Overview: The Carolina Panthers released Mike Wahle February 11, 2008. Seattle signed him three days later to a five-year, $20 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed and a $3.5 million signing bonus. Wahle started ten games at left guard before being put on injured reserve on December 5 with an injured right shoulder.
What went right: Wahle was, as a run blocker, the closest thing to Steve Hutchinson since Steve Hutchinson. Wahle's ability to pull allowed Seattle to trap and kick-out block, and opened parts of Mike Holmgren's playbook closed since 2005. More importantly, Wahle executed and executed well. He gave Patrick Willis the business and helped Seattle run for 169 yards against San Francisco in week two. He was the best interior run-blocker for a team that ran for more yards than it passed through six games.
What went wrong: Wahle was the worst interior pass-blocker for a team that passed for fewer yards than it ran through six games. He started shaky, was handled by Justin Tuck, and by week 8, with his shoulder screaming and his range of motion narrowed, handled by Justin Smith. The injury that ended his season occurred to the same shoulder he suffered a torn labrum to in December of 2006.
Outlook: Seattle could save $1.1 million by cutting Wahle. His recent surgery was a scope and therefore much less severe than the reconstruction he endured in 2006. There is a chance that Wahle is exiting the bad stretch of his career and entering his final bloom before retirement. That's not how this story usually goes. Wahle still has the best potential at left guard for the 2009 Seahawks. Seattle has so far decided that his potential and value as depth is worth at least $1.1 million, but it is no mere coincidence that Max Unger is starting his career practicing at left guard.
Wahle could still lose his job in training camp. He could be cut if he can't prove himself healthy. There's a dreamer's scenario where Unger replaces Wahle like Leroy Hill replaced Jamie Sharper in 2005 after Seattle loses Wahle for the season, and Wahle his career, and Seahawks fans laugh all the way into the playoffs. There's a nightmare scenario where Wahle stays healthy but never regains his ability to pass block, but by staying healthy sticks on the roster this year and beyond and is misidentified as a contributor when he's really a liability. Most likely though is that Wahle starts the year at left guard. If he proves incapable of pass blocking it will indicate to coaches a recurrence of his injury or that his shoulder is irreparably damaged, and he will be benched or put on IR.