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An elite run-blocking right tackle just hit the free agent market
The Seahawks will find a veteran run-blocker somewhere on the market and their options have expanded with another release on Thursday
My number one draft target for the Seattle Seahawks, as you know, is a run-blocking right tackle like Evan Neal, Icky Ekwonu, Trevor Penning, or Bernhard Raimann. But after meeting with Trent Brown on Thursday, as the Seahawks are scheduled to do, Seattle’s next free agent signing could be the catalyst that moves Pete Carroll’s vision from tackle to another position of need in the first round of the draft.
Like center Tyler Linderbaum, edge Jermaine Johnson, or defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
Signing Brown, a right tackle synonymous with two phrases more than any others—”massive” and “wishy-washy”—would still not completely block Seattle from drafting a tackle with their first round pick. But if Carroll sees the Seahawks as being a sleeper contender in 2022, which I believe him when he says that he does, then shoring up right tackle with a veteran and picking an NFL-ready player like Linderbaum or Davis could be the strategy that most fits his vision of how Seattle can lead the league in rushing yards next season.
Leading the NFL in rushing yards is decidedly NOT what many Seahawks fans want to hear, but if you’ve paid any attention to who Pete Carroll is over the last 13 years, then you know it’s reasonable to suggest that is his number one offensive goal.
That endpoint became a little even more realistic on Thursday morning with the news that after failing to trade right tackle La’El Collins, the Dallas Cowboys will release the veteran offensive lineman and make him an unrestricted free agent for any team to sign.
And the team that signs Collins will not have to lose any chance at a compensatory pick either, since Collins was released instead of coming off of an expired contract, which is not something that can be said for Brown. Did La’El Collins just become Pete Carroll’s number one free agent target?
I think he did.
Most famous for his draft-long slide in 2015 after he dropped from being a sure first round pick to not getting selected at all because of rumors* that he was “wanted for questioning in a double-homicide,” Collins’ agent told teams to not draft him after a certain point because he knew that they’d get more money and leverage if he went undrafted.
The Cowboys signed Collins after the draft and he started 11 games at left guard in between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. Collins then missed 13 games in 2016 with a toe injury, but subsequently started 47 of a possible 48 games at right tackle from 2017-2019.
Collins then missed all of 2020 with a hip injury, but returned to play in 12 games for Dallas in 2021; Collins wasn’t injured last season, he was suspended five games for missing a drug test.
That now behind him, Collins is a 28-year-old free agent right tackle with a history of being an elite run-blocker and we know that Carroll can forgive anything if you are an elite run-blocker. In a write-up by Zach Ragan at A-to-Z Sports, Collins is mentioned as a terrible fit for the Bengals’ pass blocking woes… but that he’s a perfect fit if you like to run the football:
Collins was graded by Pro Football Focus last year as the No. 15 offensive tackle in the NFL with a grade of 82.0.
Not bad right?
The problem with that grade is that it’s inflated because of Collins’ elite run-blocking skills. Collins grades at 89.7 for run blocking — No. 3 among tackles.
His pass blocking, however, wasn’t quite as good. Collins grades at 74.3 as a pass blocker which is No. 28 among NFL tackles. Again, not bad, but not Pro-Bowl caliber, either.
Watch him here, from many years ago, running downfield to pancake Seahawks defenders on a DeMarco Murray handoff. Somewhere in that moment, off-camera, Pete Carroll was smiling.
Literally nobody questions Collins’ ability to run block and that should make him a top priority for Seattle, one of the few teams in the NFL right now who both value run-blocking more than pass-blocking and who have the salary cap and cash to compete for his services. If nothing else, negotiations with Trent Brown should get a little bit easier.
“You want more money? How about less money? We’ve got La’El Collins on line two.”
Run blocking is where Collins shines. The seven-year veteran RT missed weeks two through eight, and during these games, Ezekiel Elliott briefly returned to 2016 form. But the rushing games’ success before the bye was not due to Steele playing RT.
Of the 88 qualifying tackles in the NFL, Collins finished as the fourth-best run blocker by PFF grading. Steele ranks 46th. While Collins was penalized more in run protection, at two penalties to one, he is still better at opening up holes for his RBs.
Most likely, I expect the Seahawks to either sign Brown or Collins, if not sticking with Brandon Shell as option C. If Seattle whiffs completely on getting a veteran right tackle, which I highly doubt, then the draft is step two. It won’t entirely stop the idea of the Seahawks drafting a tackle—they need two of them after all—and it will fit right in line with everything we should have come to understand about Pete Carroll after 13 years.
His “quarterback” IS the running back. That’s who his moves along the offensive line will serve.
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Who do you want the Seahawks to sign in free agency?