Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas made up the spine of the perhaps the best secondary defence the NFL has ever seen, commonly known as ‘The Legion of Boom’.
From 2013 to 2015 the Seattle Seahawks were the top-ranked defence in the NFL, due largely to the work of the secondary. In fact, since 2012 the Seahawks have not ranked outside the top 10 in pass defence, leading the league in 2014 and 2015.
The 2018 Seahawks, however, will be almost unrecognisable after an exodus of some of their much-vaunted defence, due mainly to one fateful Thursday night in Arizona. It was the week 10 matchup of the 2017 season against division rivals the Arizona Cardinals where Sherman and Chancellor would play their last game for the Seahawks.
Before the 2017 season, and after a brief holdout, Kam Chancellor signed a three-year contract worth $36 million. The strong safety, known for his ferocious tackling was to be the bedrock of the Seattle defence going forward. Chancellor complained of soreness in his neck after the week ten clash and in fact, it sidelined him for the remainder of the season. The neck injury subsequently forced him into retirement earlier this summer.
Richard Sherman, who will go down as one of the best corners to play the game, ruptured his achilles tendon that same day. Sherman was in the final year of his contract so the setback couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Seen as a devastating injury, especially to a cornerback, the Seahawks were unwilling to commit to Sherman for the future and perhaps can be forgiven for being reluctant. Sherman has landed at the San Francisco 49ers where he signed a three-year deal which could be worth up to $39 million.
It must be said that not a lot of this money is guaranteed, in fact, the contract is a heavily incentivised based deal with Sherman earning big bonuses should he return to the form and level he is accustomed to playing at. There are bonuses for making the roster, game time and pro bowl selection.
In effect, if the achilles doesn’t slow him down and Sherman does what Sherman does, he will be well rewarded. Early indications in the 49ers camp are that Sherman hasn’t lost that yard of pace although a hamstring injury has limited him in preseason. It will be very interesting come week one of the regular season as to whether the star corner will be able to retain his ‘shutdown’ status.
The future of Earl Thomas, the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom, is now uncertain with the Pro Bowl safety absent from training camp. He wants the Seahawks to renegotiate his contract or trade him to a team willing to invest in his long-term future.
The fate of his two teammates is an obvious motivating factor. Thomas is arguably the best safety in the game right now so he wants to be paid accordingly. With a front row seat to how ruthless the NFL can be, careers ended on any given Sunday or your bags packed for you like teammate Michael Bennett who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason, Thomas is intent on looking after number one.
There are whispers of a trade to the Dallas Cowboys in the works and should that materialise Thomas will be lining up against the Seahawks in week three of the regular season. Seahawks fans will find that hard to swallow having just come to terms with the fact they’ll likely face Richard Sherman in a division rival 49ers jersey twice a year.
The catch 22 of having a superstar defence like the legion of boom is that come contract time it becomes very difficult to keep everybody happy. Even still, the suddenness that which the Seahawks defence has been decimated will have their fanbase worrying.
Seattle have young talent and some solid blocks to build their defence around with Bobby Wagner the obvious jewel in the crown, but to say they have big shoes to fill would be an understatement.