By Brent Stecker
It's one thing to win a world championship in the NFL. It's another thing to keep that title-winning team together.
With a world championship comes the expectation of increased salaries for the players, and that combined with the salary cap makes it increasingly hard for franchises to hold onto players entering free agency after the Super Bowl.
Michael Bennett will be one of the top defensive linemen on the free-agent market due to his versatility, which allows him to play several positions on the line. (AP)
It's something the Seattle Seahawks now face, as 19 members of their championship squad are hitting free agency this offseason. It will be a tough task to retain a majority of those players, but as ESPN.com Seahawks reporter Terry Blount told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore," it should be clear-cut for Seattle which two it needs to put the most resources into bringing back – defensive end Michael Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate.
Bennett, 28, joined the Seahawks as a free agent from Tampa Bay on a one-year contract before the 2013 season, and he turned into a star with his play on the field (8.5 sacks) and a fan favorite thanks to his humor off of it.
"I know they could look back now and wish they had signed him to a two- or three-year deal instead of a one-year deal. He's their best defensive lineman," Blount said of Bennett. "I think they really, really want to keep him, but it won't be easy. He made $4.8 million against the cap this year, (and) somebody's gonna offer him $7 million or more.
"He's a huge cog on that defensive line because he can play anywhere. He can play inside, he can play outside. He just has such a relentless motor. He's such a relentless player."
Tate, 25, has been with Seattle since it took him in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Notre Dame, and he broke out in 2013 to lead the team with 898 receiving yards on 64 catches.
"He made $880,000 this year, a real bargain for a guy that caught as many passes and played as well as he did," Blount said of Tate. "Somebody's gonna offer him a lot – at least $4-5 million a year, if not more, (so he) won't be easy to keep when they start thinking about what are they gonna do there."
Coming off the Super Bowl win, the Seahawks have made it clear that they have the team they want to move forward with, even with the challenge keeping everything together presents.
"Pete Carroll made it perfectly clear after the (victory) parade on Wednesday that he wants to keep this team like it is. They don't feel like they need to go out and do a bunch of stuff in free agency. They really wanna just keep what they have, but it's tough," Blount said.
The Seahawks' youth is an advantage most other championship teams don't have heading into their first post-title offseason.
"They're in way better shape than most Super Bowl-winning teams," Blount said. "For example, last year, Baltimore, oh my goodness, that team was just ripped apart after the Super Bowl and weren't the same. This team is in so much better shape because they're so much younger, they have so many of their best players still under contract, and a day of reckoning is coming with guys like Richard Sherman and especially Russell Wilson, but it's not next year, so they're in pretty good shape."