I know Germain Ifedi is struggling and under the microscope for every Seattle Seahawks fan who wants to focus on what could go wrong this season rather than what could go right, but I can’t fault the team for trying. In the same breath where we complain that the Seahawks took a running back in the first round instead of a — well, not instead of a tackle, the next one of those came off the board 23 picks after Rashaad Penny — different prospect, we also fault them for addressing a need with a swing on Ifedi.
Once you acknowledge that all draft picks are swings, and that the end of the first round swing is going to have a much lower batting average than a top of the first round swing, then you must ask yourself instead: Did you want them to take the swing or not? If you did, then we must forgive Ifedi’s lack of hits. (And in turn, an increase of hits on the quarterback.) If you did not, then why did you not?
This was arguably Seattle’s best and only chance of securing a right tackle position that is becoming increasingly more expensive, even for the mediocre ones. And I’m just not seeing a whole lot of right tackles who surpass mediocre.
On Monday, the LA Rams extended right tackle Rob Havenstein on a four-year, $32.5 million contract. At APY, this slots Havenstein in at number three for right tackles behind only Lane Johnson ($11.25m) and Ricky Wagner ($9.5m), and just ahead of Morgan Moses ($8m). Johnson is consistently in the conversation as the best right tackle in the NFL, which is why the Philadelphia Eagles locked him up with such a big deal for a right tackle; note that on the left side there are still 12 tackles who make more than Johnson. That means that the league still values the blindside much more than the ... sightside ... but shoring up your entire offensive line is becoming more and more expensive and difficult to do.
That’s what leads teams like the Rams to pay a right tackle $8 million per season even though many accounts have Havenstein ranked somewhere in the middle of the pack for his position. And if he were to have hit free agency as a healthy guy, Havenstein would have gotten even more, perhaps approaching Johnson’s figure because teams are just that desperate for tackles who don’t really suck.
The Seahawks are not the only team going through trials and tribulations with their offensive line, this is a league-wide problem that’s been developing for years.
Wagner turned a solid three years of starting for the Baltimore Ravens into a $47.5 million deal with the Detroit Lions. If he were in Seattle, that would make Wagner the team’s fifth-highest paid player after Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin, and Earl Thomas. If Ricky Wagner were on the Seahawks, playing right tackle, would you consider him the team’s fifth-best player? Even among those on second or third deals like Duane Brown, K.J. Wright, and Justin Britt? I’m not even sure he’s more valuable than Bradley McDougald.
But that’s been the cost to simply not suck at right tackle, when those players become available, and as extensions to Johnson, Havenstein, Moses, Bryan Bulaga, and Marcus Cannon can attest to, they rarely do. Many of the ones who do become available come at a cost above what you’d expect based on their experience. Teams are willing to overpay now just at the prospect of a better life for those players.
The Cleveland Browns gave right tackle Chris Hubbard a five-year, $36.5 million deal in free agency. Before the free agent period was open, we at Field Gulls looked at Hubbard and many saw him as a nice “under the radar” target, but you cannot fly under the radar if you’re an offensive lineman with any potential. Hubbard is a 27-year-old former undrafted free agent who started four games for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016 and 10 games in 2017 and he now makes more money per year than Golden Tate, Sean Lee, and K.J. Wright.
John Elway fully guaranteed Menelik Watson’s salary in March, and now will cut him with a $6.8 cap charge. OL decisions have haunted Elway’s tenure.— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 21, 2018
For the Seahawks to make a run at Hubbard, they would’ve had to assure him nearly the same that they’re paying Justin Coleman, Barkevious Mingo, and Jaron Brown combined; three players they signed this offseason to play significant roles, but yes, it leaves right tackle open.
Maybe that’s just a reality that we have to deal with as fans and realize that in some cases you should hate the game and not the player.
Seattle drafted Ifedi 31st overall in 2016, not typically a spot where you’ll find world class tackles. Looking over the period from 2009-2015, Pro-Football-Reference lists 124 tackles drafted. (This of course overlooks some players who were drafted at other positions, but I’m doing my best with what we have for the moment and this is 124 names.) PFR notes 10 of those 124 as Pro Bowl tackles, just eight percent of the pool so far. Of those 10, seven were drafted in the top 11 picks.
The exceptions outside of the top 11:
- Kelechi Osemele (60th overall), who is a guard now.
- T.J. Lang (109th overall), who is a guard now.
- David Bakhtiari (109th overall), and given that the Packers also drafted Lang, would suggest that they indeed are doing a good job and should be envied for it and why does no one ever talk about offensive line coach James Campen?
This is not to say that there were no good tackles taken outside of the top 11 except for Bakhtiari. Havenstein is a good tackle. Donovan Smith is a good tackle. Terron Armstead, Ricky Wagner, Mitchell Schwartz...but holy hell is it difficult and there are way more misses than there are successes. Germain Ifedi is not an anomaly ... he is the norm. Finding Bakhtiari is the anomaly.
The Seahawks took their shot with Ifedi — a position fans were begging to be addressed — and it’s not like there was going to be any other options coming up soon after him.
Ifedi went 31st overall and the next lineman didn’t come off the board until the Packers took Jason Spriggs at 48. Spriggs has started seven games over his first two seasons, and he was recently demoted to the de facto third team unit. Nick Martin went 50th, and he was a guard now moved to center, who missed all of 2016. Cody Whitehair went 56th and he’s a guard/center. Max Tuerk went 66th and he’s a center with one career active game. Shon Coleman went 76th and the Browns signed Hubbard to replace him at right tackle then moved Joel Bitonio to replace him at left tackle. Le’Raven Clark was another tackle that a lot of Seattle fans had their eye on, and he’s started eight games for the Indianapolis Colts ... at guard.
And the next tackle off the board was Willie Beavers, now a guy fighting for a backup job behind Ifedi. You think Ifedi is a sad result? No. A sad result is that once you get past the four tackles who went in the top 16, Ifedi was arguably the next best thing.
Now we could play the “we’ll see about that” game with names like Joe Haeg and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, but then you must also acknowledge “we’ll see about that” with the coming play of Ifedi. I don’t have high hopes, but that’s not really Ifedi’s fault. And that’s not really the Seahawks fault. And I don’t know that it’s anyone’s fault. It’s just that the evolution of the game may have made a lot of the game’s young talent shift from the offensive line to the defensive line and the dearth of quality players on that side of the ball has ballooned the cost of a right tackle to “eh, we’ll figure somethin’ out” to “holy shit this is a problem let’s pay a guy we fully acknowledge is “kinda decent” over $8 million per season.”
Seattle needs to keep taking additional shots in the same way they did with Jamarco Jones, Isaiah Battle, and Beavers. Whether it’s a day two or day three pick, or a disappointing castoff from another team, we’ve seen offensive linemen develop and get better in new systems, with new coaching, under the right circumstances. And it may be better to try and find a discount solution than to overpay for one who you just know isn’t that good to begin with. And sure, if the Seahawks are sitting at the end of the first round again and they see a player who they believe could be the next Ryan Ramczyk (again, I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a good right tackle at the end of the first round, just unlikely), then they should do that too.
They should do whatever they think is necessary to solve the problem at right tackle. Like they did with Ifedi. Even if it’s not working out, it’s definitely better that they tried.
READ: Ollie Connolly’s breakdown of the struggles of Germain Ifedi