By Danny O’Neil
Thirty-five points. That was the gap between the Seahawks and Broncos back on Feb. 2 in the Super Bowl.
Thirty-five million. That’s the gap between those two teams when it comes to free-agent additions in the first week of free agency, the Broncos taking a two-fisted approach to spending on other team’s players while the Seahawks’ only moves of any significance have been to re-sign a pair of their own players.
That spending gap says everything you need to know about how far apart last season’s Super Bowl teams are in the life cycle of an NFL contender. The Seahawks are still a young team, one that is early in its window as a contender and looking to sustain the success. The Broncos are only hoping to win now.
There’s no other way to explain the spending spree Denver just went on, handing out at least $35 million in signing bonuses and first-year salaries to a trio of defensive players who will undoubtedly be short-term upgrades at a long-term cost.
Not that the players Denver signed aren’t any good. Aqib Talib is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL though he has never played a full 16 games in any season, DeMarcus Ware remains a premier pass rusher even after Dallas released him while safety T.J. Ward is one of the league’s top designated hitters.
This will help Denver’s defense. It will also mortgage their spending room for the future, and puts a lot of faith that these three players – all of whom are at least 27 – will not tail off.
Seahawks free-agency tracker
|Keep track of the players Seattle has re-signed, added, lost to other teams and released during free agency here.|
Not that Denver should be blamed for a sense of urgency that is bordering on desperation. Quarterback Peyton Manning doesn’t have a long-term future, not with his neck. He has said himself he considers it a year-to-year deal, and the Broncos’ window of contention right now doesn’t extend beyond Manning’s tenure with the team. Well, not unless you think Brock Osweiler is a suitable heir or believe John Elway will be able to recruit another Hall of Fame quarterback to Mile High.
Seattle is thinking down the road, which is the reason the Seahawks have been on defense since free agency began. They want to retain as many players as they could – an impossible task given the fact that even the Seahawks’ backups were coveted elsewhere – while maintaining the long-term salary-cap space Seattle will need to re-sign Pro Bowlers like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson.
So while the Broncos spent the first days of free agency trying to buy that player or three that will put them over the top, the Seahawks are looking at the best way to stay up there. It’s a long-term vision that Denver doesn’t have the luxury of right now.