With the Seattle Seahawks on a bye this weekend, the speculation and debate about the offensive line has largely centered around whether the team would or would not be able to coerce Branden Albert out of retirement. Sean Clement reviewed several reasons why it might make sense for the Hawks to wait until after the bye week to bring Albert onboard, and so while we wait for news on that front all that is left to do during week six is enjoy football without the associated nerve-wracking stresses of “enjoying” a Seahawks game.
And, if enjoying the games this weekend is not enough, then some fans may opt to enjoy the games this weekend while dreaming about what might have been. All five members of the Hawks offensive line that started Super Bowl 48 will be starting for other teams this weekend, so that will give Seattle fans lamenting their departures an opportunity to dream about what could have been had the team kept that unit together.
Russell Okung, franchise left tackle for the 1-4 Los Angeles Chargers, is set to play in his 24th consecutive game today, which is the longest streak of his career, besting the 21 consecutive games he played across the 2010 and 2011 seasons for the Seahawks shortly after entering the NFL. Despite missing 24 games during his six seasons with Seattle, Okung has become a beacon of stability since leaving the northwest; he has now failed to miss a single game for either the Denver Broncos or LA Chargers. In fact, Okung has played every single offensive snap for the Chargers so far this season, after playing 98.8% of snaps for the Broncos last year.
The starter at left guard in that game, James Carpenter, has also found the elixir of health after leaving Seattle. Carp missed 19 games during his four seasons in Seattle, but now in his third season with the New York Jets, he will be making his 38th consecutive start since departing Seattle after the 2014 season. Carpenter’s skills should be on display in one of the surprisingly intriguing matchups of the day, when the 3-2 Jets take on the 3-2 Patriots with first place in the AFC East at stake.
Whatever magic potion Carpenter used to begin staying healthy, it appears he may have shared some of it with former teammate Max Unger at the conclusion of the 2014 season. After missing 29 games during the six years he spent in Seattle, Unger was traded to the New Orleans Saints for Jimmy Graham, and in New Orleans he has missed just a single game over the past two plus seasons. The Saints are taking on the Lions in a game that could have playoff seeding implications later on in the season.
Any talk of a magic potion when discussing the right guard for that game, J.R. Sweezy, is more likely to have been a voodoo curse. Sweezy took advantage of the rapidly inflating salaries for free agent offensive linemen following the 2015 season, signing a five-year, $32.5M contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, before even showing up to practice for the Bucs, Sweezy suffered a back injury so severe that he missed the entirety of the 2016 season and the team renegotiated his contract to make it more amenable to keep him on the roster. Sweezy will start today against the Arizona Cardinals, and should be in line to have a good day against a young and inexperienced front seven.
Rounding out the starting line in that game was right tackle Breno Giacomini who has been absolutely horrible for the Houston Texans so far this season. Due to a combination of injuries, Giacomini missed more games last season than he had in the previous four seasons combined, and whether it is age, the injuries or some combination of the two, according to PFF Giacomini leads all NFL linemen in pressures allowed so far this season. Perhaps he will improve on that stat, or perhaps the game has passed him by, in either case he should be able to help the Texans to a win over the hapless Cleveland Browns today, though Myles Garrett may do his best to make it a long one.
As for the depth players on that team, well, they’re all out of the league for one reason or another. That Seahawks team had ten offensive linemen on the roster that day, and outside the starters, none of them are currently employed as NFL players. Paul McQuistan retired following the 2014 season, while Lemuel Jeanpierre retired after failing to make it through final roster cuts for Detroit in 2016 and is now an offensive assistant for Seattle. The other three linemen on the roster that day, Michael Bowie, Alvin Bailey, and Caylin Hauptmann, are all currently unemployed and available as depth should the team decide it has a renewed interest in any of them.
In addition, two of the four linemen on the roster for Super Bowl 49 who were not on the roster for the win over the Broncos - Keavon Milton and Patrick Lewis - are not on NFL rosters at this time, though Milton does play for the BC Lions. The other two are on rosters, with Justin Britt of course continuing to excel as the starting center for the Seahawks, while Garry Gilliam is riding the bench for the abysmal 0-5 San Francisco 49ers. He’s played two offensive snaps so far this season, so anyone who tunes in to the Niners game against the Washington Redskins this afternoon has a chance to see him on the field, even if those chances are slim.
So, in comparison to what Seattle currently has and what they used to have and where they’re at now, the Seahawks may be in better shape if they still had the previous five but at a much higher cost, they wouldn’t be able to keep all of the guys they’ve managed to keep. And the upgrades may not be so much better as to justify the cost difference.