From a team-building perspective, the front office’s approach to the offensive and defensive lines has been decidedly different this offseason.
On offense, the Seahawks surprised most of us by trading a 5th round pick to bring in OG Gabe Jackson from the Raiders at the start of free agency. Two months and a couple weeks later, that remains the only “significant” change to Seattle’s offensive line.
Four of the five starters from last year’s team return in 2021, as do most of the backups. And while, yes, there are some new faces on the roster, if the Seahawks only carry 10 offensive linemen in 2021 (as they did on the final cut last year), the odds are pretty strong that 80% of them will be players that were on the roster at the end of last season.
On defense, the list of moves and potential changes is significant-ly longer.
Seattle released DT Jarran Reed, released and then re-signed DE Carlos Dunlap, added DE Kerry Hyder and DT Al Woods in free agency, and re-signed DE Benson Mayowa.
Seattle also signed DT Poona Ford to a new, multi-year contract and hung onto DT Bryan Mone (who was an ERFA).
The Seahawks then added DE Aldon Smith a month into free agency (pending the resolution of legal charges against him) and brought in DT Robert Nkemdiche - who wasn’t even on a roster last year and only appeared in 2 games in 2019 (with a total of 16 defensive snaps) - as a reclamation project at the end of April.
Did I miss anything?
I mean, other than the UDFAs (ex. Pier-Olivier Lestage - aka “the Canadian ‘Center’ that’s not really a Center”) and, of course, the other random and assorted (and randomly assorted) “end of roster” players that typically comprise a 90-man roster at this time of year?
From a distance, it would appear as if the Seahawks might be “done” adding pieces to their offensive and defensive lines. But I don’t think that’s the case - and not just because John and Pete are never truly “done” with the roster.
While it’s possible (probable?) that Seattle will add another Center (please!) and/or that they’ll add another EDGE rusher (especially if things don’t work out with Alden Smith), neither of those are the focus of today’s article.
Today’s article is about the Tackles and why I think Seattle should (will) add another Tackle on BOTH sides of the ball.
Why I think Seattle should (will) add another Defensive Tackle
Barring something completely unexpected, Poona Ford and Bryan Mone are basically “locks” to make the team at this point.
But will both of them start?
Mone? I think not. Not with only 370 career snaps on defense (265 last year; 105 in 2019) and only 1 career sack.
Note: To be fair, Ford only had 1 sack through his first 2 seasons as well, but then “erupted” for 3 last year.
Personally, at this exact point in time, I think that Al Woods is probably the favorite to start opposite Ford.
But . . .
- Al Woods is 34 (with a March birthday - meaning he’ll be 34-1/2 when the season starts and almost 35 by the time the Super Bowl rolls around).
- Woods might be “rusty” (and/or out of shape) after opting out last season.
- His 1-year, $2.5M contract only carries $750k in guaranteed money which means it doesn’t really hurt the team (much) if things “don’t work out”.
Adding it all together indicates that Woods might not be a “lock” to make the team.
So if Al Woods (potentially) doesn’t make the team and Bryan Mone (probably) doesn’t start opposite Poona Ford . . . What are the options?
The phrase “slim and none” comes to mind, but it’s not accurate because (a) Defensive Tackles aren’t usually referred to as “slim”; and (b) there are some options.
However, beyond Ford, Mone, and Woods, the Seahawks are looking at reclamation projects (Robert Nkemdiche), unproven talent (ex. Cedric Lattimore) and defensive ends that are “reducing” inside to play Tackle.
The situation isn’t “dire” by any stretch, but there are definitely options that could (potentially) improve the situation.
For example, Ryan Kerrigan (32) would have been an exciting/enticing option had he not recently signed a 1-year, $2.5M contract with the Eagles ($1.425M guaranteed).
Kerrigan wasn’t the only “quality” free agent DT still available in late-May though.
