By Andrew Garda
In OTAs (Offseason Talk & Analysis) all through June and July, the Sports on Earth NFL team will break down each team's offseason transactions, boldest moves and burning questions as they prepare for training camp. Click here for links to every entry in the series.
The Seattle Seahawks -- sorry, the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks -- appear to have very little to do to get ready for the 2014 NFL season.
Dominating defense? Check.
Returning Pro Bowl wide receiver? Check.
Beast running back healthy and ready to go? Checkity check.
But we all know that a team which stops improving and remains stagnant will lose games. Even Super Bowl Champions like the Seahawks can't afford to rest on their laurels because there are plenty of teams ready to take them down.
Biggest Offseason Move: Extending the secondary
How often have we seen a team win a Super Bowl, only to have that team splinter apart as players run off to cash in on their ring? In the current incarnation of the NFL, the answer you are looking for is "often." Which is why repeating is so hard.
Extending Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman were shrewd and necessary moves. The secondary is a big reason for why this defense works the way it does, with Sherman and Thomas being key cogs in that machine.
Thomas has exceptional range, allowing him to move all over the field in both pass coverage and run defense. He has the speed to assist in bracketing a wide receiver in conjunction with one of the corners and he can be left to his own devices to cover a tight end.
Equally aggressive when defending the run, Thomas takes good angles to the ball-carrier and delivers a firm hit when he gets there, and rarely misses a tackle.
Sherman is just as tough at cornerback, using his body to hammer receivers on their routes and out-muscling receivers for jump balls. His length and range make him tough to beat and his presence limits the amount of choices a quarterback has to one side of the field.
On a side note: Much has been made of Sherman staying on one side of the field -- that it makes him less impressive than a guy like Darrelle Revis, who moves with a top receiver. Sherman does what he is tasked to and does it exceedingly well. He doesn't deserve to be knocked for schematic limitations and is well worth the money they are paying him.
Securing those two long term was smart and will keep the secondary -- and in turn the whole defense -- at the peak of its effectiveness.
Like every Super Bowl Champion, the Seahawks had to make some hard choices about who to keep and who to let walk.
Defensively it looks very much like they made the right choice in who they held onto.
Biggest Gamble: So Long and Thanks for all the Donut Jokes, Golden Tate?
Yes, this is a team who is going to have a fully healthy Percy Harvin to run routes for quarterback Russell Wilson. And sure, this is a team which runs the ball more than it throws (420 pass attempts to 509 runs).
It got along fine without a 1,000 yard wide receiver in 2013. Why worry?
Well, worry because while gaining Harvin would have been a bonus, it's now a wash.
Harvin has never capped 1,000 yards or scored more than six touchdowns in a season and has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career.
If the team had kept Tate, they would have had two dynamic receivers, not one (I like Baldwin but "dynamic" is not really an adjective I'd use to describe him). On top of that, Tate would have been much more effective at drawing coverage than Baldwin will be, which means Harvin will see more coverage now. This was a problem in Minnesota with the Vikings as well aside from his rookie year when Sidney Rice was actually good.
His rookie season, by the way, was when he had Brett Favre as a quarterback. The next year (2010) Favre was also there but the aging quarterback missed games due to injury and was overall much less effective.
Maybe it wasn't possible to find the money to keep Tate and also hold onto the other pieces they had. After all, those are the hard choices we spoke of earlier.
But it would have been much easier for Harvin to bounce back from his injury plagued 2012 and 2013 with Tate in the house.
It will be interesting to see how much this offense misses Tate in the coming months.
Biggest Question: Are we seeing the door open for a Lynch departure?
We all know that next to draft season, OTA/Minicamp/Training Camps have the most lying per comment. In fact a rule of thumb could be "you know someone is lying because their lips are moving."
That foundation in place we're left to ask: Are we really going to see a significant increase in Christine Michael's carries? And if so, what does that mean for Marshawn Lynch?
Head coach Pete Carroll started the ball rolling when he started talking about "high expectations" for Michael back in May. Then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell started saying the words "running back" and "committee" in the same sentence.
Bevell: "We are going to be running back by committee. We really like what Christine Michael is doing right now."— Terry Blount (@TerryBlountESPN) June 5, 2014
Even former strength coaches got in on the hype machine.
Have said B4..Strength coach at A&M, who trained both Michael and A.Peterson, told me Christine's athletic explosiveness is on par with A.P.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) June 9, 2014
Lynch has been agitating for a new contract. He skipped OTAs to show his dissatisfaction, an action which was then followed with rumors he might retire if he didn't get the new deal he wanted.
At 28, Lynch has two more years on his deal and will be a 30-year-old free agent in 2016. The next two years (2014-2015) represent a $16 million cap hit.
Michael is just 23, is under a reasonable contract until 2017 and unlike Lynch, arguably has the best years of his career ahead of him.
Lynch wants more money because he sees how bad the market is in free agency is for backs -- and knows it might actually get worse. It doesn't get better when that back is 30.
However the Seahawks are going to look at the investment long term. If they give Michael a lot of carries -- whether or not we're talking full-blown running back committee or not -- you can be sure they're kicking the tires on him to determine not only whether they will pay Lynch more, but at all.
2014 could be Lynch's last as a Seahawk if Michael turns out to be as good as they've hyped him to be.
Bold Prediction: Super Bowl Part Deux
I don't know how bold this really is, but the last time a team won back to back Super Bowls was back in 2004 and 2005 when the New England Patriots did it. Before that? 1998 and 1999 when the Denver Broncos doubled up.
So it's not all that common (once in 15 years and twice in 20 years) and even tougher to do in today's parity-driven NFL.
Buckle up buttercups -- Seattle's going to do it again.
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Andrew Garda is a freelance writer currently murdering Internet trees in the name of NFL football. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he is a contributing writer for Sports on Earth and has been featured on sites such as Bleacher Report, The Jets Blog, Comcast Sportsnet, Footballguys and CheeseheadTV. Garda has been credentialed for many NFL drafts, Senior Bowls, pro days and various NFL events and currently lives in Montclair, N.J., where you can't swing a stick without hitting another sportswriter. Follow him on Twitter at @andrew_garda.