Over the last six weeks or so I’ve been doing write-ups on the free agents for all 32 teams. You can find all of those posts here for more information, which will come in handy for some background on the names I’ll be listing below.
This time, with free agency officially opening Thursday, I want to focus on the offensive linemen that the Seattle Seahawks could be targeting this year. To clarify, most of these guys will not be targeted by the Seahawks. Some of them don’t even make much sense. But plenty of moves don’t make any sense and I would rather be thorough than overlook some options that make even a tiny amount of sense.
Seattle had the worst offensive line in football last season and they got what they paid for, spending the least amount of money on that unit than any other team by a longshot. That’s why many fans wants to see Pete Carroll and John Schneider end their protest against free agent linemen and to have the Seahawks sign Kevin Zeitler and trade for Joe Thomas and have a total change in philosophy despite their other successes that may not be possible if they paid the offensive line $25 million/year. (They currently pay them about $6 million/year, which is equally ridiculous, anyone must admit.)
I don’t expect them to make any splashy moves on the offensive line, instead focusing on tier II and III, but they’ve said that they will do something and try to get older, more experienced in that area. Does that imply better moves than J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell? I think it does, but we’ll have to wait and see, and the market may dictate that the cost of linemen has gone way up (early indications imply that it has) and over what Schneider is willing to pay for a tier II free agent. The draft class at OL is looking pretty poor though, so free agency almost certainly seems like the way to go for added competition on the interior and starting-caliber players on the outside.
Here are 41 potential options.
The center position is not expected to be pursued by Seattle because Justin Britt is by far the best player on the offensive line and Joey Hunt seems an adequate backup. If the Seahawks pursued a starting center, it would imply that they will move Britt back to guard or tackle, which would be worrisome given his play at those positions. To play devil’s advocate, the offensive line just needs to get better in general and if the best available value add on the line is at center maybe it’s worth it hope that Britt’s improvement was less about his position and more about his advancement in blocking and that it’ll translate back to tackle or guard. They’d still much rather find out that Britt is a starting right tackle than a starting center, which would also increase the likelihood that they’ll re-sign him, I think.
If that was the case, J.C. Tretter of the Green Bay Packers is one of the most intriguing players on the market. Tretter, a fourth round pick in 2013, made seven starts in place of Corey Linsley last season and was one of the best centers in the league during that time. Because he only has 10 career starts and has an extensive injury history, Tretter may sign a prove-it deal for a bigger contract opportunity in 2018. From a veteran “guarantee” standpoint, potential future Hall of Famer Nick Mangold was released by the New York Jets and is available. Mangold is a much better center than Britt, so if Britt is better than Garry Gilliam at right tackle, it would still be upgrading two positions. The Atlanta Falcons added Alex Mack last year and it seriously helped their offensive line. These are the only two centers I am considering based on both value (Tretter) and proven talent (Mangold).
Guard is less of a need than tackle because it seems like the team will be less hesitant to replace their 2016 first round pick and 2015 fourth round pick than they will be a rookie UDFA and Gilliam, a restricted free agent that they placed the lowest possible tender on. That being said, Germain Ifedi and Mark Glowinski were not good last season and Carroll will at least be adding serious competition at those positions, which will also increase the competition at tackle with Ifedi possibly moving back outside.
On the high end there is Ronald Leary (Cowboys), T.J. Lang (Packers), and Kevin Zeitler (Bengals). All of these players are expected to land at least $8 million per year. That is in large part due to the recent extension Laurent Duverney-Tardif signed with the Chiefs that pays him $8.25 million/year despite him being considered a perfectly average guard. The Eagles signed Brandon Brooks to a deal for $8 million/season last year. Leary, Lang, and Zeitler are all good players (Leary comes with some significant injury concerns) but $8 million is more than they are set to pay their entire offensive line next season. Are the Seahawks really going to double the cost of their offensive line by adding a guard? I highly doubt it.
Larry Warford of the Detroit Lions is also expected to ask for about $8 million/year and I think he’s clearly a level below Lang and Zeitler. He may actually be better than Leary, come to think of it, and he’s younger without the long list of injury concerns.
One of the first players Seattle has been linked to is Brian Schwenke of the Tennessee Titans. Schwenke was drafted as a center but moved to guard last year and got some spot duty on one of the best offensive lines in the league. His reviews were quite mixed, so I would think he’d be signed by the Seahawks to compete at guard rather than to start, so hopefully his deal is in the $1-2 million range and nothing more.
