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Cardinals provide first hint of market for Seahawks George Fant, Germain Ifedi

Cleveland Browns v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Germain Ifedi has been a lightning rod for criticism since being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2016. His on field performance has failed to live up to the expectations of fans following the use of a first round pick to bring Ifedi to the Pacific Northwest. However, with Ifedi inching closer and closer to hitting free agency, and swing tackle George Fant appearing to be on the same express train out of town, fans have remained hopeful for an extension.

Those hopes may be hit with a harsh dose of reality in the coming days and weeks, as the free agent market for offensive linemen may have laid the cornerstones of its foundations on Monday. Specifically, the number of younger (28 and under) free agent tackles who have the pedigree (draft status, physical traits & playing time or proper team experience) to command a massive second contract is extremely limited. The tackles who meet those minimum criteria have been expected to be (in no particular order):

  • Jack Conklin,
  • D.J. Humphries,
  • Germain Ifedi,
  • George Fant,
  • Greg Robinson,
  • Daryl Williams,
  • Cam Erving,
  • Jason Spriggs and
  • Le’Raven Clark.

Many of those names, including Erving, Spriggs, Clark and Robinson won’t be getting a large contract, either as a result of their on field play or injuries during the course of their careers.

Williams will be an interesting case, as he was expected to be one of the top free agents on the market a year ago, however, a dislocated kneecap during the preseason served as a prelude to a trip to injured reserve after just 55 snaps during Week 1 of the 2018 season. That injury led to a tepid market for his services in free agency a year ago, and he then spent the overwhelming majority of the 2019 season at guard for the Carolina Panthers, rather than tackle. Thus, teams may have questions about his ability to play tackle, as his athletic profile pre-injury had him with borderline speed for a tackle to begin with.

In any case, that leaves a very small group of tackles that teams will be pursuing with hopes of potentially locking down the position for the foreseeable future, and on Monday one of those names was removed from the list.

So, for fans who have cited PFF’s grades as a reason why Ifedi or Fant will not be heavily pursued as free agents, Humphries has never finished with a grade in the top half of tackles league wide. Here is how he has finished during his career:

  • 2015: Did not qualify because he was a healthy scratch for all 16 games
  • 2016: 40th of 63
  • 2017: Did not qualify (11 complete games missed due to injury; would have been in top quarter, but played only 204 snaps)
  • 2018: 38th of 64
  • 2019: 40th of 65

Humphries finished the 2019 season with a PFF grade of 64.5, and before anyone jumps to the comments section to scream, “But Ifedi’s penalties!” he and Humphries were effectively identical in that category.

As noted in that tweet, Humphries had 13 penalties, which break down as:

  • False Start (5),
  • Offensive Holding (5),
  • Illegal Block (2) and
  • Ineligible man Downfield (1)

for a total of 82 penalty yards. That measures up against Ifedi this season as:

  • False Start (8),
  • Offensive Holding (5) and
  • Ineligible man Downfield (1)

for a total of 85 penalty yards.

I’m certain someone who can do basic math is going to point out that Ifedi has more penalties, but those 14 penalties for Ifedi also came in 18 games, versus the sixteen games for Ifedi. In short, the market doesn’t seem to care about Ifedi’s penalties. In fact, there’s a very real possibility that before the 2020 season begins that the 2019 NFL leader in penalties, Laremy Tunsil of the Houston Texans and his 17 penalties, becomes the highest paid and first $20M per year offensive lineman in NFL history. So, for how Humphries’ PFF grade stacked up against Ifedi and Fant, it was a small bit better, but not by much. Fant clocked in at 60.6 and Ifedi at 58.8.

Thus, as Joe Fann of NBC Sports Northwest posited at the end of January, and as I’ve long stated, Ifedi appears likely to cash in in free agency as well.

So, while some may continue to believe that Ifedi won’t land a big contract in free agency.

Others are beginning to realize that Ifedi is just weeks away from cashing in as a free agent.

At this point fans can argue about the fifth year option all they want, but with every day that passes without the team extending either Ifedi or Fant is another day closer to training camp opening with Chad Wheeler as most likely to be the most experienced right tackle on the roster when training camp opens.

This is the reality of offensive line salaries in free agency in the NFL today, and if a bottom half tackle commands $15M per year with $29M in guarantees, what can an All Pro like Conklin ask for?