OTC’s Free Agency Tracker currently lists 26 defensive tackles as being available. Of those, Mel Kiper would probably list Sheldon Richardson, Geno Atkins, and Kwann Short as his “Best Available” (if he ranked NFL free agents).
And I would probably agree.
That said, I also suspect that the list of available free agents will grow in a couple of weeks (i.e. after June 1st) and I think that whoever we end up adding at Defensive Tackle - if, indeed, we do add a Defensive Tackle - will be someone that is currently on another team’s roster.
Why I think Seattle should (will) add another Offensive Tackle
It’s not hyperbole to say that Seattle has one of the best Left Tackles in the game (Duane Brown) and a Right Tackle (Brandon Shell) who “ain’t too shabby” in his own right, and who is definitely an improvement over his predecessor.
Both are currently only under contract through this season though. And Duane Brown will turn 36 on August 30th. Thus far, Brown has outpaced Father Time, but how long will he maintain his lead?
The Hawks stole a potential replacement for one of them - either Brown or Shell - in the 6th round of the recent NFL Draft (Stone Forsythe) and have a former #21 overall pick (Cedric Ogbuehi, 2015) on the roster as well.
And yet many 12s have spent the offseason consistently clamoring for the team to “upgrade” at RT, find the heir-apparent to Brown, and/or improve the OT depth via free agency, the draft (which the team did), and/or a trade.
Is this desire rational?
Last year, the Hawks had the “best” offensive line in Russell Wilson’s career - at least until the Wildcard game (ugh!). But the high water mark for this regime came with a huge asterisk as Seattle’s 2020 offensive line was still just “average” (i.e. ranked in the 13-20 range) in almost every significant category.
In theory, the new OC, Shane Waldron, could help elevate the line play (and/or their rankings) simply by making Seattle’s offense less predictable. In theory, different play calls + blocking assignments could be “enough” to get the O-line over the hump (so to speak) and turn them into a top-10, maybe even top-5 unit.
But what if it’s not?
What if adding talent - veteran talent - is what the Seahawks need?
Note: Not to knock Stone Forsythe, but starting him as a rookie should not be considered a viable option - not with our current roster, Wilson’s offseason comments, and the “upgrades” that are (potentially) available.
Count me among those who are clamoring for another Offensive Tackle - with Morgan Moses (#1) and Mitchell Schwartz (#2) currently atop the wishlist.
Note: The order would be reversed if Schwartz weren’t currently rehabbing a back injury and recovering from offseason surgery. And, yes, even with that, Schwartz is currently #2 on the ol’ wishlist.
Other Tackles could, of course, join Moses and Schwartz (or displace them) on said wishlist when the expected league-wide bloodletting begins on June 1st.
Would the addition of a “big name” OT displace either of this year’s presumed starters?
Barring injury, my money would be on Brown again repelling all challengers.
Shell is vulnerable though.
But being “vulnerable” might not mean “expendable”.
In part, Shell’s role in 2021 could depend on who JS/PC brought in to challenge him.
- Mitchell Schwartz is coming off his first major injury, is still recovering from offseason back surgery, and might not be ready to go when training camp opens. If the Seahawks add him, Shell might represent a reasonably-priced “insurance policy” - at least until the midseason trade deadline.
- Morgan Moses is an iron-man player who started every game his second season (2015) and hasn’t missed a start since then. If Seattle adds him, Shell might be deemed “too expensive” to keep around as a backup.
But is that really the case?
Could/would Seattle add another OT, watch that OT win the starting role, and then still hang onto Brandon Shell?
Frankly, I think the answer might be, “Yes.” Almost regardless of who Seattle adds.
Honestly, I think it could ultimately end up being Cedric Ogbuehi that loses a roster spot if Seattle adds another veteran OT.
Not surprisingly, there is a financial difference (of about $1.9M) between Shell (the presumed starter) and Ogbuehi (the presumed backup).
Note: The difference was about $1.2M last year.