On the level of free agents who could compete for Seattle are Vlad Ducasse (Ravens), Chance Warmack (Titans), Brandon Fusco (Vikings), Jon Cooper, (Cowboys), Mike Person (Chiefs), Earl Watford (Cardinals), and Andrew Tiller (49ers). Joe Hawley was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting center for the last two years but has played guard in the past. I can’t imagine the Seahawks signing a center to a sizable free agent deal and then asking him to move to another position though. Players like Warmack and Cooper are juicy headlines because they were top 10 picks, but have played awfully which is why they are available. It’s just to compete if they do sign, not to start. Person was with Seattle before but could not stick around. Fusco has some concussion concerns and was also just released by Minnesota, a team that is right there with the Seahawks as having the worst o-lines in the NFL.
Some players are a little more ambiguous as far as if they are guards or tackles. They include Marshall Newhouse (Giants), D.J. Fluker (Chargers), and Luke Joeckel (Jaguars). Like Cooper and Warmack, Fluker and Joeckel are flashy signings because they were high draft picks, but all of the reports about their play is negative. Fluker was objectively one of the worst offensive linemen in football last season. There’s some thought that he’d do much better in Tom Cable’s system, and that may be true, but he’d have to be willing to sign a deal similar to the one that J’Marcus Webb signed last year, I think (2 years, $6.25 million). Even that might be too much. Are we still judging Fluker in a vacuum as a player rather than as a great prospect coming out of Alabama?
This is going to be the big one for many people and maybe also for Seattle. I think there’s still a lot of hope for George Fant at left tackle, so right tackle is probably the primary focus, but the left side won’t be ignored. On the level of left tackles with extensive starting experience are Russell Okung (Broncos), Ryan Clady (Jets), Kelvin Beachum (Jaguars), Matt Kalil (Vikings), Jake Long (Vikings), Andrew Whitworth (Bengals), and Riley Reiff (Lions). That’s a somewhat shockingly high number of available players with a lot of starts at left tackle. In fact, at least five of them stand a good chance at starting at left tackle for a new team next season and there will be a few more than that that I haven’t listed yet who simply don’t have a high number of previous starts at left tackle.
Okung is well known by Seahawks fans. Clady, Beachum, and Long were very good or great in the past but have significant injury concerns and in the case of Clady and Long, maybe they don’t really play extensively again. Beachum played pretty good last year in Jacksonville but not good enough for them to pick up his option. Reiff started most of his career at left tackle before Detroit drafted Taylor Decker and moved Reiff to the right side, which is probably where he belongs. Whitworth would be the “Fuck it, we’re getting an All-Pro move” but he’d likely cost more than $12 million/year for the next two seasons and he’s 35. Kalil would just be a bad move.
Players with some history at left tackle include Sebastian Vollmer (Patriots), Jermon Bushrod (Dolphins), and Bradley Sowell (Seahawks ... sorry). Vollmer missed all of last season with injury but was once a great tackle for New England. Bushrod was a great lineman in his own right back when he was with the New Orleans Saints. He played guard in Miami last season. Sowell was Sowell. Vollmer and Bushrod would be Jahri Evans type moves, which isn’t necessarily a useless thing like it was with Jahri Evans. John Schneider admitted they may have made a mistake by releasing Evans which implies they’re going to be hyper aware of veteran cuts before next season.
At right tackle, the top options are
Ricky Wagner (Ravens) and Austin Pasztor (Browns). Honestly, there might be better players available on the left side than the right side, which seems literally backwards. What that means for Seattle is maybe they sign a left tackle and try Fant on the right side. Maybe they sign a left tackle and move him to the right side. Maybe they still just sign a right tackle. I don’t think they’re going to pay Wagner $9 million a season and with the dearth of exciting options at right tackle, Pasztor’s price tag might hit a figure that turns the Seahawks off. (Update: Wagner is reportedly signing with the Lions for $9 million a season.) I can’t imagine it would be good business sense to pay Pasztor, a decent-ish player with an injury history, more than $4 million a year. He’ll get more than that.
Next up are Menelik Watson (Raiders), Andre Smith (Vikings), Breno Giacomini (Jets), Jordan Mills (Bills), Ben Ijalana (Jets), Mike Remmers (Panthers), Will Beatty (Giants), Tom Compton (Falcons), Gosder Cherilus (Bucs), Garrett Reynolds (Lions), and Eric Winston (Bengals). Most of these players have been available in recent seasons without the Seahawks showing any interest. Not publicly at least. Watson is by far the most attractive option because he’s a recent second round pick and he’s mostly been held back by injuries. On a one-year prove-it deal or a two-year incentivized deal, he makes a lot of sense. But again, with the market at right tackle looking like it does, Watson very well could get overpaid.
Though he’s familiar, Giacomini is not any good at this point and should not be considered a fix on the right side. Compton at least has some upside. The veteran options here are not attractive at all.
All Seattle fans want them to sign some veteran offensive line help. I’ve just named 41 options, and they’ll probably sign two or three guys I didn’t even mention.