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Originally published March 17, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Page modified March 18, 2014 at 11:51 AM

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Seahawks set to buck free-agency system

The Seahawks appear to be fine for the foreseeable future despite a growing list of players who have opted to leave through free agency.


Seattle Times columnist

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Rest assured, the NFL is taking comfort in your discomfort. The rampant unease over the Seahawks’ defections means their master plan is doing its evil work, just as planned. Somewhere, Pete Rozelle is smiling.

The NFL is a league predicated on an ideal of parity, and legislated to thwart sustained success. Yesterday’s victory parade is designed to be followed by today’s hand-wringing, and tomorrow’s backsliding. It’s not by accident that four of the previous nine Super Bowl champions failed to even make the playoffs the next year.

Yet the Seahawks may just be that rarest of species, a team that can defy the dynasty-bashing intentions of the powers that be. So, as a steady stream of Seattle free agents march off to new homes – Golden Tate to Detroit, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to Jacksonville (aka Seahawks South), Walter Thurmond to the New York Giants, Breno Giacomini to the New York Jets, Brandon Browner to New England – here’s my gentle advice:

Quit freakin’ until they’re done tweakin’.

As jarring as it is to watch key, well-liked contributors walk out the door, the Seahawks are going to be just fine.

Of course, the departures sting, and they will cut into the exquisite depth that was so instrumental in the Seahawks’ title run. You worry also about any alterations to the positive locker room atmosphere that thrived last year.

But the beauty of the young and bountiful talent base assembled by Pete Carroll and John Schneider is that it is set up to be self-sustaining, despite the inevitable battering that results from bowing down to the salary cap.

The trims, while painful, have been minimal compared to the massive housecleaning undergone by other recent Super Bowl champions. The Ravens, for instance, were ransacked after their triumph in Super Bowl XLVII; 13 months after beating the 49ers in New Orleans, they have fewer than half their starters still on the roster.

But the Seahawks, with an average age of 26.4 years, according to research by Chase Stewart of Pro Football Reference and Football Perspective, were the second youngest Super Bowl team ever. That speaks of a team that wasn’t just making one last-ditch run at glory, but rather is still in mid-peak.

Even better, the core of their team has either been locked up already (Marshawn Lynch, Kam Chancellor, Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett), or are still operating on team-friendly rookie contracts (Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Russell Okung and the biggie, Russell Wilson).

Oh, the day of reckoning is coming, and coming fast, but the Seahawks should be formidable for the foreseeable future. So astute have Carroll and Schneider been in talent acquisition that they have replacements already waiting for most of the players who left. And they’ve earned at least a measure of trust that they’ll be able to fill in the remaining holes via the draft or free agency.

All that doesn’t guarantee more titles — especially not playing in a rugged division like the NFC West, where one stumble can cost you vital home-field advantage in the playoffs — but they’ll head into 2014 as the team to beat. And it won’t just be an honorary title.

Every decade, it seems, has a dominating franchise that borders on dynastic – the Packers in the 1960s, Steelers in the 1970s, 49ers in the 1980s, Cowboys in the 1990s, and the Patriots in the first decade of the 2000s.

No team is better set up than the Seahawks to make a run at the current decade. Jake Bechta of the National Football Post last year listed five traits of an NFL dynasty — a special quarterback; stability at the top; an owner committed to winning and not just profits; a great scouting department, system and philosophy; and coaches who develop young players.

The Seahawks qualify on all counts. Looking back at the aforementioned teams, the quarterback-coach combo seems paramount in sustained success — Bart Starr and Vince Lombardi, Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll, Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick — the latter two being the only ones to break through in the Salary Cap Era.

It’s at least conceivable to imagine Wilson and Carroll edging their way onto that list, though I’m not quite ready to put a second-year quarterback among those Hall of Famers.

Nor is that to say a dynasty awaits the Seahawks. Football is too fickle a game to make those assurances. With the forces of parity constantly at work, Seattle’s brain trust will have to maintain their amazing success rate in talent evaluation to avoid succumbing at some point. That will be a daunting task.

But the good news is that at the moment, all the Seahawks championship dreams are still intact. Whether the NFL likes it or not.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @StoneLarry.



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