If many Seahawks fans had their way, general manager John Schneider would draft or sign in free agency the four biggest, baddest offensive linemen since Troy and Sparta went at it in the early Greek league. But if you were listening to coach Pete Carroll’s presser at season’s end, you will recall that he gave the idea a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag.
“We have nothing but good things to think that (progress) will take place and the guys are going to get better,” he said of the line. “There’s opportunities in the draft and free agency and all of that, that we’re open to. We’ll never turn away from any of those chances.
“But if nothing happened, these guys are coming back, and they’re going to get after it. They’re going to be farther along than they were. It couldn’t be more obvious. That’s just a natural thing that’s going to happen.”
I can hear the crickets in the readership from here.
Carroll is prepared to go into into 2017 with LT George Fant, LG Mark Glowinski, RG Germain Ifedi and RT Garry Gilliam. But besides the career renaissance of Justin Britt converting to center, none of them inspires much belief among the faithful, not after the Seahawks finished 25th in rushing with 99.4 yards a game. For a team with a proud rushing tradition, it was like Superman attempting to fly with his cape caught in the door.
Then again, the line was part of a regular-season feat unique in the NFL in 2016 — the Seahawks beat both Super Bowl entrants, Atlanta and New England.
So it’s not as if things are hopeless. But the fact was the coaches asked a ridiculous amount from two rookies, Ifedi and Fant, and Glowinski was a second-year player with one start. Particularly after the retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch, whose unique beastliness can do wonders for a lineman’s resume.
The line’s future became a matter of intrigue Thursday with the coincidental news that both tackles from the Seahawks’ 2013 team that won the Super Bowl will be available.
LT Russell Okung was told his expensive option would not be picked up by the Denver Broncos, whom he joined last season after six years with the Seahawks. Okung signed a one-year, $5 million deal acting as his own agent, a maneuver criticized by many in the league as foolish.
He accepted a back-loaded deal that could have earned him up to $48 million over the next four years, and played all 16 games for the first time in his career at 29. But the Broncos saved $11 million against the cap in 2017 by cutting him before the March 9 commencement of free agency. He graded out 38th among 78 rated tackles by Pro Football Focus.
RT Breno Giacomini was cut by the New York Jets after three seasons, saving $4.5 million against the cap from the final year of a deal he took in free agency after helping win the Super Bowl in Seattle. In September, he’ll be 32 and played just five games last season because of a herniated disc, which was surgically repaired in January.
Of the two, Okung obviously has more upside, but both are likely better than what the Seahawks fetched in free agency last year, Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb. And the Seahawks are an estimated $32 million under the 2017 salary cap.
But the Seahawks and assistant coach Tom Cable have always preferred to grow their own linemen, particularly in an era when colleges teach run blocking like ballerinas teach blacksmithing.
Adding either Okung or Giacomini would be a much easier transition than teaching newbies the subtle arts of zone blocking. And the investment like would be for only one year, although Okung benefits from the presence of few quality left tackles in the free agent market, and might draw a multi-year offer.
As long as we’re going gray here, there’s another name that could intrigue the Seahawks — three-time Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth, whose team of 12 years, the Cincinnati Bengals, has to decide whether to invest in him at 35 or let him go into free agency to seek a job with a contender.
Whitworth doesn’t have a big public profile, but Pro Football Focus rated him the second-best tackle last season. In an interview reported by NFL.com, Whitworth would prefer to return to the Bengals, but also said he was ready to test the market.
The Seahawks’ draft choices would be much better spent fixing the defense, which hasn’t developed a strong starter to succeed their aging core, although DE Frank Clark is coming close. My personal favorite is Michigan’s LB/SS Jabrill Peppers, who may require trading up, but is the kind of hard-hitting, versatile athlete Carroll loves.
And if you’re buying the notion of one-year patches to take some pressure off youngsters, I have another suggestion — RB Adrian Peterson.
The Seahawks went through a mess o’ backs last season, and the Minnesota Vikings would have to pay Peterson, 32, $18 million if he played for them in 2017. That would be after he carried 37 times for 72 yards in three 2016 games after a meniscus tear that required knee surgery. Doesn’t sound like a good investment in Minnesota, although the Vikings have not declared their intentions.
Yes, after 10 years in Minnesota, where he was NFL MVP in 2012, he’s on the downside. But in Seattle, where youngsters Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise return — health permitting — he wouldn’t have to be the AP of old. Just the once-in-awhile AP.
Peterson did an interview recently in which he mentioned the Giants, Bucs, and Texans as possible fits, but his preference was to stay in the Twin Cities. Much NFL speculation has him going to Dallas to back up rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott.
No one is mentioning Seattle. At least until now. But if he passes the physical, a one-season deal in a new place with a regular contender could constitute a career revival.
Plus he’d have former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh with whom to share a last laugh at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Art Thiel is co-founder of sportspressnw.com.