RENTON — With their highest draft pick since 2010 the Seattle Seahawks did what they did then — draft an offensive tackle they hope can hold down the position for years, selecting Charles Cross of Mississippi State.
It was the first time the Seahawks made a pick inside the top 10 since selecting left tackle Russell Okung sixth overall in 2010, the first draft for general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.
Per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Cross will get a four-year contract worth up to $24,486,370 including a signing bonus of $14,988,268, according to OvertheCap.com. Cross will count $4.45 million against Seattle’s salary cap in 2022.
First-round picks also include a team option for a fifth year to be exercised after the third year of the deal.
Cross fills a huge need for Seattle as the Seahawks entered the draft with just three offensive tackles on the roster — second-year players Jake Curhan, Greg Eiland and Stone Forsythe. Seattle has not signed last year’s two starting tackles — Duane Brown on the left side and Brandon Shell on the right — each of whom remain free agents. Brown has been Seattle’s starting left tackle since midway through the 2017 season, but turns 37 in August and has battled a chronic knee issue the last few years and it is not a surprise that Seattle may now be desiring to go in a different direction at that spot. Okung filled the left tackle spot from 2010-15 before leaving as a free agent, anchoring Seattle’s line in 2013 when the Seahawks own the Super Bowl.
Cross had generally been considered as the third best of three offensive tackles thought worthy of going in the top 10.
The other two went earlier — Ikem Ekonwu North Carolina State to Carolina with the sixth pick and Evan Neal of Alabama to the Giants at seven.
Seattle was rumored to be considering trading the pick, in particular moving down to get more picks than the eight it currently has, but ultimately decided on Cross.
Cross, who was one of 21 potential draftees who attended the draft in Las Vegas, said he was not surprised to be taken by Seattle, noting he had an official visit with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine and a few Zoom calls.
“I felt pretty good about them,” Cross said. “… I kind of expected it, to be honest.”
Cross was generally considered as the best pass-blocking tackle available in the draft, while playing in the pass-happy system of former WSU coach Mike Leach.
The question will be how well he can adapt to the NFL at just 21 years old and coming out as a redshirt sophomore, and how quickly he adapts to NFL run blocking.
Cross allowed just 16 pressures in 719 pass-blocking snaps in 2021, including two sacks, a vast improvement after he allowed 33 in 574 in 2020 (and six sacks) his first season as a starter (he also played 22 snaps as a freshman in 2019 before redshirting).
Cross measured at 6-4-3/4 inches, 307 pounds at the Combine but says he is now up to 315 pounds and will meet with the Seahawks when he arrives to talk about what will be his best playing weight. Brown was listed last year at 320 pounds.
Wrote Pro Football Focus of Cross: “Cross was a former top recruit who was thrown to the fire in a big way when Mike Leach took over in 2020. He went from 11 pass-blocking snaps in 2019 to 574 in 2020. He struggled a bit, understandably, allowing 44 pressures. But as a redshirt sophomore in 2021, Cross showed up a different animal. He only allowed 16 pressures, and his run blocking prowess took a gigantic step forward. He still hasn’t done a ton of NFL concepts in the run game, which should be a steep learning curve in the league.”
Seattle’s top needs entering the draft were generally been perceived to be offensive tackle, edge rusher and cornerback.
But by pick seven, the top two at each of those spots was off the board, including the top three edge rushers (Travon Walker first to the Jags, Aidan Hutchinson second to the Lions and Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth to the Giants).
That seemed to leave Cross as the most logical option for Seattle. And a Seahawks team that has not often done what was perceived to be the most logical in the draft this time did.
The pick Seattle used on Cross was acquired from Seattle as part of the trade of Russell Wilson to Denver. Seattle has four more picks over the next two years as part of that trade, including the 40th overall pick in the second round on Friday.
Cross becomes the sixth player Seattle has drafted from Mississippi State, a list led by linebacker K.J. Wright (fourth round, 2011). Others are WR Louis Clark (10th, 1987), DE John Hilliard (sixth, 2000), OT Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack (fourth, 2001), and OT Justin Senior (sixth, 2017).