Seahawks free agent options to replace Austin Blythe
Pete Carroll continues to overlook upgrades at center: Seaside Joe 1385
Next week, I will turn 40. The last time a day passed in which I didn’t send out a Seaside Joe newsletter, I was 37. The last time that I basically wasn’t covering the Seattle Seahawks on a daily basis, I was 28.
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When you write about an organization that has had the same regime in charge for that long, certain topics become so repetitive that you question if you should keep making the same points. But just because I notice certain patterns and annual themes though, that doesn’t mean that criticisms or praise should be ignored.
Perhaps the most underrated criticism of Pete Carroll for the last eight years is that the Seahawks have shown no interest in finding a good center since trading Max Unger to the Saints. I keep writing the same thing every year. Pete keeps making the same choices every year.
So forgive me if I expect Seattle to start an underwhelming or disappointing player at center next season, including the possibility of re-signing Austin Blythe in spite of how most Seahawks fans feel about Austin Blythe. That shouldn’t stop us from trying to convince Pete to put some investment into the center position in 2023.
These are notable 2023 free agent centers, almost all of whom would be better options than when Pete signed Blythe to a one-year, $4 million contract this past offseason even though no team was interested in him on even a vet minimum one year earlier.
Connor McGovern, Jets
I can respect the fact that there are two very different players named Josh Allen in the NFL, as well as multiple Lamar Jacksons and Michael Carters. What I really struggle with is the league having two different interior offensive linemen named exactly Connor McGovern; the other CMcG is on the Cowboys. These “Madden-created character”-like anomalies are a great argument to be made for the simulation theory.
A fifth round pick of the Broncos in 2016, McGovern has started 80 games over six seasons, including 13 for the Jets this year.
The Jets may not want to lose McGovern, but they’ll have difficult decisions to make next season and we don’t know yet if that includes having to acquire a veteran quarterback, which would eat a ton of their remaining cap.
Nick Gates, Giants
Gates would not be my first option at center, but Seattle is in no position to be choosers. Gates is 27 and he’s started four games at center for the Giants this seas, as well as 16 starts back in 2020. He could be an option as a player in a competition at center.
Garrett Bradbury, Vikings
Once considered one of the major busts of the 2019 first round, Bradbury is now being touted as one of the better players in the league at his position. That’s one reason why I want to discourage Seahawks fans from expecting a rookie center to join the roster next year and immediately be an upgrade from Blythe as a rookie; even a first round pick.
The Vikings are entering a difficult offseason with regards to the salary cap and though Bradbury could be their top priority, they might not be able to keep him before he hits free agency unless they give him the franchise tag.
I am not against the Seahawks drafting a center early in 2023. However, I think Seattle needs immediate upgrades at guard and center and that’s why I believe their veteran push in free agency should be on the interior of the offensive line, while the early portion of the draft might be better suited for defensive players and offensive skill players.
Bradley Bozeman, Panthers
A sixth round pick of the Ravens out of Alabama in 2018, Bozeman became Baltimore’s starting left guard in 2019, then moved to center in 2021. He signed a smaller-sized contract than Blythe—one year, $2.8 million—but seems to be having a better season. I wouldn’t want to over-hype Bozeman by any means, but at least Bozeman was desired by a team in 2021.
Blythe was passed over by every team as a free agent in 2021 until finally the Chiefs said he could basically be a practice squad/reserve option. It’s strange that Seattle was so interested and could only point to his prior relationship with Shane Waldron when both were on the Rams.
Evan Browns, Lions
It’s interesting how perception has painted Detroit as a better team now than the Seahawks, despite near-identical records and Seattle’s earlier win over the Lions. But I also get it. The Lions defense has played better of late, but we also saw that from the Seahawks for about a month earlier this season.
There is one only one super clear advantage that I see in Detroit: The offensive line.
Perhaps by next year Charles Cross and Abe Lucas will have comparable seasons to Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker, but the bigger advantages come at center (Frank Ragnow) and guard (Jonah Jackson). Evan Brown, a 2019 UDFA, started 12 games in place of Ragnow in 2021 and he’s had eight starts in 2022. Whether it is at guard or center, Evan Brown might be a versatile upgrade for Seattle at a cheaper cost than some of these other options.
Ethan Pocic, Browns
Oh, the irony!
I just said that Pete has screwed up the center position for the last eight years and yet one of those players who didn’t get it right was Ethan Pocic. It so happens that a lot of Browns fans now cite Pocic as the offensive line’s most important player.
Pocic left Seattle on a one-year, $1.1 million contract, much cheaper than Blythe. Maybe the change of scenery had to happen and it just won’t ever work with the Seahawks. Maybe similar to Michael Bennett leaving-then-returning-in-2013, Seattle could still extract NFL value from Pocic. They already have his phone number.
Tyler Larsen, Moons
I don’t know if Larsen is good, I only know he’s a free agent center. He’s had two major injuries in the last two seasons, so he won’t cost much to try out.
Jake Brendel, 49ers
Count the ways that San Francisco has built a more complete team up to this point, but Brendel didn’t even cost anything. Is it just coaching? Brendel was undrafted out of UCLA in 2016, spent three years on the Dolphins as a backup buried on the depth chart, didn’t play in 2019-2020, spent 2021 on San Francisco’s depth chart, and he’s one of the better centers in the NFC this year.
Worth a big contract or just lavishing in a great spot right now? Seattle may have to take that risk if they get the opportunity to steal Brendel as a free agent.
Billy Price, Cardinals
Don’t sign Billy Price.
Happy Birthday. May you be blessed with many more!
Happy early 40th! Can I trade you? I just hit 65 (OUCH!)