"We wholeheartedly believe in competition in all aspects of our program, and the only way to compete is to show it on the field. We're dedicated to giving all of our players a look to find out who they are and what they're all about so we can field the best team possible."
This is the opening of a 12-page informational packet the Seattle Seahawks send to the certified contract advisors of prospective undrafted free agents.
It has the look of a motivational seminar infomercial transcribed on PowerPoint and, in the same vein, it has the feel of something that could be just as easily ignored. Seattle, after all, is not the only team that markets itself toward desirable free agents. The best potentially undrafted players hear from scouts, executives and coaches like star recruits out of high school.
But over the course of the short brochure, the organization details a philosophy that is extremely simple in nature but almost impossible to duplicate. Numerous franchises, most recently John Idzik and the Jets, tried to copy their approach and failed miserably. Many more, especially among the rising crop of young executives currently settling into bigger roles, will try in the coming years.
It is a major reason why we're talking about the Seattle Seahawks potentially becoming the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in a decade as they prepare for a matchup against the Patriots on Sunday here in Arizona. They can get the role players and key pieces other teams can't. They can set their roster on a constant churn with the expectation that the gears will continue to run without interruption.
Between 2010 and 2013, Seattle cut nine of their draft picks before the end of their rookie season. Fifteen total were released before the duration of their contract ended. Last preseason, according to the team's own projections, undrafted free agents played in more than 36.2 percent of the team's snaps, the most in football.
In short, they do not consider themselves beholden to anyone, while other teams like the Jaguars, Panthers, Titans, Giants, Raiders and Ravens are more protective of draft picks and tend to keep them longer. Nearly everyone is expendable, which makes the bottom rung of the roster work harder and the upper rung more eager to fend off the bottom.
Oddly enough, this is an amplified version of a system first popularized by New England, a team that traded one of its best offensive linemen before the season for draft picks and a second-year undrafted free agent tight end named Tim Wright. In the same internal study done by the Seahawks, the Patriot Way is not far behind. Bill Belichick was second in 2013 for preseason offensive snaps played by undrafted free agents. He cut eight draft picks in three seasons, just one fewer than Seahawks general manager John Schneider.
The result is better players at a cheaper cost. Seattle's starting quarterback is a third-round pick who supplanted Matt Flynn, a free agent who signed a deal with $10 million in guarantees. Russell Wilson has a cap number under $1 million.
We can tout Seattle for discovering market efficiency -- cheap quarterbacks mean more money for other premium positions -- but the system is more than that. The undrafted free agents they bring in are talented. The ones they discard get picked up at an alarmingly high rate (Between 2010 to 2013, the Seahawks have cut 28 players between July 1 and the beginning of the regular season that were claimed off waivers by another team. It was the highest number in the NFL).
They foster legitimate competition that is fueled by cheap talent.
Among their success stories, they count wide receiver Doug Baldwin. He was added to the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011, the same year they cut a fifth-round pick (Mark LeGree) and a seventh-round pick (Lazarius Levingston). Jermaine Kearse, another starting wideout, was added the following season during a purge where the Seahawks released fifth-round pick Korey Toomer.
Reserves like safety Jeron Johnson and defensive back DeShawn Shead, swing guard/tackle Alvin Bailey, offensive tackle Garry Gilliam and linebacker Brock Coyle all provide solid depth and cost almost nothing. None were drafted. All of them climbed their way onto the roster.
Further into the brochure, a copy of which was provided to NFL.com by a league source, Seattle includes a motivational tagline.
"It's not how you are acquired, but what you can bring when you are acquired!"
The final part is underlined, and you can almost picture Carroll pointing at a kid while saying it, true to all the late night television ads. The end of his sentence would be followed by an 800 number and information on how to order this pamphlet for only a few easy payments of $19.95.
The reality is, it's a brief overview on how to build a Super Bowl champion. The reality is, it works.