RIP, LOB: Seattle's defensive dynasty is dead; these three teams could replace it


The Seahawks as we know them, the team that owned the NFC West for the better part of the past decade, are wrapping up their run and the defensive pseudo-dynasty known as the Legion of Boom is over. The Seahawks aren't finished as a franchise, per se, because they still have Russell Wilson. But 2018 will mark the beginning of a different vision and a new identity for a team that is quickly jettisoning the veterans that comprise its identity.

This concept is not new, nor should these moves be considered surprising. Championship windows in the NFL close faster than Alec Baldwin with a full cup of coffee. But it's still a shock to the system to imagine the Seahawks, one of the more consistent NFL winners over the past half decade-plus, in an entirely different light, void of the defensive superstars who comprised their identity the past several years.

Wednesday's agreement to trade Michael Bennett to the Eagles does not make the end official, it signals just how big a change this organization is going to go through this offseason and is a precursor to other changes coming down the pipe. 

The Seahawks already flipped the coaching staff completely, firing longtime offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as well as offensive line coach Tom Cable. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard, who played under Pete Carroll at Southern California, was "allowed to leave." (Read: fired nicely.)

You don't need to read between the lines on Carroll's comments about Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril to figure out their situation in Seattle.

"Cliff and Kam are going to have a hard time playing football again," Carroll said earlier this offseason.

Safety Earl Thomas was actively recruiting the Cowboys to trade for him. But the biggest hammer to come out this week surrounding the Seahawks is the report about Richard Sherman saying goodbye to his teammates. Sherman was shopped last year and if he's being shopped now, coming off a season-ending Achilles injury at the age of 29 with a $13.2 million cap hit, it is probably an indicator the Seahawks are going to release him. Doing so would save more than $11 million in cap space.

Sherman, along with Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, was part of the backbone in Seattle during the Seahawks' hard-hitting, smack-talking rise to prominence. Sherman was a lightly regarded prospect snared by John Schneider and Carroll in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, their second together in Seattle. He blossomed into one of the best cornerbacks in football, becoming the leader of a fearsome secondary that cemented its legacy by stomping out the Broncos' record-setting offensive in Super Bowl XLVIII. Chancellor destroying Demaryius Thomas over the middle served notice then and it'll still rattle your bones now. 

Lynch was a castoff from Buffalo, a quirky former first-round pick with off-field issues who fit in perfectly with the Seahawks and Carroll's freedom-instilling program. The BeastQuake run against the Saints was a similar signal, an alert the Seahawks would be pounding the ball down your throat at every opportunity. 

Just a few short offseasons ago, the Seahawks owned a group of players locked up for the long haul. Even last offseason, headlines about extending the LOB's reign with a Chancellor extension were prominent. Overnight, everything dissipated. Football is cruel like that. 

Seattle's run might best be remembered for coming one play short of winning back-to-back Super Bowls, another reminder of how this game snuffs out even the most well-constructed plans. Maybe things go differently if Bevell calls a second goal-line run for Lynch in Super Bowl XLIV. Maybe the Seahawks beat the Patriots, win back-to-back Super Bowls and we don't spend the following offseason with various members of the franchise taking time to sing Kumbaya by the light of Hawaiian bonfires.

The Seahawks just sent an elite defensive player -- Bennett -- to the defending Super Bowl champion to help make a championship-caliber defense even better. Stealing away talented players for pennies on the dollar to increase the devastating nature of a defense? That's Scheinder's move, and Howie Roseman just used it on him! 

But it's not about whether Carroll and Schneider can keep things going in Seattle. They can. Remember: This Seahawks team has rolled through multiple rivalry stages. They battled with the 49ers early before chasing off Jim Harbaugh. They outlasted the Cardinals' rise from mediocrity under Bruce Arians only to be displaced by the Rams, of all teams, in 2017. 

They're not left for dead, they're just reinventing the wheel. Wilson is a franchise quarterback. He has been successful the past few years despite the Seahawks' best intentions, with Wilson forced to play in a "drop back, spin a lot and make something happen" offense because of a porous offensive line. But the offense has often been bailed out by the defense, and that will not likely be an option in 2018, not with a superstar exodus occurring as we speak.

However the Seahawks emerge in the coming years, it will be vastly different from the dominant defensive team we've come to know since Carroll arrived in 2010. 

So who takes over? Let's look at a few options. 

Minnesota Vikings

There's a reason the Vikings, with potentially less money to offer, are still attractive to Kirk Cousins. They have one of the best defenses in the league, making Minnesota a team that could really take Seattle's mantle and run with it. Minnesota has been an elite defensive team on the rise, having climbed in Football Outsiders DVOA metrics each of the past three years, from 14th in 2015 to eighth in 2016 to second last season. Mike Zimmer is one of the best defensive coaches in football and he and Rick Spielman have managed to stock the cupboard in fantastic fashion. Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffin form a loaded defensive line. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are top-level linebackers. Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith are elite secondary players. The impressive part about this defense is how it identifies and develops these players, with Trae Waynes appearing to come along nicely despite not being elite out of the box. 

Even if the Vikings break the bank for a quarterback this offseason, they should still field a dangerous defense for the next three to four years at minimum. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Another obvious candidate, the Jags built and built and built until the team finally took a leap forward in 2017, thanks in large part to an elite defense led by a dangerous secondary. Jalen Ramsey might already be the best cornerback in the NFL; he wasn't drafted the way Sherman was, but he exploded on the scene in a similar fashion and boasts a brash attitude as well. The Jags acquired defensive linemen via outside sources, like the Seahawks, although they paid a lot for them: Malik Jackson and Calais Campbell were big-ticket free agents. Marcell Dareus carries a hefty contract, but was a "cheap" midseason addition last year. Telvin Smith and Myles Jack were great finds in the draft at linebacker. A.J. Bouye was another expensive free-agent add, but he was worth it. The Jaguars are going to run into cost issues at some point because of all these contracts, especially if they want to land another quarterback other than Blake Bortles, but there's no reason to think this defense will disappear anytime in the next few years. 

Philadelphia Eagles

An easy choice, given the trade that went down Wednesday and the Eagles' status as reigning Super Bowl champions. The Eagles don't have the same level of talent across the board as the Seahawks did during their peak: Chancellor/Thomas was the prototypical safety combo for the modern NFL, Sherman was elite and people really sleep on how Carroll and Scheinder signed Avril and Bennett for filthy cheap in free agency to revamp that defensive line. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are elite linebackers. 

But the Eagles are loaded on the defensive line, capable of trotting out Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Derek Barnett or Michael Bennett as a base package and then sliding Bennett inside for pass-rush situations next to Cox. Bringing back Nigel Bradham and getting a healthy Jordan Hicks gives them an impressive linebacker combo. The secondary is deeper than people think.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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