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Originally published February 26, 2014 at 7:05 PM | Page modified February 27, 2014 at 4:41 PM

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Seahawks fans need to embrace change amid tough salary-cap calls

Seahawks face tough decisions as they wrestle with the NFL salary cap. Yet there’s no reason to think the team’s braintrust can’t continue to find good values in strange places as they replace popular players.


Times staff columnist

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If the Seahawks’ championship tale were made into a movie, the director would leave out the part at the end about what happened to each character. It would diminish the happy story if you had to explain that so many of Seahawks couldn’t stick around because the team had to manage the salary cap.

No, you would end with Russell Wilson giving Pete Carroll a Gatorade shower, or with Marshawn Lynch throwing Skittles at the parade, or with general manager John Schneider having fun with the team by going shirtless and wearing a plastic WWE championship belt. Those are fun, feel-good moments. They’re great scenes to walk off to because they allow the joy of the Seahawks’ first championship to remain frozen.

It’s unfortunate that celebrations don’t last forever.

It’s even more unfortunate that a Lombardi Trophy makes it harder to stomach what must happen next.

It has been only 25 days since Super Bowl XLVIII, but the reports and speculation are already trickling out. The Seahawks are expected to cut Sidney Rice, which is no surprise. The Seahawks are seriously considering cutting Red Bryant, which will sting more. Chris Clemons and Zach Miller might have to go, too. And while part of this maneuvering would be to re-sign younger free agents such as Michael Bennett and Golden Tate, the Seahawks would be wise to draw a hard line in those negotiations because, in the near future, they’ll want to sign Pro Bowlers Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman to mega-contracts.

This is life in the NFL. There are always tough decisions to make. But they will seem even harder now because you finally witnessed a Seahawks team that you couldn’t get enough of, a champion that smashed the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl, a squad that, if the salary-cap rules were different, the Seahawks wouldn’t tweak very much.

Instead, they’ll turn over at least a quarter of the roster, and it won’t just be revamping the bench. They’ll lose starters and significant contributors. And it will be an annual, painful thing.

You spend a lifetime waiting for your favorite team to stand atop the NFL, and less than a month later, you’re fretting about whether they can keep a championship core together.

Get used to it.

Get past it.

And since Schneider and his staff are outstanding talent evaluators, let’s add this: Get excited about change.

Lost in the concern about potential losses is the trust that Schneider, Carroll and Co. deserve. They don’t get blind faith; they’re not immune to mistakes. But there’s little reason to believe that the Seahawks won’t replenish the roster with good, young talent. There’s little reason to believe they won’t continue to draft well and find underrated stars in strange places and make wise decisions about which players to retain. There’s little reason to believe they won’t keep the same open-minded approach in developing players.

The Seahawks didn’t happen upon a championship. They won with a specific plan and philosophy about team building. Good players will come and go, but the process through which the Seahawks identify those players remains intact.

This isn’t the time to deviate from the plan or succumb to sentimentality. It would be easy to stop being proactive and keep this team together until it reaches salary-cap hell. But the Seahawks want to be good for a long time, and to do that, they’ll likely identify six to eight keepers on this roster and make cold-hearted decisions about the rest of the core when the time comes.

As for the human side of doing business this way, well, it stinks. But that’s the NFL. No one accepts the cold reality of the league with more grace than Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson.

“If you think there’s loyalty in this game, that’s the player’s fault,” Robinson said during the Seahawks’ playoff run. “That’s your fault. Because there’s not. Coming into this thing, you understand that eventually you’re going to get cut. Eventually, it’s going to be your last snap with the organization.”

If there’s no loyalty, then what is there in the NFL?

“Value,” said Robinson, who was released by the Seahawks before the 2013 season began but brought back around midseason. “You make yourself valuable to the organization for as long as you can, and in as many ways as you can, and you get to enjoy a little bit of longevity. You get to build relationships. That’s what it’s about.”

Bryant, the Seahawks’ defensive captain, would be a significant loss. So would Miller, the consummate pro, and Clemons, who anchored the team’s pass rush before struggling after recovering from a knee injury last year.

But Schneider and Carroll have vowed to keep the team young and relevant. That will require change — harsh, difficult change. But along with the unknown of change, there’s also opportunity. Few franchises in sports, let alone the NFL, have capitalized on those opportunities as well as the Seahawks have the past four years.

The celebration is over. Some folks must leave, sadly. But if the Seahawks are shrewd, the party will continue.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277

or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JerryBrewer



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