Seahawks free agent offensive tackle/guard Paul McQuistan has signed with the Cleveland Browns. McQuistan has 'started' 30 of the Seahawks' last 32 regular season games at various spots on the offensive line -- left tackle, left guard, and right guard. The 'starter' statistic is a bit misleading though, because while he's been a plug-and-play backup left tackle for the Hawks, he played in a heavy rotation as the 'starter' at left guard with James Carpenter, splitting reps evenly during most of 2012. He's been serviceable in that role, but was picked on pretty badly when asked to fill in for Russell Okung at left tackle this season.
Of course, it's not easy to be a backup left tackle in this league, we should all keep in mind, and McQuistan's versatility to play at three or four positions provides coaches a lot of value at a position group where injuries are common.
"He has versatility,'' Browns GM Ray Farmer told Mary Kay Cabot. "The guy played a lot of tackle last year. He's played guard. The versatility is definitely intriguing and positive for us, and it can make our minds rest easy in a lot of respects where he can possibly contribute. So that versatility is what we're more focused on than any one specific spot saying he's going to be this."
McQuistan played 773 snaps in 2013, 76% of Seattle's offensive total and 2nd only to J.R. Sweezy. Someone will have to step into McQuistan's shoes and take those snaps. Perhaps James Carpenter will further distance himself from his ACL injury of two seasons ago and take a fourth-year leap in effectiveness and confidence? Perhaps one of the duo of Alvin Bailey or Michael Bowie can step into that role? Maybe the NFL Draft will provide more answers. Right now, perhaps more than any other positional group for Seattle, the offensive line's starting five remains up in the air.
Also, there's the chance that Seattle could further develop their offensive line rotation to feature a 'run' package and a 'pass' package, similar to the 'base' vs. 'nickel' defensive fronts that almost every NFL team now uses. There's been speculation that this might be a new trend in the NFL with the specialization of players on both sides of the ball. Don't have a guy that is so well rounded that he's adept at both pass pro and run blocking? Get two guys -- one that is very good at run blocking but deficient in pass protection and another that is very fundamental as a pass protector but falls off blocks going forward - and put them in a rotation. It's possible the three-down player could slowly become a dinosaur, even on the offensive line. Afterall, the most expensive and hard-to-find players are the guys that are good in every aspect of the game.
Regardless, good luck and happy trails to McQuistan, who was a major part of the Seahawks' offense for the past three seasons.
He joins Breno Giacomini, Golden Tate, Chris Maragos, Clinton McDonald, Brandon Browner, and Walter Thurmond as Seahawk unrestricted free agents to leave. O'Brien Schofield signed with the Giants but that deal was voided, and after Seattled released both Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, both joined Gus Bradley in Jacksonville.