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Super Bowl champions already focused on next year

NEW YORK -- Coach Pete Carroll's mantra of "Always Compete" doesn't come with exceptions, such as "until the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl."

No, even before the cheering had died down at MetLife Stadium on Sunday in the wake of Seattle's 43-8 win over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seahawks were talking about doing it again.

"The important thing when you leave this game of football is the legacy," said receiver Doug Baldwin, who led Seattle with five catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. "We've accomplished one goal. But if you want to be the best of the best, you've got to do it multiple times. So we've already said it. We are going to win this one, and what's next is winning another one, so we are already on to that one."

In fact, Carroll said the expectations for next season -- specifically, trying to become the ninth team to repeat as Super Bowl champs and first since the 2003-04 New England Patriots -- would be laid out when the team meets back in Seattle on Tuesday.

"That starts tomorrow," Carroll said as he met the media for a final time here at the Super Bowl at the annual day-after news conference for the coach and MVP of the winning team. "Our guys would be surprised if we didn't. We really have an eye on what's coming, and that we don't dwell on what just happened.

"We'll take this in stride, and we'll have a big celebration on Wednesday in town (the planned parade in Seattle) and enjoy the heck out of it. Everybody will enjoy the heck out of it. We won't miss the fun part of it. But that doesn't mean we can't set our sights on how this is going to go. They would be surprised if it was anything other than that."

And the good news for the Seahawks is that their roster is constructed in a manner that means most of the key pieces of this year's team could be back next season.

Of the 53 players on the active roster for Sunday's game, only 13 are unrestricted free agents. The key names on that list are receiver Golden Tate, defensive end Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, cornerback Walter Thurmond, kicker Steven Hauschka, offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and guard Paul McQuistan.

Two more are restricted free agents, notably Baldwin, meaning Seattle could match another team's offer or get a draft pick back if the player departs.

Given the team's present and presumed future, all would probably like to stay. But inevitably some will receive other offers that the Seahawks might consider too rich to match. The team has been said to make re-signing Bennett, who blossomed into a dominant player this season, a priority.

Seattle could also look at cutting or restricting the deals of some veteran players who make big money, allowing them to spend on other players on the roster or in free agency, notably defensive end Chris Clemons (due $9.6 million next year), tight end Zach Miller (due $7 million) and receiver Sidney Rice (due $9.7 million and still rehabbing a knee injury suffered in October).

The rest of Seattle's youthful core -- the team was the second-youngest to win a Super Bowl and the seventh-youngest at the end of the NFL season -- is under contract.

The Seahawks, though, could seek to extend the contracts of a few players, with NFL.com reporting over the weekend that Seattle will make it a priority to sign safety Earl Thomas to a new contract before the 2014 season, as it did last year with Kam Chancellor. (NFL.com reported that for now, Seattle might not do that with cornerback Richard Sherman, salary-cap considerations playing a role.)

Continuing to give the team massive financial flexibility is the fact quarterback Russell Wilson remains under the terms of his initial rookie contract, which will pay him just $662,434 next season, and cannot seek a new deal until after the 2014 season.

"I think we are in a very fortunate situation," Carroll said Monday. "(General manager) John Schneider has done an extraordinary job of structuring this roster contractually and with the vision of looking ahead so that we can keep our guys together.

"One of the things that happens every so often is teams have a big fallout after they win the Super Bowl. We're not in that situation. We'll be battling and competing. We don't need to be in that situation. We've done that with foresight with looking ahead so that we would be prepared, and we'll go back to work eventually. I guess it's in the springtime when we kick it back in high gear, but the guys will start a lot sooner than that. We'll get going (with the) next challenge."

It's one that will change from this season, when Seattle entered the year with big expectations and high hopes, but also still as an up-and-comer that hadn't done much of anything other than win one playoff game in 2012.

In 2014, though, the Seahawks will be the hunted -- they were being pegged as 2015 Super Bowl favorites in Las Vegas casinos even before time ran out Sunday.

"To be here, we've seen the effort that it takes to get to this point," linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith said Monday. "And, obviously, we'll try to replicate that and do it again. We're looking forward to the next challenges and guys having a target on their back and people trying to come after us."

LOOKING AHEAD:

The Seattle Seahawks have 13 players on their 53-man roster who are unrestricted free agents, meaning they can sign with any team:

--WR Golden Tate

--DE Michael Bennett

--K Steven Hauschka

--DT Tony McDaniel

--DT Clinton McDonald

--CB Walter Thurmond

--QB Tarvaris Jackson

--LB O'Brien Schofield

--FB Michael Robinson

--OT Breno Giacomini

--FS Chris Maragos

--TE Kellen Davis

--OG Paul McQuistan

Note: Two other players, WR Doug Baldwin and offensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre are restricted free agents, meaning other teams can offer them contracts but the Seahawks could match the offer and keep them, or get a draft pick back if they sign elsewhere.

--By Bob Condotta, Seattle Times

(c)2014 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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