Ten months ago I entitled a post Sign Mike Wahle. Two days later, Seattle signed Mike Wahle. There was much rejoicing. The move looked very solid. Wahle did not need to be a Pro Bowl guard to dramatically improve Seattle's offensive line. Moving Rob Sims from left to right and replacing Chris Gray improved two positions.
That didn't happen. Wahle, Sims and Gray are now all out for the season. Gray is enjoying paid retirement. Sims is cheap, young and still in the mix for right guard next season. Wahle, well...
Wahle had his moments in the sun:
The play is a sweep left with Mike Wahle pulling. Wahle is running up and wide, attempting to get in front of Jones and provide a lead block in the second level, but Wahle recognizes Patrick Willis breaking on Jones and cuts up field, engaging Willis. Wahle rides Willis, and Jones turns the corner. Willis - who is, if we can shed our homerism for a second, pretty damn awesome - disengages from Wahle and tackles Jones after seven.
At the snap, the Rams blitz seven. Walter Jones blocks hard in, Mike Wahle drops back but delays his pull, Chris Spencer pulls into the second level, engaging Will Witherspoon, and Carlson locks down Pisa Tinoisamoa. Julius Jones runs up behind Jones, Wahle completes his pull dominating Bartell, Jones cuts out, cuts back behind Tinoisamoa and enters the third level with only three to beat. His wending, 32 yard rush is a legitimate third gear from pay dirt.
And his false starts, holds and pass protection problems:
[W]hen Justin Tuck moved into the interior, it was on the defensive right side opposite Mike Wahle. Tuck handled Wahle, getting two play changing pressures of the instant variety. Wahle is not as good a pass blocker as Rob Sims and it shows. His feet are good and he's an asset in the run game, but all things considered, I sort of misses Sims' steadiness. People remember the big gaffes, but I watched Sims be a rock almost all season and the time he afforded Matt Hasselbeck was crucial for Seattle's passing game.
In ten games started, Wahle allowed 3.5 sacks. Quarterbacks usually avoid a sack allowed by a guard because the pressure typically arrives from the front. Wahle's 3.5 sacks allowed represents a fraction of the pressures, incompletes and quarterback hits allowed by Wahle. Over 26 games in the past two seasons, Wahle has allowed 8 sacks. That's a lot of blown block in pass pro.
The pass protection problems are real and with Seattle rebuilding, an expensive, declining left guard seems an expense unworthy of keeping. Wahle is guaranteed 5.5 million, all of which has been paid. If Seattle becomes the second team to cut Wahle in two seasons, it will be on the hook for more than 2.33 million in dead money, but will save 1.94 million in cap space. That doesn't seem much to save for a team without a true successor at left guard. Cutting Wahle, at least cutting Wahle before the draft, commits Seattle to either drafting a starter-ready replacement or signing another retread. Should that retread be talented, given the market for guards, he would be extremely expensive.
The smarter move would be to retain Wahle and attempt to restructure his contract. Seattle should have leverage given his recent injuries. Seattle needs an upgrade at left guard, but why limit its options in the draft? Why cut talent without gaining much salary flexibility? A cut would seem more punitive than practical. Don't cut Mike Wahle.