San Francisco 49ers

Sea change in Seattle: Stars being swept from Seahawks roster

The winds of change in Seattle have turned into a full-blown Nor'easter. Or in this case, a Nor'wester.

Wednesday brought news that the Seahawks had traded longtime defensive end Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles as well as signs that Richard Sherman -- the brash, always-chattering cornerback 49ers fans loathed more than any other rival -- was being ushered to the exit.

A Seahawks defense without Sherman and Bennett? It would be like the Beatles without Ringo and Paul. But in Seattle's case there are even more changes afoot.

Safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril have neck injuries that put their futures in question. Safety Earl Thomas also reportedly is being shopped for a trade. Recent contributors like tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Paul Richardson and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson are poised to be free agents next week.

Sherman, Chancellor and Thomas were founding members of the famed "Legion of Boom," which loudly and aggressively throttled opposing offenses and helped Seattle wrestle away NFC West dominance from the 49ers. Has the Legion of Boom in one fell-swoop become the Legion of Broom?

The Seahawks have no draft picks in the second or third rounds this year, and it seems obvious that trading aging stars is a way to remedy that and to begin building a new Legion of Boom. General manager John Schneider reminded reporters at the scouting combine last week that players like Sherman and Thomas started righted away as rookies and that it was time for young Seahawks to do the same.

“That’s the mindset we have to get back to," he said. "They are a little bit in awe, you know? You know, they were in eighth grade.”

The looming exodus is reminiscent of some recent 49ers transformations, especially the one at the end of the 2014 season when Jim Harbaugh and his staff were let go and two defensive titans, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, decided to retire along with promising rookie Chris Borland.

The 49ers finished a respectable 8-8 in 2014, but the energy and enthusiasm that had marked their previous squads was gone and the season felt like an end of an era. Seattle's most recent campaign, one in which the Seahawks went 9-7 but missed the playoffs for the first time in six years, had a similarly empty feeling.

"We’re pretty disappointed the way the season ended," Schneider said. "We went 9-7 and you would have thought that we won two games. It’s a pit that sits in your stomach and really fuels you."

The difference in the teams' respective sea changes, of course, is that Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, who built the Seahawks' previously dominant defense, remain together to attempt to do so again.

The Seahawks have a couple of up-and-coming safeties they like in Delano Hill and Bradley McDougald. They still have excellent middle linebackers in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright as well as Frank Clark and Dion Jordan at defensive end. They also could covet 49ers defensive end Tank Carradine in free agency considering that Carradine played the same position in San Francisco last year that Bennett manned for the Seahawks.

What about players moving in the opposite direction?

Sherman is the archetype cornerback for the defense the 49ers run and San Francisco is in desperate need of cornerbacks. Furthermore, he's familiar to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Seahawks assistant, and played at general manager John Lynch's alma mater, Stanford.

Of course, Sherman turns 30 later this month and is coming off of Achilles issues on both legs, his first major injuries in seven seasons.

The always-positive Carroll, who is trying to trade Sherman, said at the combine that he met with the cornerback recently.

"He is doing well he just had his second surgery on the other side, which was a much more minor surgery, just cleanup but also in his Achilles," he said. "Very positive. He’s had a seemingly great process up until now. It’s a bit of a setback for a couple of weeks now because he is in the boot on the other foot but he is not slowing down he is working like crazy. He is having a fantastic offseason. His mentality is good. He’s competing like crazy right now.’’

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