For the Seattle Seahawks, as for most teams, it’ll be most important how they play relative to their division opponents. So rather than focusing just on their own roster, or on how their roster compares NFL-wide, instead let’s look at how they compare to the three teams they need to beat out to be guaranteed the most important spot of all: division-winner, playoff home game, potential bye week.
Because for the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, their number one seed was way more valuable than Nick Foles, Trey Burton, or any individual player in the playoffs.
The focus in Seattle for most of the last four years has often been their offensive line and the negatives within. This year, they’ve swapped out offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with Brian Schottenheimer, offensive line coach Tom Cable with Mike Solari, and signed D.J. Fluker to start at right guard (for now). The other four positions seem to remain the same. It probably looks bad. But is it bad relative to the three teams that matter the most?
(I leave question marks in the ranking (out of four) because offensive line is the hardest position on offense or defense to judge adequately, so a range is fine by me.)
LT - Duane Brown (3rd?)
The NFC West is surprisingly pretty stacked (but old) at left tackle, thanks to the changes made by the Seahawks and Cardinals. Andrew Whitworth stands as the best tackle in the division, but he is also the oldest lineman in the NFL. Joe Staley isn’t far off in talent or age, turning 34 in August. Arizona’s change is moving D.J. Humphries back to the left side last season, where he started five games and seemed to do pretty well. However, he’s not guaranteed to be ready to start the season after suffering a sprained MCL and dislocated knee cap in the offseason. The Cards are definitely in fourth place, but the movement could change rapidly because of the ages of Whitworth, Staley, and Brown.
RT - Germain Ifedi (2nd/3rd?)
Ifedi has the first round pedigree behind him but if you’re reading this, you are probably a Seahawks fan, and likely already feeling sweat start to form on your brow from how angry you are whilst reminiscing a penalty or missed block. That being said, right tackles are often, by nature, worse tackles than their counterparts. The Rams are doing pretty good with Rob Havenstein, who is a free agent in 2019 (which could pose a problem for LA if they don’t extend him first, because they have so many FAs). ESPN called right tackle a “fatal flaw” for the 49ers and Trent Brown/Garry Gilliam, but Niners Nation is satisfied with Brown when healthy. The Cardinals are going with free agent signee Andre Smith, who is going through his third team switch in the last three years.
Ifedi isn’t great, but as far as what he’s proven and his potential to get better going into year three, he likely is not the worst in the division.
LG - Ethan Pocic (3rd?)
I think that Rodger Saffold (again, Rams) is the clear frontrunner (and again, a free agent in 2019). After that, it’s a little murky. Pocic has the most potential in the group. Arizona’s Mike Iupati is the richest and has four Pro Bowls on his resume, but he’s been underwhelming since leaving the Niners for the Cards and he missed basically all of 2017. The 49ers are currently holding a competition between three former first round disappointments: Jonathan Cooper, Joshua Garnett, and Laken Tomlinson. It sounds like Cooper is going to start OTAs at right guard, Cooper at left, while Garnett works to try and get back into the starting lineup. The Seahawks and 49ers are in a competition to not be the worst at guard in the division, if not the conference, if not the entire league.
RG - D.J. Fluker (3rd/4th?)
Finally a place where Arizona leads after signing Justin Pugh to a $45 million deal. Just note that Pugh missed eight games in 2017, giving him 17 missed games in the last four years. He’s still likely first, ahead of LA’s Jamon Brown, who of course will be a free agent in 2019. (The Rams entire offensive line has the potential to change by next year, with at least two of those five guys likely leaving.) After that, it’s either Fluker or the second-place finisher in the competition between Cooper/Garnett/Tomlinson for San Francisco. If not one of those three, it could be Zane Beadles, which gives Fluker an even bigger advantage to not be the worst in the division.
C - Justin Britt (1st/2nd?)
Britt remains the best bet on Seattle’s offensive line, having had four years as a pro, two as a center, starting 63 of a possible 64 regular season games and turning only 27 next month. John Sullivan is a really good center for the Rams, though he’ll be 33 in August and just recently missing most of two seasons because of an injury. The 49ers signed Weston Richburg to a very large deal, but he missed 12 games last season and I would say has proven a little less than Britt. Maybe he proves to be better by the end of 2018, but right now I’m comfortable ranking Britt ahead of him. The biggest question mark is Arizona’s A.Q. Shipley, who has started 32 of 32 games in the last two seasons, but is still in a competition for his job per new head coach Steve Wilks. He’s backed up by Daniel Munyer and Josh Allen.
OL Rankings (Potentially)
San Francisco 49ers
I feel safe saying that the Rams have the best line and the Cardinals have the worst. Seattle and San Francisco are pretty close: both have good centers, good left tackles, and issues at the other three positions.