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Seahawks' 2014 opponents feature several of NFL's top free agents
Last Wednesday, we took a look at which free agents have come and gone within football's most dominant division - the NFC West. Today, we highlight who else the Seahawks can expect to see opposite the line of scrimmage when the 2014 season kicks off in early September.
The NFL schedule won't be released until next month, but the Seahawks' opponents for the upcoming year are already set. In addition to their traditional NFC West foes - the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and St. Louis Rams - Seattle will host the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks will visit the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, and Washington Redskins.
Every upcoming Seahawks adversary has been active in free agency thus far, some clubs a bit more than others.
Here's a look at the top free agents that have signed with each of the Seahawks' 2014 opponents:
See you at CenturyLink Field...
Denver Broncos - S T.J. Ward, CB Aqib Talib & DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware
The Broncos lost by 35 points in Super Bowl XLVIII to your Seattle Seahawks, learning first-hand that defense still wins championships. So how did the team that finished 2013 with the highest scoring offense in NFL history respond? They went out and reloaded the other side of the football, investing in hard-hitting safety T.J. Ward (formerly with the Cleveland Browns), adding one of the League's top cover men in cornerback Aqib Talib (New England Patriots), and signing productive pass rusher DeMarcus Ware (Dallas Cowboys). The trio of big-name, free-agent signees should bolster a defensive unit that finished last year ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in yards and points allowed per game.
Green Bay Packers - DE/OLB Julius Peppers
After four seasons in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears, pass rusher Julius Peppers was released and will head to the division rival Packers in Green Bay. He'll join defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who was Peppers' defensive line coach and defensive coordinator for eight seasons with the Carolina Panthers (2002-08), when Peppers racked up 70.5 sacks, including a career-high 14.5 in 2008. In Green Bay, Peppers will play alongside linebacker Clay Matthews, forming a highly-formidable quarterback-seeking duo.
Dallas Cowboys - DT Henry Melton
The Cowboys released accomplished edge-rusher DeMarcus Ware this offseason, and as I mentioned above, watched him sign with the Broncos in free agency. Dallas also watched 2013 sack-leader (11.0) Jason Hatcher join the division rival Washington Redskins, which I'll address below. "America's Team" shored up their losses along the defensive line by adding Henry Melton, who spent the past four seasons with the Bears in Chicago. Melton produced 15.5 sacks from 2010-12 with the Bears and comparatively provides a younger option at the position (Melton is 27 years old while Ware and Hatcher are both 31). But he missed most of the 2013 season in Chicago after suffering an injury to his ACL in late September. A reunion with Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was the Bears' D-coordinator when Melton earned Pro Bowl honors in 2012, bodes well for the 'Boys in 2014.
New York Giants - CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie & CB Walter Thurmond
Oakland Raiders - DE Justin Tuck, WR James Jones & QB Matt Schaub
Two-time Pro Bowl/All-Pro defensive end Justin Tuck joins the Silver and Black after nine effective seasons with the Giants in New York. Tuck collected 11.0 sacks a season ago to lead the team and should provide an immediate boost to the Raiders' defensive front. Wide receiver James Jones comes to Oakland off of seven seasons with the Packers in Green Bay, where he was the second-leading receiver (59 catches for 817 yards) this past season. Jones should offer a solid option in the passing game for whoever winds up under center for the Raiders this fall - one of whom could be former Houston Texans signal caller Matt Schaub, who was acquired via trade this offseason.
Catch you on the road...
Carolina Panthers - WR Jerricho Cotchery & S Roman Harper
The Panthers lost a lot of wideouts this offseason. All-time leading receiver Steve Smith was released and landed with the Baltimore Ravens, Tedd Ginn went to the Arizona Cardinals, Brandon LaFell to the New England Patriots, and Dominek Hixon to the Chicago Bears. Highlighting the addition of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery seems necessary after an offseason with so much turnover at the position. The 10-year veteran Cotchery caught a career-high 10 touchdowns this past season. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers added two-time Pro Bowl safety Roman Harper from the New Orleans Saints. Harper looks to replace Mike Mitchell, who left Carolina in free agency for a role with the Steelers.
Philadelphia Eagles - RB Darren Sproles, S Malcolm Jenkins, S Chris Maragos
Kansas City Chiefs - DT Vance Walker
It's not as sexy as some of the names above, but defensive tackle Vance Walker fills the void left by former first-round draft pick Tyson Jackson, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. At 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, Walker will look to establish a strong presence against the run and add a spark to the team's pass rush - he had 3.0 quarterback takedowns with the Oakland Raiders last season.
San Diego Chargers - RB Donald Brown
Running back Donald Brown was the first signing of the new season for the Bolts by way of the Indianapolis Colts. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Brown joins a backfield that already features former first-round draft pick Ryan Matthews and the 29-year-old Danny Woodhead. But Brown gives the Chargers a physical runner with a similar skill set to Matthews, who has dealt with his fair share of injuries in San Diego. Brown averaged 5.3 yards per carry and added a career-high six touchdowns a season ago with the Colts.
Washington Redskins - DT Jason Hatcher
Like I noted above, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher led the Cowboys in sacks last season (11.0) and joined the divisional rival Redskins in free agency. Last season was by far Hatcher's most rewarding of his eight years in the League - prior to 2013 his season-high for sacks was just 4.5 (2011). But without a doubt Hatcher should upgrade the Redskins' interior pass rush, an area of their defense that was lacking a season ago.