Since the end of the Seattle Seahawks season in their Wild Card loss to the Dallas Cowboys, much of the attention on the offensive line has been on the soon to be free agents of J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker, while the name George Fant has been more of an afterthought. However, will Fant really be an afterthought when free agency arrives in March, or will he perhaps be the most sought after of the three?
Obviously a lot will depend on the level at which the team tenders him as a restricted free agent. Heading into his age 27 season while still learning how to play offensive line Fant is in his physical prime, and if the Seahawks do not tender him above the original round level it’s not hard to envision him signing a good sized free agent contract. So, while I’m certain that many fans are confident that Fant will return in 2019 on an inexpensive contract, that may not be the case based on a precedent from last season
Specifically, last offseason Chris Hubbard of the Pittsburgh Steelers signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns. Why is that important? Well, for starters, let’s take a look at the athletic profiles of Hubbard and Fant and compare them for a moment.
George Fant versus Chris Hubbard comparison
So, athletically they are not all that dissimilar, and then we come to their age. 2019 will be Fant’s age 27 season and 2018 was Hubbard’s age 27 season. That means they are close enough in age that a comparison is warranted, but where do they stand in terms of playing time?
Obviously Fant has not accrued a massive amount of playing time in his career, as he is credited with 17 starts, though only 12 of those starts came at tackle, with five other starts as a tight end (or an extra tackle, take your pick; point is he wasn’t playing every offensive snap in those games). How does that limited amount of experience stack up against Hubbard?
In his time with the Pittsburgh Hubbard appeared in 40 games, but started just 14 games on the offensive line. That is not all that different from the 12 games that Fant started, so let’s look at how many offensive snaps each is credited with having played.
- George Fant (2016-2018): 1,035 offensive snaps played
- Chris Hubbard (2014-2017): 1,145 offensive snaps played
Now, I know somebody is going to jump into the comments and yammer on about how Fant was horrible and how PFF had him graded as the worst tackle in the NFL in 2016 when he started and yada, yada. Well, one of the best things about PFF is that they update their grading system and their grades as their analytical work yields more and more clues about what is and is not important. In any case, point is that despite having only one season of college football under his belt, and that as a backup tight end, Fant was not the worst graded offensive tackle in 2016. Yes, he was fourth worst, but for someone in their first year in the NFL in their first year at tackle, that’s a pretty impressive feat.
In any case, anyone who wants to use PFF grades as a basis for stating Fant is not good also has to accept the fact that Fant’s 2018 grades are higher than Hubbard’s grades in both pass blocking and run blocking. In short, using PFF grades could make Fant more valuable than Hubbard, which is interesting simply because of the size of the contract Hubbard received from Cleveland last offseason.
Five years, $36,500,000, including $9,000,000 guaranteed at signing and a further $6,000,000 guaranteed for injury, making the total guarantees $15,000,000.
And that’s the kind of money that Fant could command on the open market, which is why even if the Seahawks put a second round tender on the table that may not absolutely guarantee his return. If you’re the GM for a team like the Texans with $60M in available cap space (obviously pending the resolution of the Jadeveon Clowney contract situation), are you better off using pick 2.55 on someone who has never played in the NFL, or sending it to the Seahawks in exchange for a guy who has both off the charts athleticism and has shown he can at least hang with NFL defensive linemen? Me, I’m boxing that pick up and sending it off to the Pacific Northwest, but then again most GMs aren’t as smart (or as good looking, for that matter) as I am, so obviously the Texans are likely to keep that pick and take someone along the lines of one of the following players, all of whom have been selected between 2.51 and 2.59 over the past decade:
- Jake Fisher
- Rob Havenstein
- Ty Sambrailo
- Jack Mewhort
- Mike Adams
- Phil Loadhold
- Sebastian Vollmer
Thus, while it is certainly unlikely that the Texans, or any other club, signs Fant to an offer sheet after he is tendered at the second round level, it would not be completely unfathomable or unreasonable.