ROSEMONT, Ill., May 22 -- The Seattle Seahawks will move to the NFC in 2002 in a move that highlights the NFL's realignment plan, announced Tuesday at the owners' meetings by commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The Seahawks will switch from the AFC West to the NFC West, where they spent their inaugural season of 1976. They will be joined by the Arizona Cardinals, who shift from the NFC East, St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
Both conferences were expanded from three to four four-team divisions, with the Central being replaced and the North and South being added in both the NFC and AFC.
With the Cardinals gone, the NFC East maintains traditional rivalries. It is made up of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
The NFC South makes sense with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moving from the Central to join the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.
With the exception of Tampa Bay's move, the NFC North remains unchanged, with the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings keeping their rivalries.
In the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts move from the East to the South, where they join the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and expansion Houston Texans.
Houston, an original AFL city, was promised a spot in the AFC, meaning a team had to move to the NFC. The San Diego Chargers also had been considered.
Like in the NFC East and North, tradition won out over geography in the AFC East and West. With the Colts gone, the East will consist of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets. The West loses the Seahawks but keeps the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Chargers.
The North will contain the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. The last major realignment of 1970 was centered around the move of the Browns, Baltimore Colts and Steelers to the newly formed AFC.
"I think it's fine," Browns president Carmen Policy said. "I think it's going to be great having Baltimore in our divison."
All teams will play division foes twice a season and will face an entire AFC and NFC division each year on a rotating basis. The other two contests in the 16-game schedule will be within the conference based on the previous year's standings, where teams with similar records will play each other.
The new schedule format will ensure that teams will play every other club at least once every four years. This will rectify a situation where the Seahawks and Bucs went 16 years without playing each other.
All eight division winners and two wild card teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs.
A total of 24 votes were required for passage of the new plan, which was unanimously approved by NFL owners well before the June 1 deadline. Tuesday's announcement brings the Seahawks to their NFL roots. After playing their first season in the NFC, they switched places with their expansion brethren, the Buccaneers. It also brings Seattle coach and general manager Mike Holmgren back to the NFC West. Holmgren was an assistant coach with the 49ers before becoming head coach of the Packers and later joining the Seahawks.
With their move from the NFC East to the West, the Cardinals cut down on travel. Still, the move was opposed by Arizona owner Bill Bidwill, who did not want to lose an annual home game with the Cowboys that normally draws a capacity crowd.
Other matters to be discussed at the meetings include the NFL Internet Network, a partnership deal with Reebok and a stadium contruction financing plan.NEWLN: