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Seahawks dynasty? Hold that thought

3/24/2014 - NFL

The Seattle Seahawks soon will learn a painful reality that comes with being newly crowned Super Bowl champions. All those good vibes that came with hoisting a Lombardi trophy don't mean it will be easier to deal with significant departures of key veterans.

The same holds true for the excitement of being such a young squad -- that benefit also breeds heavier expectations and more questions about how the inexperienced will handle success.

In other words, let's not start talking about "dynasty" with the Seahawks just yet. There are still plenty of things that have to happen before they can make that title stick.

There's been a lot of discussion in the media this offseason about how teams will manage to keep up with what Seattle did to win its first Super Bowl. There probably needs to be more conversation about how hard it could be for the Seahawks to repeat their dominant performance of 2013.

After all, the last time we saw a championship squad brimming with so much youth and talent, the Green Bay Packers had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. The Packers have had their share of great moments since -- including three consecutive NFC North titles and a 19-game winning streak that spanned the 2010-11 seasons -- but no world championships have occurred in Titletown since that point.

What we learned from the Packers is the same thing that should be applied to the Seahawks: It's pretty damn hard to build a dynasty in today's NFL.

There have been only four franchises in the past 25 years to win consecutive Super Bowls (New England, Denver, Dallas and San Francisco), and the Patriots are the only team to accomplish that feat within the past decade.

The 2010 Packers seemed primed to take their place among those franchises until other NFC teams blossomed into legitimate contenders. At the time Green Bay claimed its title, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had logged only one season in his current job and the San Francisco 49ers had yet to hire head coach Jim Harbaugh.

The Seahawks already find themselves in a conference stocked with legitimate competition. The 49ers were one Colin Kaepernick interception from beating Seattle in the NFC title game this past season. The Carolina Panthers have used a blueprint similar to Seattle's -- tough defense combined with a ball-control offense -- to become the newest power in the NFC South. A slew of other teams have enough talent and potential (including Green Bay, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta and Arizona) to make some noise in next year's postseason.

Seattle stormed through the NFC last season because it had the right mix of attitude and depth. Now we get to see how the Seahawks respond when that impressive chemistry is disrupted by the predictable departures of valuable free agents.

As is the case with every team that wins a Super Bowl, key role players suddenly become far more coveted on the open market when their contracts end. As good as Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been at assembling talent for their franchise, it gets significantly harder to keep hitting home runs in the personnel department on an annual basis.

The Seahawks already have lost two good cornerbacks (Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond), two productive defensive ends (Red Bryant and Chris Clemons) and two wide receivers (Sidney Rice and Golden Tate).

The optimists will look at some of these players and say the Seahawks won without them, as cornerback Byron Maxwell emerged while Browner was suspended late last year and Rice played in only eight games before tearing his ACL midway through the season.

That also would be a simplistic way of approaching this issue. Bryant and Clemons were key members of a defensive line rotation that thrived because of its depth, while Tate proved to be an underrated playmaker in clutch situations.

As much as the Seahawks had to be excited about their biggest offseason move thus far -- re-signing free-agent defensive end Michael Bennett -- they will feel those losses at some point. It's also likely that they'll face another issue that creeps into the locker rooms of championship teams: the sense that stars need to be paid accordingly. The best thing you can say about Seattle right now is that it is blessed with talent that is incredibly inexpensive. That most certainly will change in the not-too-distant future.

The Seahawks will have to determine what kind of huge extension quarterback Russell Wilson deserves after becoming a Super Bowl-winning signal-caller in only two short seasons. Don't be surprised if Wilson's people pay close attention to what the 49ers eventually give Kaepernick, who is said to be hunting for a deal in the range of $18-20 million per year. Seattle also will have to pay big money to left tackle Russell Okung, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas. Given their status within the league, none of these players will come at a discounted rate.

If Carroll and Schneider can take care of all these veterans without somebody being miffed about their cash, it will be one of the most impressive feats of their tenures. If they do pull that off, the odds are good they won't have enough money to hold on to some of their younger emerging talents down the road. (A rising star like Maxwell likely will be a coveted commodity on the open market a few years from now.) This doesn't mean the Seahawks will bottom out in the coming seasons. It only means that their work really is just beginning.

What the Seahawks have working in their favor is the knowledge that they've put themselves ahead of their competition with creative scouting and innovative management. One of the most commonly posed questions to opposing coaches and general managers during this year's scouting combine was whether it was possible to copy the Seahawks' formula for success.

Suddenly, a lot of people wanted to know how more teams could find low-round picks who can make immediate contributions and long, rangy defensive backs who can intimidate receivers at will. As Carroll noted during his news conference, it's always been hard to do both.

It's even more difficult to do what the Seahawks are about to attempt. They have the talent to contend for more championships, and they most certainly won't lack for desire. The bigger issue is whether they have the ability to trump what recent history has told us about building dynasties in the NFL.

Given how their offseason has started and the tough choices they have yet to make, their odds aren't nearly as great as one might imagine.