Seahawks reward the Legion of Loot

The Legion of Boom may need to change its name to the Legion of Loot.

Cornerback Richard Sherman’s contract extension, which he signed Wednesday, means the Seahawks now have committed more than $97 million to two players in the secondary.

Sherman’s deal is a whopping $57.4 million over four years. Free safety Earl Thomas signed a four-year, $40 million extension last week.

Seattle made both men the highest-paid players in the NFL at their respective positions. And they deserve it. This team would not have won the Super Bowl without them.

The Seahawks have done what they said they would do, keeping the stars of the team in place. That includes re-signing free-agent defensive end Michael Bennett for four years and $28.5 million.

And the organization gave coach Pete Carroll a contract extension worth north of $9 million a year. That doesn’t count against the team's salary cap, but shows Seattle's commitment to rewarding its own.

Next up will be quarterback Russell Wilson, who probably will negotiate a new contract after the 2014 season that will pay him around $20 million a year.

General manager John Schneider calls this the “pillars of the organization.” But it also means the Seahawks must continue to do what they do best by relying on young, unproven guys at other spots and having to let some veterans move on down the road.

“We have stayed true to our philosophy and haven’t wavered,” Schneider said. “We’ve been tempted, but we treaded lightly in free agency to be able to reward players like Richard and Earl. I’m proud our staff has been able to stick to the plan of developing our young players while taking care of our own.

“It’s the way we had set up our model, knowing what was coming and trying to keep together as many of these guys as we possibly could. You make fun decisions, like [Sherman] today, and very tough decisions, as well. We knew what we had in front us and what we have ahead.”

With so much salary-cap money tied up in a few key players, continuing to draft well is imperative. That starts anew Thursday night.

It also means bringing in rookie free agents to contribute. That’s nothing new for the Seahawks. They had 18 undrafted players on their Super Bowl roster.

The formula must continue to show results for the Seahawks to stay at or near the top in the NFL. Pay the very best what they deserve and show them loyalty, but realize that some quality veterans will become salary-cap casualties.

We’ve seen that this spring with free-agent losses like wide receiver Golden Tate, cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, offensive linemen Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan, along with releasing defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.

All of them contributed to the Super Bowl journey. But the financial realities of the NFL mean you have to prioritize your options. It’s part of the process. More tough decisions will come down the road in the form of left tackle Russell Okung, linebacker K.J. Wright and running back Marshawn Lynch, to name a few.

The Seahawks' salary-cap pie has some big slices that are spoken for, so it can’t feed everyone.

That’s where the team philosophy comes in, believing in the coaching staff’s ability to fill in the gaps with young players, often overlooked by other teams, getting a chance to show what they can do.

The blueprint is so important to the Seahawks that they produced a 12-page brochure to show potential undrafted rookies why they should sign with the Seahawks.

It’s about finding value where others don’t. That’s how Sherman became a $57 million man, a fifth-round draft choice who most experts thought was too tall and too skinny to play cornerback in the NFL.

“This is a humbling experience,” Sherman said Wednesday. “I was the guy no one wanted, but Pete and John gave me a chance, and now they [have] done what they said they would do.”

The Legion of Boom now is the Legion of Loot. The Seahawks will pay top dollar to the best of the best, and they will give the little guy a chance to show he can get there.