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Free-agent departures a sign of Seahawks’ success

By Danny O’Neil

Free-agent departures are the price of success in the NFL, a league where imitation isn’t as high a form of flattery as acquisition.

So it wasn’t a surprise that Seattle had two players from its Super Bowl roster poached within the first hour that NFL free agents could be signed. The surprise is who those players were: defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and linebacker O’Brien Schofield.

O’Brien Schofield received a two-year, $8 million deal from the Giants after playing sparingly for Seattle in 2013. (AP)

Their departures aren’t the price of Seattle’s success so much as a sign of it.

See, both were backups for the Seahawks. In fact, Schofield was inactive for one of Seattle’s three playoff games, yet no sooner had the free-agency carousel begun to spin than they were signed to multi-year commitments elsewhere in the conference.

The second tier of Seattle’s roster constituted an upgrade for the Buccaneers, who signed McDonald to a three-year deal worth $12 million, as well as the Giants, who signed Schofield to a two-year deal that could net him $8 million.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Seattle was sifting through the rest of the league’s recycling bin looking for hand-me-downs. Less than four years, in fact, since Seattle added seven players in the week between the final roster cuts and the first game of 2010.

Four seasons later, not only do the Seahawks have a Super Bowl trophy, but they have teams coveting players who are on the second rung of Seattle’s depth chart – or in Schofield’s case, the third.

That’s not to diminish the ability of either player. McDonald may have been the single biggest surprise of the 2013 season, a player the Seahawks released before Week 1 because they weren’t going to pay him $1.3 million only to have him come back and become a staple of the nickel pass-rush package.

He had 5.5 sacks in the regular season, equaling the total of Lions All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. McDonald started the Super Bowl, but he was also the No. 2 nose tackle for a team on which Brandon Mebane had one of his best seasons. Seattle has high hopes for Jordan Hill, a 2013 third-round pick who has three years left on his rookie contract.

Schofield was only with Seattle for a season, a player acquired in training camp with an eye toward filling in during the first four games while Bruce Irvin was suspended. He was better than serviceable, a special-teams staple and a capable pass rusher. But with Michael Bennett back, Schofield was a reserve.

Now, he’s a Giant.

The Seahawks aren’t better off for losing either player. It cost them depth. But their departures are also a sign of just how much better this roster is than four years ago when the Seahawks were the NFL equivalent of dumpster diving in search of their next meal.

Now, other teams are trying to cook something up with Seattle’s leftovers.