RENTON, Wash. -- John Schneider has mapped out his vision for the Seahawks' future and it involves detailed plans for keeping his team a contender for more than just one season.
They serve as his guidelines for how Seattle's roster is constructed, both in talent and money, and how to proceed in the years to come.
"I talked about these models and we're going to try to keep as many of these guys together as we go -- but we want to be good for a long time. We don't want to just kind of cruise in one year and then cruise out," said Schneider, the Seahawks' general manager. "We want to be a consistent, championship-caliber team where every year, the fans, the 12th Man has hope that we're going to be in this thing and the only reason we're not in it is because -- knock on wood -- we have injuries or something along the way."
The Seahawks didn't have a pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night. That's fine by Schneider, who believes the Seahawks are in an enviable position, from the standpoint of roster talent and salary constraints, because of how often Seattle has hit on key players in the middle to late rounds of the draft over the past three years.
Since Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll arrived in 2010, the Seahawks have turned seven selections taken in the third round or later into starters. The most notable was last year when the Seahawks selected Russell Wilson in the third round -- bypassed by others because he was only 5-foot-10 -- and watched as Wilson won the starting QB job, led the team to 11 wins in the regular season and was 30 seconds away from playing in the NFC championship game.
That's not to say the first two rounds haven't been important to Schneider and the Seahawks. They got left tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas in the first round in 2010; wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round that same year; and last year picked starting middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round.
But finding strong safety Kam Chancellor and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round, getting starting outside linebacker K.J. Wright in the fourth round and paying relatively very little to a QB taken in the third round has all helped the Seahawks reap bigger benefits going forward.
The Seahawks were without a first-round pick in this year's draft for the first time since 2007 and only the fourth time in franchise history. The 25th overall selection Seattle owned was sent to Minnesota as part of the trade that landed wide receiver Percy Harvin. The move to get Harvin highlighted a free agency period where the Seahawks also nabbed three additions to their defensive line, led by defensive end Cliff Avril, and addressed a need at nickel cornerback by signing veteran Antoine Winfield.
Seattle had the financial means to make such a splash in free agency because of its later-round draft success. The Seahawks will pay less than $600,000 in base salary to Wilson for the 2013 season. Sherman will make $555,000 in base money. Seattle has seven likely starters making less than $700,000 in the 2013 season. Six of those seven were drafted by the Seahawks in the past three seasons.
"It's been an exciting proposition to watch these young guys come along and you challenge them to play then you figure out a way to get them in there. And then when they do, by midseason they're regular players and they really strengthen your roster in a number of ways," Carroll said. "We've just believed in that, and it takes a great job in personnel to get the right guys in here and to make sure they can meet up to the standards and you have to give them the chance."