The real story of the Seahawks and the offensive tackle market
Seaside Joe 1115: Why Seattle actually "failed" to secure its OTs so far
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The Seattle Seahawks want to retain Duane Brown, but do Seattle’s offensive needs mesh with paying a 37-year-old left tackle upwards of $16 million per season?
The Seahawks are also considering keeping Brandon Shell, who has been visiting with the Denver Broncos, presumably off an endorsement from Russell Wilson.
It is also known that Seattle attempted to woo Trent Brown, but couldn’t offer an agreement to Brown that would have convinced him to choose the Seahawks over the Patriots; New England signed Brown to a two-year, $22 million with $4 million guaranteed to stay with Bill Belichick. I believe that the Seahawks would have paid that, but not topped it, so Brown stuck with a team he knows well already.
And there was no known interest shown in signing Terron Armstead, La’El Collins, both signed with new teams, and thus far, no Eric Fisher either.
So are the Seahawks “missing out” on all the tackles because of incompetence, roster mismanagement, and the poor treatment of outgoing Seattle stars like Wilson and Bobby Wagner? The answer is far less salacious and super simple to figure out:
The Seahawks probably should have done more to keep Russell Okung in 2016, just as they should have done more to keep Steve Hutchinson in 2006. There was simply no fallback plan to succeed Okung, as Alvin Bailey and Garry Gilliam were ‘next up’ and then Bradley Sowell was the best that Seattle could do in free agency. Not for a lack of trying, but probably more like overconfidence in Bailey and Gilliam and few other choices.
From my memory, that was a shared feeling among the majority of Seahawks fans: Bailey and Gilliam were on the come up. Then the team added George Fant too.
The Sowell signing was the most criticized moment of Seattle’s 2016 offseason. However, there’s another side to it, which is that Okung was constantly injured and he only played three more full seasons after he left the Seahawks—Okung was roundly criticized for the team-friendly contract he signed with the Broncos, and no less unavailable to Seattle because of Okung acting as his own agent.
He then signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the LA Chargers in 2017 and only played out half of it before landing in serious injury trouble again.
The Seahawks were really damned if do/don’t with the left tackle position in 2016, so Pete Carroll felt his best solution was the simplest answer: CHEAP, HERE, PATIENCE.
Cheap players. Who were already on the Seahawks. And hopefully fans would have patience with one of the major focal positions of football: left tackle.
Despite the fact that a pass protecting left tackle is lower down on Pete’s list of priorities than most GMs, coaches, and fans, problems are unavoidable if the position is as bad as Gilliam and Sowell were in 2016. And Carroll’s biggest concern was not a pass-blocking blindside player, but a run-blocking right tackle… so Seattle drafted Germain Ifedi in the first round.
(And I keep saying that the Seahawks will target a run-blocking right tackle in the draft this year, even if another “Sowell” is the left tackle.)
The team next had the “Right Idea, Bad Timing” acquisition of Fant as an undrafted free agent in 2016, then drafted Rees Odhiambo in 2017. Carroll also signed Luke Joeckel in 2017, but to play left guard. Odhiambo started seven games in 2017 and Carroll saw enough to trade a second and a third to the Texans for Duane Brown and a fifth.
The nightmare transition from Russell Okung to Duane Brown took less than one-and-a-half seasons.
Carroll didn’t pounce on the free agent offensive tackle market in 2016 or 2017, meaning that Seattle avoided contracts like the 5-year, $58 million deal to Riley Reiff or the 3-year, $24 million deal to Kelvin Beachum. (They did miss out on signing Andrew Whitworth in 2017, as many teams did.)
The Seahawks have failed to sign an offensive tackle so far because of supply and demand.
Worse yet, for Seattle fans who are in dire need of answers, is that Carroll a) doesn’t value pass blocking left tackles as much as most do, b) is actually fully prepared to start Stone Forsythe because he doesn’t believe that would be a disaster, and c) the Seahawks are hardly in a position to pay a left tackle exorbitant cash when the team doesn’t have a quarterback to protect.
Keep in mind that talent at the caliber of Terron Armstead is rarely allowed to hit free agency, so why did the Saints do it? The answer is not “cap space” for a team that believed they were on the brink of acquiring Deshaun Watson this month. The answer is “availability.” The Miami Dolphins paid Armstead not because of a staunch belief that he’ll start more than 14 games for the second time in his nine-year career.
The Dolphins paid Armstead because they haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.
Carroll has no such dilemma. Though Seattle’s coming off of their worst season since 2011, and the regime is aware of that, the Seahawks also won 10 games in 2016. I know, Russell Wilson was the quarterback then, the regime is aware of that too. But I genuinely believe that Carroll is not acting out of fear of failure, that he is making every possible step along the way that he believes will make the Seahawks an inch better next season.
You want a good tackle? Almost all of the good ones in the league today are with the teams that drafted them. Carroll knows that and he said as much on Sports Radio KJR 950 on Tuesday:
"That is a spot that is really of concern. We've gotta figure out how to get that done," Carroll said bluntly.
In 2016, Christine Michael led Seattle with 469 rushing yards and the Seahawks finished 25th overall in that category. Carroll clearly thinks that Rashaad Penny can help put the Seahawks back into the top-five in rushing and his moves along the offensive line will reflect that desire, not the objective to first protect the quarterback.
Run-blocking right tackles don’t cost as much as pass-blocking left tackles. They won’t make as many headlines. Trent Brown carried too much risk with his conditioning to warrant more than a one-time offer. On Duane Brown and Brandon Shell, we should know soon.
Top-20 big board later today.