The Legion of Boom, Beast Mode, Hausch Money, the Ginger Ninja. They were all instrumental in the Seahawks' back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. But the Seahawks are just the latest example of a potential dynasty that never really arrived due in part to the constraints of the cap and free agency.
It seems like it all came and went so quickly.
The startling 150 points in three games late in the 2012 season that showed the Seahawks were really on the verge of something special.
The march to the first Super Bowl title in 2013 that in retrospect almost seems like it was pre-ordained — even if at the time there were about three different occasions when it all could have gone wrong.
The almost repeat the following season.
The Legion of Boom, Beast Mode, Hausch Money, the Ginger Ninja.
Is it really all over already?
But one of the men who was at the center of it all and one of the few who remains — middle linebacker Bobby Wagner — marvels that it lasted as long as it did.
“Us all being together for six years, that’s unheard of, especially the way the CBA (the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement) is set up now,’’ Wagner said. “It’s rare that guys stay together for three years. So we were able to stay together for a long time.’’
Indeed, free agency and the salary cap — which arrived in their current form in 1993 and 1994, respectively — literally changed the game forever.
Bill Polian helped construct the Bills of the early ‘90s and the Colts of the Peyton Manning era, and he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2014, in an interview with The Seattle Times, Polian said that NFL history should be looked at in two distinct time frames.
“NFL history, in my humble opinion, ought to be judged pre-salary cap and post-salary cap,’’ Polian said. “With the cap and free agency, it’s a completely different game.”
Not that that’s necessarily news.
But the Seahawks are the latest example of a potential dynasty that never really arrived due in part to the constraints of the cap and free agency.
Seattle began losing players off the 2013 Super Bowl title team almost immediately, cutting defensive team captain Red Bryant in a cap savings move just a few weeks later. They also could not match an offer for Golden Tate, Seattle’s leading receiver that year.
It’s the kind of thing some of the noted dynastys of earlier eras didn’t have to worry about.
With no cap or free agency, the 1966 and 1967 Packers — the first team to win consecutive Super Bowls, which capped a run of three straight NFL titles — had just one different starter.
The 1972-73 Dolphins, which after the Packers, were the next team to repeat, had just two primary starters change from one year to the next.
When the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years in the ‘70s, 22 players were on all four championship teams (during a time when no more than 47 could be on a roster, and teams rostered 43 or 45 in most years). The 1979 Steelers won the Super Bowl with a roster in which every player had never played for any team other than Pittsburgh.
But the advent of free agency began to make such stability almost impossible.
Even from 2013 to 2014, the Seahawks had seven different primary starters, four of the changes of which were due almost solely to the salary cap.
The Seahawks tried to counter with a strategy of keeping their core players, those it considered elite talents who couldn’t be easily or logically replaced. From April 2013 to August of 2015, Seattle re-signed the likes of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson and Wagner to big, new deals all in a span of roughly 28 months
As a result, in 2015, 56 percent of the Seahawks’ salary cap was tied up in their top 11 players.
At the time, Jason Fitzgerald of the football financial web site OvertheCap.com dubbed it the “Superstar Strategy’’ and noted that other teams would be watching to see how it worked to devote so much money to so few players. That strategy meant needing to fill out the rest of the roster as efficiently as possible, and maximizing success by drafting to build a team around the superstars good enough to still win big.
As has been well-documented, the biggest impact was felt on the offensive line as Seattle went from spending the most on the line in 2013 to the least by 2016.
From 2013 onward, Seattle inevitably also couldn’t continue hitting in the draft as well as it did from 2010-12, when it brought in most of the key players listed above. Seattle hasn’t drafted a position player who has made the Pro Bowl (or at least not yet, anyway) since 2012.
The Seahawks were still sticking to the “core player’’ strategy a year ago when they re-signed Chancellor to a hefty deal, which came a few months after re-upping Bennett.
But age and injury crept up more quickly than the team likely anticipated, resulting in the retirement or the jettisoning of Sherman, Avril, Chancellor and Bennett following the season, with the longterm constraints of the salary cap also playing a role in the current stalemate with Thomas.
In 2016, Seahawks general manager John Schneider spoke words that now resonate as both foreshadowing and maybe foreboding.
“That’s just the way this league is right now,’’ Schneider said. “There’s no question it’s built on parity, and the more players you acquire the more players you are going to lose at a certain point.
“We would love to have all of our guys back. Unfortunately we are not going to be able to have all of them back based on what the landscape looks like in the draft and free agency.’’
A few years later, it’s left the Seahawks in what Schneider has called a “re-set’’ phase, needing to build another team around the few superstars who remain.