Seahawks reaping the rewards of those who have been rewarded

Posted Jun 2, 2014

Monday metatarsal musings: The Seahawks’ grand plan this offseason was to take care of their own, and they accomplished that in a big way when it came to Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin.

Somewhat lost in all the big numbers with dollar signs attached the Seahawks have invested the past five weeks are three of the most pertinent: 26, 25 and 25.

Those are the ages of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Doug Baldwin, the core players the Seahawks have signed to contract extensions or new deals. Taking care of this trio were the cornerstones of the grand offseason plan for the Super Bowl champions, and general manager John Schneider and vice president of football operations Matt Thomas pulled it off in grand fashion.

Just look at what each has done in a relatively short time:

Thomas, a first-round draft choice in the first NFL Draft orchestrated by Schneider and coach Pete Carroll in 2010, has been voted All-Pro the past two seasons and to the Pro Bowl the past three seasons. Last season, Thomas was the only player in the NFL with at least 100 tackles and five interceptions. And he turned all of 25 on May 7, a week after signing his four-year extension.

Sherman, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, has blossomed into a two-time All-Pro cornerback and last season also was voted to the Pro Bowl. Since he stepped into the lineup on the left side as a third-option injury replacement midway through his rookie season, no one in the NFL has more interceptions (20) or passes defensed (60) than Sherman. And he turned 26 on March 30, six week before signing his four-year extension May 7.

Baldwin, who not only made the team as a rookie free agent in 2011 but led the Seahawks in receptions and receiving yards that season, averaged 10.7 yards per target last season to rank second in the NFL. Thomas caught 51 passes in 2011 and 50 last season. And he won’t be 26 until September – on the day the Seahawks host the Denver Broncos in a Super Bowl rematch at CenturyLink Field. Baldwin signed a three-year deal last Thursday.

But also look at each as they took the stage in the auditorium at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. They are the young faces of the best and deepest team in the league, and could the franchise ask for better representation – on the field, off the field, in the locker room, in the meeting rooms and in the media?

That’s a rhetorical – if not ridiculous – question.

“Those three guys in particular are, aside from football, totally into being good citizens and just good people with a strong work ethic and they’re intelligent guys,” Schneider said. “They just handle themselves appropriately all the time.

“And then that translates onto the football field. Earl Thomas is – and has been ever since he was in college – a tempo-setter at practice. You can watch it out there. And then the way Sherm prepares and studies, and it’s the same thing with Doug. Doug is a tempo-setter; he’s got that edge to him. He never takes a route off, never takes a play off. He wants to prove himself every single play.” 

As Carroll said during Baldwin’s news conference, the team has rewarded players for who they are, as much as for what they do. If the Seahawks are to repeat as Super Bowl champions, these players who already have done so much will need to do even more.

And they sound ready to do just that, as these responses to similar questions from each of their news conferences attests:

What motivates or drives you now that you’ve been rewarded with a big contract?

Thomas: “I compete in everything I do, and I want to set the bar. That was my goal. … It’s not about the money to me. It’s just about separating myself in anything I do. That’s it.”

Sherman: “Same thing that has motivated me in the first place. Money didn’t motivate me before; it’s not going to motivate me now. It’s a drive to be great. It’s a drive to win. It’s a drive to want to make it to the Hall of Fame and want to put good tape out there. You have teammates like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Byron Maxwell, Bobby Wagner, guys like that, and you can’t let them down.”

Baldwin: “What drives me from this point on? Nothing changes for me. I signed my name to a piece of paper. A piece of paper does nothing for me. Obviously it gives me a little more security, but that’s not why I play the game of football. I play the game of football because I love the game of football, because I put everything in it. That’s what I’m passionate about. There were 28 (wide receivers) taken above me in the draft in 2011. I was not drafted. Therefore, none of that changes. So every time I step out on that field, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, they’re going to pay because 28 guys went head of me in the 2011 draft. And that doesn’t go only for the Legion of Boom, but that goes for any defensive back that steps up to the line of scrimmage to try to cover me. That’s what I’m passionate about, to be completely honest with you.”

Where does the hunger come from now that you’ve won a Super Bowl?

Thomas: “That’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to see how many times you can do it. Like when people win something they kind of relax. The challenge is not to relax. I never lost sight of everything. So I don’t have to recapture what happened last year.”

Sherman: “We won a Super Bowl, but you have to put it aside and understand it for what it is. But also get back to duty. … Nothing will erase (that 23 cornerbacks were selected ahead of me in the draft). Nothing will erase that chip. Nothing will erase that mentality. And that’s something I’ll always keep. It keeps me hungry. It keeps me attacking. It keeps me angry.”

Baldwin: “I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to this question, and I think the real answer lies within just winning one Super Bowl wasn’t the goal for any of us. I think the guys that we have on this team, all of them, want to leave a legacy that’s bigger than just winning Super Bowls, or winning a Super Bowl.”

And we can’t overlook another extension that was extended this offseason. It belongs to Carroll, who signed his three-year extension on April 4.

And he is, after all, the full-speed-ahead engineer of this little Blue train of a team that not only thinks it can, but knows it can.