The Seahawks’ offensive line might be one of the most rage-inducing topics in all of Seattle sports. Everyone has an equally diverse opinion on the group. Whether you place blame on specific individuals or think it's a failure on an organizational level, it’s not hard to conclude that the position group has lacked development and success.
However, it’s important to pinpoint these failures and successes, and not speak in generalities. Rushing wise, Seattle has been one of the top four units for four years in a row now. The Seahawks’ offensive line and the coaching staff have done a strong job of consistently providing a strong, run game. Give them credit there. They’re not perfect, but they’re good.
Pass protection is a different story.
Per Football Outsiders, Seattle’s pass protection ranked 20th in 2012, dead last in 2013, 24th in 2014, and 30th in 2015.
Why are the Seahawks so good at developing a run game but struggle mightily in protecting their franchise quarterback? Is it an issue of development? Is at an issue of selecting the wrong players? Is it a miscommunication issue? Is it a coaching issue? Is it a scouting issue? It is a Pete issue?
Frankly, when we as fans watch these games and interviews, we can only know so much. There are only two groups of people who know who whiffed a block on the line: the players and the coaches. Everyone else is speculating. We don’t know who is responsible which block in their schemes. As outsiders to the organization, with minimal internal knowledge to their scouting, grading, selection, and development process – it would be unfair to the players, the coaches, and the organization as a whole to wildly speculate and pinpoint exactly where the Seahawks screwed up. Because honestly, we’ll never fully know.
And if I’m being transparent with you – I’m not a philosophical guru when it comes to the offensive line. I get lost in those tweets and frankly don’t ending up reading the long debates on twitter. However, I do know this: the Seahawks need to revisit their entire offensive line process. They haven’t gotten it right. What they’re doing isn’t working. The organization needs to do a hard, internal review on their grading, selection, communication, and development process – and adapt. Successful teams in the NFL know when to self-critique and adapt. If the Seahawks value their franchise quarterback, they will evolve.
This is the problem: Seattle’s Super Bowl window is now. After seeing what Russell Wilson was capable of this past year (with the 30th ranked line in pass protection), how can they not modify their offensive identity around him now? If they truly believe Russell Wilson is their franchise quarterback (duh), then they should invest into resources that protect him like one. Stop ignoring the line in free agency. It’s time to allocate your resources around Russell Wilson – even at the cost of other position groups.
So, let’s get this straight: I’m not going to attempt to breakdown exactly where the Seahawks are screwing up. Instead, I’m going to stick to my roots and what I know well: free agency. I’m going to highlight 5 key unrestricted free agents that Seattle might want to keep their eyes on - and consider signing to aid the position group.
#1) Russell Okung – Left Tackle
Let’s start with the obvious. Russell Okung, despite numerous injury struggles, is the most prized offensive lineman heading towards free agency. Furthermore, the left tackle position in the NFL is incredibly shallow, and finding a competent left tackle is extremely difficult. Thus, there will be quite the market for Okung (should the Seahawks not extend him before free agency starts).
Many teams will be interested in his services at the left tackle position. His ability to hold up in pass protection and provide decent push in the run game will be a valuable asset to his future employer. When it comes to the Seahawks, Okung has been the lone pole of consistency on the line. Extending Okung would provide Russell Wilson support at a highly demanded and valued position. Additionally, extending Okung gives Seattle draft flexibility:
If you re-sign Okung, it gives you flexibility to use 1st round on one of the premier DT, or THEE #1 center.— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) February 3, 2016
Over the Cap currently projects Okung to receive a 5-year contract worth somewhere between $45-50M. However, with Okung’s recent shoulder injury and a 4-6 month recovery looming, it’s difficult to see a team shelling out that cash to damaged goods. Hopefully the Seahawks will offer Okung a "one year prove it deal" – worth $6-7M.... and I hope he takes it.
#2) Alex Mack - Center
Mack, the stud center for the Browns, is currently under contract. However, his deal has a void option after two years. Should he choose to exercise that option, Mack will approach free agency with an excess of bidders. Currently, he has not confirmed any intent to stay in Cleveland. Mack had this to say at the Pro Bowl:
"It was good to leave the season, take some time off and let that all shake out,’’ he said. "Really happy they got everything handled early and they found their guy. They’re getting a staff together quickly. It’s going in the right direction. I think they’ve got good things going in the right places.’’
Patrick Lewis, the center for the Seahawks, is likely not the long-term solution at that position. Either in the draft or in free agency, Seattle should probably be looking for a long-term center that can develop a career relationship with Russell Wilson. Over the Cap projects Mack to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years/$40-45M.
#3) Kelechi Osemele – Left Guard
Osemele, the Ravens’ left guard, will be approaching free agency this spring. He’s been a stud for the Ravens and has proven himself as a strong commodity on their line. On the other hand, the left guard position has been a tragedy for the Seahawks. In hindsight, the Justin Britt pick looks like a reach. However, the jury is still out on him.
Osemele's expected reasoning for departure from the Ravens is due to an already incredible amount of resources being put towards the line. The Ravens don’t appear to want to put any more money towards that position group. Should the Seahawks choose to pursue Osemele, he would be placed as an immediate starter. Over the Cap projects Osemele to get around 4 years/$40M.
#4) Alex Boone – Left Guard
Boone seems to be an incredibly popular pick for pursuit among Seahawks fans. The cheaper option over Osemele, Boone seems to be on his way out of the Niners’ organization. The recent dysfunctional nature of the organization has not sounded appealing to his future career. Boone is young, only 28 years old, and will be hitting free agency in March. Look for Seattle to potentially pursue the young gun. Over the Cap projects Boone to get $5M a year over four years.
#5) Stefen Wisniewski – Center
Wisniewski, a free agent last year, had interest from multiple teams – including the Seahawks. Wisniewski ended up signing with the Jaguars on a short, one-year deal. And he actually ended up playing pretty well with them. Over the Cap projects Stefen to get $9M over three years.
In all, these are several unrestricted free agents who Seattle might want to keep their eyes on. All of these players would be an immediate upgrade on the line. Heading towards the offseason, I would like to see Seattle extend Okung, add a veteran presence, and use adequate draft resources on the line. Now knowing what Russell can now do with the 30th ranked offensive line in pass protection, we have to give him help. Imagine Russell Wilson with an even average offensive line. Soon, we might not have to.