Is the $1.9M difference between them a deal-breaker? Hard to say. It does, however, represent a little over 1% of this year’s salary cap and is thus “not insignificant”.
That said, money would only be part of the equation and NFL contract terms are somewhat ... fungible.
As an example, the Seahawks could ask Shell to convert part of his base salary into a per-game roster bonus if he loses the starting role or flat-out require him to take a pay cut to keep his roster spot (a la David Moore last season).
To see why it could be Ogbuehi that loses his roster spot instead of Shell (if Seattle adds another veteran OT), let’s look beyond the finances.
- Age: 29 (2/6/92)
- Drafted: 2016, #158 overall
- Games played: 60
- Career starts: 51
- Career offensive snaps: 3,290 over 5 seasons
- 2020 snaps: 734 in 12 games (including the wildcard)
- 2020 PFF ranking: #38 (of 136)
- 2020 QB pressures: 24 total - 4 sacks, 4 hits, 16 hurries (on 499 pass blocks; 4.81%)
- Age: 29 (4/25/92)
- Drafted: 2015, #21 overall
- Games played: 57
- Career starts: 29
- Career offensive snaps: 1,902 over 6 seasons (including 13 as a receiver)
- 2020 snaps: 277 in 7 games
- 2020 PFF ranking: #67 (of 136)
- 2020 QB pressures: 13 total - 1 sack, 2 hits, 10 hurries (on 168 pass blocks; 7.74%)
Summary: Ogbuehi is 2-1/2 months younger, was drafted a year earlier (and much higher), and yet Shell has played in basically the same number of games (60 to 57) with almost twice as many starts (51 to 29) and roughly 1,400 more career snaps (3,290 to 1,902).
There’s also the fact that Shell beat out Ogbuehi for the starting role last year and was ranked 29 spots higher by PFF in 2020.
Note: In the interest of transparency, their PFF rankings were reversed in 2019: Shell was tied for #65 and Ogbuehi was #38. That said, Ogbuehi only played 156 snaps in 2019 while Shell played 806.
Admittedly, I have gotten a bit off track comparing two of our current Tackles who might be competing for a backup role IF Seattle adds another OT.
But I’ll bring it full circle by showing the numbers for the two players atop the current OT wishlist.
- Age: 30 (3/3/91)
- Drafted: 2014, #66 overall
- Games played: 104
- Career starts: 97
- Career offensive snaps: 6,167 over 7 seasons
- 2020 snaps: 1,137 in 17 games (16 reg. season + 1 playoff)
- 2020 PFF ranking: #15 (of 136) (was #58 out of 125 in 2019)
- 2020 QB pressures: 41 total - 5 sacks, 14 hits, 22 hurries (on 743 pass blocks; 5.52%)
- Age: 32 (6/8/89)
- Drafted: 2012, #37 overall
- Games played: 134
- Career starts: 134
- Career offensive snaps: 9,263 over 9 seasons
- 2020 snaps: 357 in 6 games (suffered season-ending injury Week 6, Q1)
- 2020 PFF ranking: #31 (of 136) (was #6 overall in 2019)
- 2020 QB pressures: 8 total - 2 sacks, 1 hit, 5 hurries (on 242 pass blocks; 3.31%)
Bottom line: It will be interesting to see what happens if the Seahawks go down this road.
How about a “fun fact” / interesting observation to end this thing?
Seattle had 18 offensive linemen on the 90-man roster at this point last year and everyone and their brother (and their mother and their second cousin as well) was laughing (or complaining) about how many O-linemen were on the roster.
Right now, Seattle has 17 offensive linemen on their roster - Brown, Jackson, Pocic, Lewis, Shell, Jones, Haynes, Fuller, Simmons, Ogbuehi, Forsythe, Eiland, Lundblade, Hocker, Champion, Lestage, and Curhan.
And I am suggesting, in all seriousness, that the Seahawks should add one more.
And Go Hawks !!!