One of the big topics of discussion for the Seattle Seahawks this offseason has been what the team will do in terms of retaining the offensive linemen from 2018 who are not under contract for 2019. Both starting guards, J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker, are set to be free agents once their contracts expire in March, and swing tackle George Fant is set to be a restricted free agent (RFA).
As a restricted free agent, the team has multiple options when it comes to Fant, including whether to use a RFA tender, and if they do choose to use a RFA tender, what level of tender they can use. The team does not have to make a decision about tendering Fant until 4 p.m. New York time on Wednesday March 13, and I wrote about how much Fant could command on the free agent market back in January. Tuesday the Atlanta Falcons helped provide another data point on what Fant’s market price could be when the Falcons agreed to a three year, $18M contract with Ty Sambrailo.
The deal for #Falcons OT Ty Sambrailo the team announced yesterday is three years, $18m max value, source says. Sambrailo took over for Ryan Schraeder at right tackle late last year and this deal shows Atlanta is confident in him as a starter going forward.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 20, 2019
Originally a second round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2015 draft, Sambrailo was horrible in 2015 and 2016 when he had a chance to see the field, and the Broncos traded him to Atlanta at the end of training camp in 2017 in exchange for a fifth round pick. Sambrailo was so bad in 2016 that he actually graded out worse as a second year tackle than Fant graded as a first year offensive lineman getting on the job training at the NFL level. In fact, Sambrailo is credited with allowing seven sacks in four starts as a second year tackle in 2016, while Fant was credited with allowing five sacks in ten starts. To summarize, Sambrailo was really bad.
However, getting back to the contract Sambrailo signed, that is an APY of $6M, which is not all that far off from the $7.3M APY for which Chris Hubbard signed with the Cleveland Browns last offseason, and which I suggested was an accurate comp for Fant. Now we have another data point in the same ballpark, and so we can expand our comp table to include all three players. Here are their athletic profiles first.
George Fant, Chris Hubbard and Ty Sambrailo athletic profiles
And then moving on to their playing time and experience.
George Fant, Chris Hubbard and Ty Sambrailo compared for experience and PFF Grade
|Age (in first season of contract)
|PFF Grade (season before signing)
Just as with Hubbard, we the numbers show very similar experience in terms of starts and offensive snaps played, as well as PFF grades that are similar in the season before the player hit free agency.
In short, the Sambrailo contract is about as good of a comp to Fant as one could hope to find, and it is largely in line with the contract that Hubbard signed last offseason. This is exactly the market I have been expecting to develop for Fant, and it is in line with the type of contract Donald Stephenson signed with the Denver Broncos in 2016 once adjusting for both cap increases and the increased salaries that offensive linemen have commanded in recent seasons.
Accordingly, if the Seahawks don’t want another team to sign him, then they are going to need to use the second round tender on him. If they feel that he might be just a one year bandaid as the swing tackle and that they would lose him in free agency in 2020 regardless of what tender they use this season, then they might let him go just to not have a roster spot used for a player they don’t expect to have around going forward.
Thus, Fant’s market has been set, and now it’s up to the front office to show their cards in terms of whether or not Fant is seen as a potential long term solution.