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Originally published July 16, 2012 at 8:03 PM | Page modified July 17, 2012 at 10:44 AM

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Seahawks shouldn't depend too much on reclamation projects

The Seahawks' Earn Everything motto has transformed its roster but the flameout of Mike Williams shows there are risks.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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This is it. Make it or break it year. We either step forward and get to at least 8-8... MORE
Williams got injured and the team picked-up replacement talent that took the job. I... MORE
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Just 18 months ago, after Mike Williams signed a three-year contract extension with the Seahawks and completed a storybook resurrection, coach Pete Carroll made sure to emphasize the moral of the tale.

"I think it's a very obvious statement," Carroll said then. "I hope it's clear."

The statement: Seattle is the NFL's new land of opportunity, and if you prove yourself, you will be rewarded with playing time and a helmet full of cash. The Williams extension, which came at the end of Carroll's first season, highlighted that the Seahawks would be built on objective talent evaluation. With 65 receptions during the 2010 season, Williams went from out of football to the inner circle, establishing the Seahawks' current reputation as a team that thrives on underdogs and reclamation projects.

That Earn Everything motto? It's real. And because of this, the Seahawks have been able to transform their roster quickly and impressively.

But Williams is gone now. The Seahawks released him Friday after a lackluster, injury-burdened season in which he caught only 18 passes and couldn't get into a rhythm with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Just as his rebirth sent a message, so, too, does his departure.

The Seahawks should walk carefully as they rebuild with a good number of underdogs and reclamation projects. Williams is a cautionary tale. It can be difficult to establish — not to mention sustain — success when meandering too much among the discarded, overlooked and waived. While we'd like to think Carroll and general manager John Schneider have a knack for discovering unpolished gems, success in that area can be fleeting.

It's something to monitor in the wake of Williams' flameout. At the end of the 2010 season, you would have thought the Seahawks had found an answer at wide receiver. Instead, Williams was merely glue that didn't last very long. In a sport so dependent on emotion and desire, as well as skill, players like Williams, a 2005 first-round pick who lost his way, can find themselves temporarily. But it's tough for those with significant flaws to maintain in a game so volatile and transient.

The Seahawks look like they have playoff talent, and they'll open training camp in 11 days having to manage expectations for the first time in Carroll's tenure. Still, they are far from a sure thing. They have a slew of surprise breakout stars from last season who must prove to be more than one-year wonders: cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor, linebacker K.J. Wright, wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

If I were betting, I'd put my money on them making it because all except for Browner were recent draft picks (Sherman, Chancellor, Wright) or fresh-from-college undrafted free agents (Baldwin), so they have youth and hunger. But until they establish a track record, it's fair to wonder how they'll respond to newfound fame, as well as the respect and game-planning of opponents.

You can wonder the same about the backup offensive linemen (Paul McQuistan, Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini) who filled in and helped the Seahawks become a rugged rushing team in the second half of last season. Do the Seahawks now have great depth on the offensive line, which had been their weakness? Or was it the illusion of good coaching and motivated players?

Also, proven players — such as running back Marshawn Lynch, fullback Michael Robinson, defensive end Red Bryant and linebacker Leroy Hill — who played some of their best football, need to avoid a regression.

All rising teams must answer these questions. They all start as a bunch of nobodies with potential and turn into somebodies with reputations. And in order to build a deep team within the restrictions of the NFL's hard salary cap, it requires finding underdogs in scouting and having the imagination to make players previously labeled failures fit into your scheme.

All in all, it seems the Seahawks are doing this just fine. Then again, it looked like Williams was a building block just a year ago.

As long as Carroll and Schneider are in charge, the franchise will keep an open mind and find talent in unlikely places. As long as they hit more than they miss, it will be an effective supplemental team-building philosophy. But they still need to do the most damage by making smart decisions with high draft picks and marquee free agents.

Otherwise, they'll be hoping fairy tales are true. And Williams' meteoric resurrection and collapse makes a very obvious statement that they're not.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

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