Offseason Mode

I love playing Madden. Been playing it for decades. I’m a year away from needing to see a proctologist for an important exam, and I still vigorously play the video game when I can. It’s my jam.

When I play, I don’t screw around with it either. No lazy six minute quarters for this cowpoke. No, Sir. I play the full fifteen minute ones, and whenever I’m up three scores in the fourth, I sub out my starters and get the reserves in there to whoop ass, and earn the XP points necessary to develop as future studs, themselves.

I don’t play online, because, frankly, that kinda creeps me out. No, I play with myself, and I’m not ashamed at all to admit that.

Is it boring going to the Super Bowl year after year after year after year in the Madden Sphere playing with yourself? For me, it’s fun, but for me, truth be told, quite often, the real fun is when I get into the offseason portion of the game’s franchise mode. I have to choose whom I extend, and whom I say adios to as they go off to free agency. I have to be smart in free agency and look for players to come in at good prices who can immediately add to the team, and I have to draft really well, and be willing to start the right rookies right away.

When I was first playing the game, I felt the impulsive need to extend all my key starters once their contracts where up, and as I won Super Bowl after Super Bowl, those starters ratings would go up through the roof, and so would the costs of retaining their services. It’s terrible. I’m a romantic. Hopeless so, and due to that, I should never be left initially in charge. Pretty, shiny, smell good, I’m suckered in.

I would fall overly in love with my guys, and I would just want to continue seeing my left defensive end getting 28 sacks in a season along with the 18 that my defensive tackle gets, and the 24 that my right end gets, and the 12 that my nose tackle gets. I needed to keep that fearsome foursome together, but before I would know it, two or three seasons into the game, I would find myself in salary cap hell. Not only would I no longer be able to keep good players who’s deals were up, I would have to cut other good players just to have enough money to sign my draft class and replace my retired kicker in free agency. Soon after a while, I learned a valuable lesson in reality about this NFL biz; the salary cap forces you to make tough decisions, and you cannot keep everyone no matter how much you love them, or like them a lot.

In order to stay competitive, you need to hang onto a few players that you consider cornerstone talents. Typically, most teams operative under a rule of thumb that your most important players are you quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher, and shutdown cornerback. Those are your cornerstones as once laid out by Super Bowl winning head coach and great hair enthusiast Jimmy Johnson.

After Seattle built up a Super Bowl winning team, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider did things a bit differently. They paid their quarterback, two of their top pass rushers, their nose tackle, their shutdown corner, their running back, their strong safety, their free safety, their middle linebacker, their outside linebacker, their slot receiver, and they traded away for an expensive pass catching tight end. Essentially, they did a variation of what I used to do in Madden, and over time, it caught up. Any savvy Madden player could see where this was heading.

Seattle suddenly could not afford to hang onto its pro bowl left tackle (cornerstone player), and tried replacing him with bargain basement scrubs for a couple seasons in a row. They couldn’t afford to make significant additions in free agency because they were pushed against the cap. They weren’t developing the players that they were drafting as well as year before because they weren’t getting on the field as much because of all the expensive talent in front of them.

Guess what also happened? One by one, most of those expensive talents started to physically breakdown. Some started mentally breaking down, expressing outward unhappiness (if not full on hostility on the sidelines) when they began to become less dominant as a team. John Schneider and Pete Carroll had to make tough choices.

By 2018, many of those star players were either cut, traded, or were forced into early retirement due to injury. Remarkably, Seattle still made the playoffs with its youngest roster in almost eight years. They had quarterback Russell Wilson leading the offense, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner leading the defense, and a roster that was pretty much unrecognizable to any average football fan outside of the Pacific Northwest. Young players like receiver Tyler Lockett, defensive end Frank Clark, defensive tackle Jarran Reed and running back Chris Carson stepped up and stepped into the lime light, all having career years. Rookies that would have likely rode the pine in other seasons stepped into either starting roles or significant contributing roles like cornerback Tre’ Flowers, and nose tackle Poona Ford.

Now, here we are, deep into the 2019 NFL offseason mode, and I’m here to say, I think Pete Carroll and John Schneider are learning how to play it pretty well. They let a player leave in free agency that about two years ago one could have easily argued was the best player on the team that was still loaded with premier talent. They kept a few key veterans and signed a pro bowl kicker. After a few weeks of free agency, their vision for this team moving forward seems clearer.

Through Carroll’s words, we know that they are committed to making sure their best passer rusher in Frank Clark, and their all-planet middle linebacker Bobby Wagner are continual fixtures in Seattle moving forward. These are no brainer decisions. We also know that with their early free agent activities of bringing back linebackers KJ Wright and Mychal Kendricks, that it appears like they intend for the strength of the defense be more in the front seven than in the back four as it was on that historic defensive roster a few years ago.

When pressed about his young talent at the owner’s meetings this week, Carroll was quick to bring up a number of rookies from last year’s roster. He mentioned Poona Ford as a player they are genuinely excited about, edge rusher Jacob Martin as a player that they think can have a much bigger role moving forward, and Tre’ Flowers as a guy that they think can become a “monster” in the secondary.

This is how a pro plays Madden’s offseason mode. You keep a few of your nicest pieces, not all, you sign a few moderate veteran free agents to plug a few gaps, and then you draft and develop, and you draft and develop. You churn the roster. That’s what Pete Carroll and John Schneider did when they took over the sad state of this franchise in 2010. In my opinion, they got away from it after 2013, but they are coming full circle now. I think the theme song to these 2019 Seattle Seahawks could be the Beatles “Get Back.” They’re getting back to where they once belong. I know that sounds cheesy, but sometimes cheesy fits, and when cheesy fits, you have to embrace the cheese.

Additionally, if you were to look at whom they have been bringing in for free agent visits, edge rusher Nick Perry, a defensive tackle, and wide receiver, those positions also reflect the strength of this coming draft class. Seattle is probably looking at free agent hedges for positions that they will likely target in this draft (they do this often). Safe bet is that, however many times Seattle ends up picking, defensive line, pass rush, and receiver are going to be a part of the haul.

Interestingly enough in all of this, Pete Carroll had less to mention of star quarterback Russell Wilson’s pending extension, and this on top of word filtering out this week that the team may not be interested in paying him “Aaron Rodgers money.” Could Russell Wilson become one of the team’s toughest choices to make moving forward? Yes, he could, but also keep in mind that these leaked reports about Wilson wanting a record breaking deal and Seattle not wanting to spend more than Green Bay did on their QB could well be simply both sides playing a high stakes negotiating game in the media, and eventually the two sides find middle ground. Hopefully, that happens because Russell is a superb fit for this style of offense.

I will say this, though, sometimes it’s fun in the Madden offseason mode to go to town a bit more signing star veteran talent, and then drafting a rookie quarterback to take over. For a team like Seattle that wants to run the ball like they do, it wouldn’t shock me at all  if they ultimately decide that $40 million annually is too rich for a quarterback that plays point guard. It would be the most Madden thing ever if they either traded Russell Wilson, or they simply let him walk after a few seasons.

As we inch into April, we will focus more on the draft. It’s always an exciting time of the year for football fans. It’s Football Christmas, or for secular types, Football Prom.

Next piece will feature myself along with my expert panel as we go through the team’s position groups to determine where their greatest needs are and pit that with the supposed strengths of the draft class, and thusly, with any educated luck, we might just come up with an inkling notion of how this April’s draft will go for this Seahawks.

My expert panel, of course, consisting of my tabby cat Earl, and my medium longhaired black cat Kam. You’ll want to tune into that one, I think.

Go Hawks.


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