Let’s face it – the AFC North was a hot mess last year! With Le’Veon Bell sitting out, the once-dominant Pittsburgh Steelers had to root for the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 in order to make the playoffs.
The Baltimore Ravens benched quarterback Joe Flacco and began the new era of Lamar Jackson football. Can Jackson keep being the leading rusher for this team and avoid injury?
The Cincinnati Bengals landed at the bottom of a division where the Browns had held that spot for too many years to count. But the once 0-16 Browns, under the leadership of rookie QB Baker Mayfield, are making their case to take over the division.
Let’s take a team-by-team look at the moves they’ve made so far to get ready for the battle to be “Kings of the North.”
Safety is a position that has always had its superstars. Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott, Rod Woodson, Rodney Harrison, so many great athletes have played safety. When looking at this season’s free agent safeties, you can easily find one future Hall of Famer, with a possibility of a few more. These are impact players, and teams should be sending armored trucks full of cash to their houses, but there is a good chance that won’t happen.
I asked NFL columnist Mike Freeman what his thoughts on the market for safeties would be this year. He wasn’t optimistic. “It may be a while before we see a thriving safety market. I could be wrong but despite defenses dominating the Super Bowl, we’re still seeing teams devalue the position.”
He’s not alone. Many analysts and members of the media agree that the market will probably not be what many players hope it will be. Case in point, Eric Reid.
The Seattle Seahawks had a lot of what could have been distractions the days prior to their week 3 game against the Dallas Cowboys. However, once on the field, they were completely focused and ready to get their first win.
To be totally honest, I waited a little longer than normal to write this article. In fact, this is the second time in a week I’ve paused my writing “just in case”. That “just in case” would be Seahawks safety Earl Thomas.
It has been well documented that Thomas is unhappy with his contract, including a holdout during the preseason. However once he arrived at the facility, ready to play week 1, most fans thought that would be the end of the drama. How little did we know.
Let me just say straight from the start, any questions that surround Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas have nothing to do with him as a player. He is, without question, a once in a generation safety. The only questions around Thomas have to do with his contract and his team.
With that out of the way…
I am a firm believer that once you have a player that absolutely dominates in his position within the NFL, you hold on to him. When a player has the term “Future Hall of Famer” attached to him, you keep him. You pay him. Of course, every player starts to decline at some point, but until that point (or even just slightly past), you keep him on your roster. In this reporter’s opinion, this is the case with Earl Thomas.
It has been several weeks since the Seahawks have made any news. At that time, the notable changes came by way of coaching personnel, but since then it has been quiet.
After this season was over, there was a lot of questions about key player decisions. Looking at the needs of the roster and the amount of cap room ($14,123,861 per overthecap.com), clearing up some cap space is needed. But where will it come from?
One of the options, strong safety Kam Chancellor’s future with the team, was answered already. The Seahawks allowed the Feb 9th roster deadline to come and go thereby guaranteeing his contract extension for 2018. The 3-year extension was signed in August 2017 before the regular season began. It included an injury clause that guaranteed his base salary.
Unless he chooses to retire, which it seems he plans to play, the Seahawks will have to pay his base salary of $5.2 million which will go against the cap space. At the time it was signed many critics thought it would hamstring the organization. In hindsight, that may have occurred.
Looking over the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks injury reports, the first thing you notice is the number of players listed. Starting Wednesday, there were 36 players between the two. For both teams, that’s a tough way to start the week.
For Seattle, the defense seems to be the most beat up, causing panic in the fan base. The 3 premiere members of the Legion of Boom, corner back Richard Sherman, and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, were all listed. Sherman practiced this week and will play, with Chancellor questionable for Sunday but expected to play. Thomas was ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner is listed with a hamstring injury and is questionable for Sunday. Defensive end Michael Bennett seems to still be fighting his foot injury but will play, and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has an oblique injury, and is considered questionable for the game. Wagner and Richardson will both be game time decisions.
This game was exciting, astonishing, breathtaking, dangerous, dramatic, intriguing, moving, stimulating, thrilling, electrifying, eye-popping, and mind-blowing. Or just fun. Maybe not every moment was fun, but on a whole, this game was fun.
I say that now because the Seahawks came out on top of the Texans 41 to 38. I can also say that because my heart rate has gone back to normal and I found another stash of rubber bands for the next game.
Both quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson were the talk of the game. From the opening drive where Watson threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Will Fuller V, achieving something that has not been done against Seahawks defense this year. To the last scoring drive of the game where Wilson came up with another signature save.
This was a familiar moment. The one at the end of the game where your palms are sweaty, your knees are weak, the dogs are bewildered, and your kids are apologizing to their friends because their mother is a raving maniac. Your beloved Seahawks are playing dominant and yet ineffective at the same time.
One side making great plays while the other side is incapable of moving the ball or stopping the opponent. Your team going right down to the last 8 seconds before securing a win and having a knack for making football watching the best cardio workout of the week. Oh wait, maybe that wasn’t you, maybe that was me.