Seattle has assembled quite a motley crew at left tackle. The bye week is a good time to determine the future of the position and how Seattle should get there.
Walter Jones: Here's my hope: Jones does not return to the Seahawks this season. With his time off stretching well over a year, Jones begins recapturing the joy of not playing. He realizes he has nothing left to prove to the league, no need for the remainder of his contract, and a long life ahead of him, knees, shoulders and brain intact. Walter Jones announces his retirement and Seahawks fans everywhere can begin what will be a lifelong tribute to the greatest Seahawk to ever put on Blue.
Sean Locklear: Seattle signed Sean Locklear to a five-year, $32 million contract in 2008. That contract contained escalators if Locklear eventually took over at left tackle. He started this season as Seattle's starting left tackle, but wasn't there long before being sidelined with yet another injury. Injuries have become a major problem for Lock. He is not a superstar and does not play a position Seattle needs a superstar, but he doesn't become a good target for release until the offseason of 2011. He is guaranteed $12 million and, to my knowledge, has only been paid a hair more than $6 million.
Locklear has the skills to be what Seattle needs in a left tackle. He is good in pass pro and a good fit for a zone blocking scheme. He has good footwork, takes good angles and knows how to pull out, cut and block on the move. His most recent injury is another in a line of disconnected, fluke injuries that have plagued him. Perhaps Locklear lacks the ability to protect his body, but that is such a hard thing to know. Locklear's injuries are not the degenerative kind. He does not have the weakened shoulder joints or bollocksed up knees of a player in premature decline. He hasn't shown lingering effects from his injuries and Malcolm Gladwell does not weep for his brain.
Locklear gives Seattle freedom to approach the draft and offseason with options. The team might add a better talent at left tackle and move Locklear back to right tackle. It might think there is better talent at guard or right tackle, and decide to keep on Locklear and hope he develops. It could move Locklear to guard. His injuries have hurt his value, and he is no longer cheap, but his contract is not burdensome. Locklear has a place within this organization for now, be it starting at left tackle, starting at right tackle, starting at guard, insuring a draft pick, providing depth or just being a bridge until a better player can take over.
Brandon Frye: Frye got thrown in the deep end and couldn't learn to swim before he had to be dragged out, gasping. For a little while, he flailed his arms and kept his head above water. Then the big kids jumped in and pulled off his shorts. Dwight Freeney did to Frye what Jay Ratliff did to Steve Vallos. Vallos returned the next season and proved he could provide depth at center. Frye could return next season and start.
I like Ray Willis a lot, but he is not matched to Seattle's scheme. It's hard watching a big man move so well and yet clearly not well enough to do what is asked of him. Watch Willis attempt to pull across the front of the line and engage an opposite field linebacker and you'll see for all his open-field blocking ability and big-man quicks, he is simply not quick enough to arrive in time. Frye is. Frye is the type of player a zone blocking scheme should have. He isn't huge and he doesn't eat small countries for breakfast like a Philly right tackle, but he has decent size, good versatility and very good athleticism. He isn't a mauler, but can maul when he has the angle or an assist. Most importantly, he can get out and cut that opposite field linebacker to spring C.J. Spiller for a 93 yard run off left tackle.
Kyle Williams: When Williams practice squad eligibility expires, so does his usefulness to Seattle. It's not your fault, guy, blame Vallos. I know I do. For everything. As Maggie Simpson so eloquently put it: "You're the reason I can't talk."