Seattle's decisions over the weekend further accentuated what many around the league are now calling the team's "Superstar Strategy."
So in case you spent the weekend out on Lake Washington basking in the sun, it’s worth quickly recapping what happened in what was a dizzying few days for the Seahawks:
— Signed quarterback Russell Wilson on Friday to a four-year, $86.7 million extension through 2019 that makes him the second-highest paid player in the league
— Signed Bobby Wagner on Saturday to a four-year, $43 million extension through 2019 that makes him the highest-paid middle linebacker (though Carolina’s Luke Kuechly will likely surpass that soon and has had an option picked up on his deal for 2016 paying him $11.1 million;
— Cut DT Tony McDaniel on Sunday to save $3.625 million against the salary cap to make it all work.
And for now, the major salary decisions for the Seahawks appear to be done other than working out something with strong safety Kam Chancellor to get him back in camp.
The Seahawks are not in a real hurry to redo Chancellor’s contract and set a precedent of ripping up a deal with three years left — Chancellor’s deal runs through 2017. But the Seahawks may be willing to do something similar to what they did a year ago with Marshawn Lynch, when they guaranteed an additional $1.5 million that was in Lynch’s contract already but not guaranteed.
What the decision on McDaniel also made clear is that the Seahawks have some faith in Brandon Mebane, the longest-tenured Seahawk who missed the last seven games of last season with a hamstring injury.
Many have viewed Seattle’s decision in finding some cap room as either cutting McDaniel or Mebane, who has a $5.5 million cap number for this season.
It was telling that Carroll volunteered praise of Mebane during an answer on what the team will do now at the interior spots with McDaniel now gone, noting Mebane’s conditioning and recovery from his injury.
“By the way, in case you guys missed it, (Brandon) Mebane was great,” Carroll said. “Gosh he’s come out flying. I think Brandon is probably in the best shape of his life so he’s ready to play nose tackle and (Ahtyba) Rubin will play three-technique for the most part. But both those guys could flip. There will be times when we might want to match up and we’ll do different things. We’ll uncover the versatility as we go through camp and the early season.”
Seattle spending as much as it did on Wilson and Wagner has accentuated what many NFL observers are calling “Seattle’s Superstar Strategy” of paying big money to the top players and finding younger, cheaper talent to fill in elsewhere. OvertheCap.com has a good breakdown of that here, and writes:
“No team in the NFL comes close to competing on this scale. $113.6 million per year tied up in who the Seahawks perceive as the 11 most valuable additions to their team. While salary cap costs can certainly be manipulated, the cost on an annual basis represents about 80% of the current salary cap limit of $143.28 million.”
A couple of other telling grafs from that article:
“These are superstars and this is a superstar roster, the likes of which has likely not been seen since the earliest days of the salary cap when the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and to a lesser extent, Denver Broncos, were finding ways to keep star filled teams together. I’d imagine the modern team that would most resemble this grouping is the Indianapolis Colts in the heyday of Manning, Harrison, and James, but they never had this kind of across the board investment.
“To put these numbers in perspective the top 11 marginal valued players on the Packers, who are the other big spender, cost $96 million in APY at $42.5 million in marginal value. The Cowboys are at $95/31 and the Dolphins at $88/$40. In their division the ranks are the Cardinals at $88/$26, Rams at $65/$30, and stripped down 49ers at $72/$24. Quite frankly nobody is close to the Seahawks investment in star players.”
What going that route also means is an increasing reliance on finding younger, cheaper talent to fill in the gaps, a strategy we have seen most specifically on Seattle’s offensive line the last few years, where the Seahawks have let go of moderately-priced vets such as James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini and replaced them with young, cheap players such as Alvin Bailey and Justin Britt.
That strategy also makes training camp days like today that much more important to continue finding that talent.