A champion has been crowned and many others are left to pick up the pieces. With the 2013 season officially over, the process can now begin anew, and the two Super Bowl finalists can look to 2014. However, the outlooks for both the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks are extremely different. The Seahawks have to look at re-signing their incredible defensive talents, many of which are looking for considerable increases from their rookie deals. On the other hand, the Broncos will look to keep certain pieces, and even reload at some spots. But so long as they have number 18 under center, the Broncos’ future looks bright. Here is an overlook of both Super Bowl contenders.
6 Seattle Seahawks
Since winning Super Bowl XLVIII a few weeks ago, the Seahawks have made no secret that this is one of many Lombardi trophies they want to bring home to the 12th man. Before they can even get to training camp though, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider will need to do some serious number crunching. Many members of their feared ‘’Legion of Boom’’, and other key players are looking to get fair increases from their rookie deals, and the Seahawks will do what they can to make that happen. But with players like Golden Tate saying they are open to “hometown” discounts, and others like Michael Bennett saying that they don’t want to give discounts, that “this isn’t Costco”, you can imagine that the winter will not be relaxing for the Seattle front office.
With nine offensive players set to become free agents, the Seahawks have as much work to do on the offensive side of the ball as they do on the defensive side. Not only that, but some of the players up for renewal are key offensive contributors. Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Michael Robinson are three of the biggest names, but starting offensive tackle Breno Giacomini will also want to re-sign his contract, which earned him $4.25 million in 2013. But with Tate, Baldwin and Robinson all earning less than $1 million in 2013, it’s easy to see how difficult the cap puzzle will be for the Seattle front office. The truth is that someone somewhere is going to need to go.
Luckily for them, the Seahawks have many big pieces that are somewhat expendable which would in effect free up some very valuable cap space. We've already seen Sidney Rice hit the chopping block. Rice spent the majority of the 2013 season out with a serious knee injury, and only caught 15 passes for 231 yards. It seems that with the emergence of Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin, and if Percy Harvin can stay healthy for extended periods of time, Rice’s high priced services will longer be required. Releasing Rice frees up $7.3 million, enough to sign a few high priority players.
The big quandary for the Seahawks is on defense. Michael Bennett, Chris Maragos, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond are the notables who are up for renewal. But even more pressing is the re-signing of the famed “Legion of Boom”. Both Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are set to become free agents in 2015. In an ultimate statement of faith, the Seahawks want to be able to sign both of them before their contracts reach their expiration. However, the same quandary remains as on offense: finding the cap space. Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Brandon Mebane hold a total cap number of $24.55 million. With the plethora of defensive linemen that the Seahawks have, John Schneider and Pete Carroll may want to cut ties with one of these players in order to give space for Bennett (if he is in their plans), and to allow more leeway when negotiating Sherman and Thomas’ contracts. One thing is certain, the numbers don’t add up right now as the roster is, and the Seahawks defense could look very different in 2014.
3 Denver Broncos
If John Elway made one thing clear during his end of season press conference, it was that the goal remained the same: bring a Super Bowl back to Denver. While they may have come up short this year, the Broncos have nothing to be ashamed of. Their record-setting offense and quarterback can give hope to everybody in Denver that the Broncos can make another run at the Lombardi Trophy in 2014. However, they are not without their offseason puzzle as well. Many key offensive and defensive playmakers could be on their way out, and will need substantial amounts of money to keep them in Denver. Luckily for the Broncos however, the players up for new deals don’t necessarily have the same monetary requirements as Seattle.
The most glaring name is Eric Decker on the offensive side. The fifth year player out of Minnesota caught 24 touchdowns in 2013 and 2012, and caught 172 passes for 2,352 yards in the same span. The main issue here is that Decker has always played second fiddle to Demaryius Thomas, but wants to be paid as a number 1 during this free agency period. The problem lies in the fact that many GMs across the league see him as a number 2, or even a number 3. But with the abundance of talented receivers they have, the Broncos can afford to let him go, unless Decker wants a pay cut.
The other big name on offense is Knowshon Moreno. The former Georgia Bulldog finally had the breakout season the Broncos had been waiting for. He rushed for 1,038 yards on 241 attempts, and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. The Broncos can’t really afford to let go of their prized 1000-yard rusher. With unproven backs like Montee Ball and C.J. Anderson behind him, Moreno is invaluable to the Broncos. The key will be able to juggle Decker’s demands while also trying to pay Moreno what is rightfully his. But with players like Joel Dreesen and Jacob Tamme commanding very rich deals for backup tight ends, they may turn out to be luxuries the Broncos cannot afford, especially with Julius Thomas emerging as an elite tight end. Releasing them may free up valuable cap space.
Equally crucial on defense are the tasks of re-signing defensive end Shaun Philips and corner Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. Philips, who was signed on a one-year deal, yielded 10 sacks in 2013 and made an immediate impact on a Denver defense that had to play much of the season without pass-rusher Von Miller. However, recent negotiations between the Broncos and Philips show that both sides are nearing a deal, and many expect Philips to be back in Denver for the 2014 season. With Von Miller coming back, Broncos’ fans will have reason to watch an exhilarating defense. But more crucial is Rogers-Cromartie. With the ageing Champ Bailey potentially pondering retirement, John Elway will need to throw everything at DRC in order to keep him both happy, and in Denver.
Of both situations, Seattle’s is both more difficult and more appealing. The Seahawks have to find a way to keep one of the youngest teams in the NFL in as good shape as possible, despite the salary cap restrictions. If John Schneider and Pete Carroll can find a way to piece together this puzzle, fans could be seeing the 12th man flag fly at the top the NFL world for a very long time. The Broncos on the other hand seem to be on the clock. With Peyton Manning only getting older, it seems that the glue that is holding the Broncos together may dissolve soon. With a defense that was far from dominant, only time will tell how long the offense will put Denver on its back. But the 2014 Broncos will be a force to reckon with, as will the Seahawks.