Free Agent Sean Locklear

Bad as he was, it was never much fun to dog on Locklear.

Well this is confusing.

Probably hard to clink that link, laughing so hard at the headline as you no doubt are. Riotous, uproarious laughter. Laughter reserved for absurd propositions that are painfully cutting in some unspoken way. Like, "Would you like your last meal now, sir?" Or, "Should the Seahawks sign Sean Locklear?"

Yes, thanks to some eleventh hour finagling, Locklear is a free agent. And, yes, Seattle may seek to re-sign him if at a greatly reduced salary. No, the Seahawks probably will not sign Locklear, since he played like one of the worst offensive tackles in football last season, but you never know.

So what's the skinny?

Locklear will turn 30 before the start of next season. That is not old for an offensive lineman in the broadest sense, but it can be old for an oft-injured lineman, especially one showing significant decline. Locklear showed up twice on the NFL injury report, both times for a knee injury. Knee injuries and ankle injuries have plagued Locklear's career. Since 2006, he has appeared on the official injury report because of either a knee or an ankle injury 20 times.

Each individual responds differently to injuries. We hope that Russell Okung shrugs off his ankle sprains and develops into a great tackle. Locklear would present the alternative, much worse possibility. Once upon a time, Locklear was a very good right tackle. He could pass block, he could run block, he could move in space, he was versatile and mostly healthy. When Tim Ruskell signed him to potentially man left tackle, it seemed a like smart signing. Seattle wanted to retain Locklear at right, regardless, and putting incentives into his contract if he could make the transition gave Seattle options. It didn't need to fill left tackle right away. It didn't need to reach in what turned out to be a rather lousy 2009 offensive tackle class.

It also fit Ruskell's unspoken but seemingly defining belief that much of being great is the will and motivation to be great. Maybe Locklear could never be great like Walter Jones is/was/forever will be great, but maybe Locklear could become great like Donald Penn is, uh . . . you get the drift. Someone who is not Great. Someone or something that is not incredible to the point of stretching the limitations of human and human achievement. But someone that is great like Martin Scorsese is a great director. That is, comparatively good among those are supposedly the best in their field, and comparatively good long enough to earn an outsized reputation.

Well, it didn't happen. Locklear missed part of 2009 and returned looking like the right tackle he would become in 2010. His struggles in 2009 could have been categorized as evidence of the Peter Principle. His struggles in 2010 might indicate Locklear wasn't overmatched at left tackle so much as beginning a premature decline.

And now he's a free agent. What possible case can be made for signing him? Well, decline isn't linear or isn't assuredly linear, and though we can line up seemingly damning details about his age, injury history and the trajectory of his career, maybe he was overmatched in 2009, and maybe Locklear simply suffered a down season in 2010. Coincidence can entrap the brain, make it see patterns that are in fact accidents of chance. Maybe he can still regain something, be good again. He is or was a good fit for a zone blocking scheme, insomuch that he has the quickness, athleticism and size. He was playing without a line coach, or without a line coach with any sway. Maybe Cable can pound him back into shape.

But I doubt it. Or, to be more specific, I doubt Locklear's coming career revival will happen with the Seahawks. He needs the figurative change of scenery and some literal competition. He needs the kick in the butt Ruskell thought he was administering by signing over a fat check. Or maybe Lock just needs a couple seasons as a backup and a good plan for retirement.

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