you can because careers in sports, especially football, are so short.
No hard feelings. No villains. No victims. The Seahawks won’t complain about Allen flirting with them, which helped draw out the Bears. It’s just NFL business. The Seahawks can’t complain because they’ve cut good, productive players who wanted to be here, including Red Bryant and Chris Clemons recently, because their salaries were too high.
It’s easy to get caught up in free agency, watch big names go elsewhere, lose some of your players, hear talk of teams gaining ground on you and want to make a splashy countermove. But that’s not the way to sustain success in the NFL.
The best way is to devise a well-thought-out plan that focuses on retaining your most important players, acknowledges the loss of some talent and minimizes the dependence on free agency. You must trust your system, continue to draft well and take smart risks. That’s what Seahawks general manager John Schneider is doing.
For all the talk about what the Seahawks have lost in free agency, they still have nine of 11 starters returning on the league’s No. 1 defense. And Avril and Bennett — two guys who were technically reserves but impact the game like starters — are the probable replacements for Bryant and Clemons. On offense, despite the losses of wide receiver Golden Tate and right tackle Breno Giacomini, nine starters remain, too.
If you’re fretting about the Seahawks losing depth, you’re forgetting how they amassed it. It wasn’t about signing big-name free agents and drafting can’t-miss prospects. It was about getting the most out of underappreciated talent.
Winning a Super Bowl shouldn’t make you desperate to get another one. It should make you confident that your way will continue to bear fruit.
There’s no need for the Seahawks to change the blueprint, not even for Jared Allen.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JerryBrewer