How do Seahawks rebuild o-line in Grubb and Macdonald's vision?
Answering Super Joes questions and more: Seaside Joe 1808
Appearing on Seattle Sports on Monday, Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald was asked about the new coaching staff and the visions for the roster in 2024, among other things. On the coaching staff, specifically offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, Macdonald emphasized Washington’s former OC as “an O-line guy at heart” and that it was the desire to win that battle in the trenches that he really respected.
Winning in the trenches is not something that Seahawks did often enough in the last eight or nine seasons.
It hasn’t been completely for lack of trying, as Seattle selected seven offensive linemen in the last five drafts, including a first, two thirds, two fourths, a fifth, and a sixth. In addition, some players should in theory be able to play for 10 or more seasons (the Eagles have done the best job of this, starting Jason Kelce since 2011 and Lane Johnson since 2013) and certainly the Seahawks were hopeful with first round selections in the past, even including Russell Okung, who was selected right after Trent Williams, San Francisco’s starting left tackle in the Super Bowl.
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But the past is only the past and the Seahawks cut ties with theirs when they fired Pete Carroll last month and replaced him with Macdonald and a brand new coaching staff with the exception of maybe only one holdover. The present is this: Seattle has to re-evaluate every single offensive lineman on the team, whether he’s a free agent or on his rookie contract.
Including Charles Cross and Abe Lucas.
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Who will be left standing when the Seahawks start their Week 1 game in 2024? We have at most high probabilities, nobody should be at 100%, and that means Seattle needs to consider their options in the first round, free agency, and the trade market. Especially because all three starting interior offensive linemen are free agents, and Lucas needs to prove his knee injury is not a knee issue.
First, a look at the Seahawks offensive line, second I’ll answer questions from the Super Joes Q&A. If you want to be on the next Super Joes-exclusive Q&A thread, upgrade to founding members level for the first time or at a prorated rate if you’re already a Regular Joe.
Seahawks Offensive Tackles
The distinguishing quality of Charles Cross and Abe Lucas that we can never forget is that they were both direct products of the Mike Leach air raid offense in college and therefore also the least-experienced run blockers in the entire 2022 draft class.
Mississippi State ran the ball 20.9 times per game in 2021, 130th out of 130 teams in the nation that year. Washington State ran the ball 30.8 times per game that season, which was 117th. (Washington was 118th, the year before Grubb and Kalen DeBoer arrived.)
The story at the time was, “These guys weren’t asked to run block often, but seems they were capable in those moments,” especially Cross. Well, maybe we still don’t really know: The Seahawks had the second-fewest rushing attempts in the NFL in 2023. Worse yet, Lucas played in only 26% of the snaps, missing the majority of the season with a knee issue that seems to have been bothering him for at least a year.
With Abe Lucas, the need to develop as a run blocker may end up just as important as the injuries, which is another reason I keep saying that Seattle has to prioritize offensive tackle in the draft. Lucas is extremely athletic for his size, he was a top-rated pass blocker in college with over 2,195 reps in pass blocking, he was a dynamic right tackle as a rookie, and…He’s unreliable.
The Seahawks had to pull Jason Peters out of semi-retirement at 41 because they weren’t prepared for a scenario that wasn’t that unpredictable.
If Seattle drafts someone who can play right tackle in the first round of the draft, they address several issues: Upgrade the starting offensive line, upgrade the depth, prepare for injury, and if all are healthy, move the rookie or Lucas to right guard and upgrade the interior.
In Cross, I have yet to see a left tackle worthy of a top-10 selection.
The bottom line is that he’s fine and there’s no need to look for a new left tackle because he’s still young and maybe Grubb and new offensive line coach Scott Huff are about to create a monster. But time moves fast and next year the Seahawks have a decision to make on his fifth-year option, something that they have NEVER executed with any of their first round picks. It’s not a small decision: A fifth-year option could make Cross the most expensive player on the team in 2026.
If the Seahawks draft an offensive tackle now, it could make their expensive decisions with Cross much easier in a year or two.
Seahawks Interior Offensive Line
There have been those who call Damien Lewis a top-5 left guard in the NFL, but would you bet $25 million on it? Would you spend $25 million—which is more than what Geno Smith would make this year if the Seahawks keep him—on a contract guarantee for Damien Lewis as a left guard?
The four highest-paid left guards in the NFL make between $16-$20 million per season. Joe Thuney, the Chiefs left guard who was too injured to play in the Super Bowl, was given $32 million fully guaranteed by Kansas City in 2021. He has played at a high level and mostly been healthy and like Lewis he was never a Pro Bowl player on his original team (Patriots). We also knew he was great, nobody seems to be that confident in Lewis.
The next tier of left guards are making $10-$13 million per season and then a couple of players make $7-$8 million. As a four-year starter who has grown better each season, I could see Lewis getting interest at the Ben Powers level: The Broncos gave Powers $13 million per season.
I have already laid out for you Seattle’s salary cap situation for 2024 and 2025, and even with the expected cuts/difficult decisions for your favorite Seahawks, it’s difficult for me to see the justification of a $13 million guard, especially at a time when all the coaches are new. Barring an endorsement by John Schneider that Lewis is an elite guard, Seattle has no choice but to let him test the market and see if any teams view him in the $10m+ range.
This isn’t Damien Lewis negativity—here’s a nice block and a nice block—it’s a question for YOU: Should the Seahawks keep one of the NFL’s highest paid guards if that’s what he is or try to add one of the NFL’s highest paid linebackers, for example, a position of monumental need? Should the Seahawks try to keep Lewis or try to keep Leonard Williams? Are the Seahawks better off with a backup at another position or with trying to keep Evan Brown, moving him to left guard, and starting Olu Oluwatimi at center?
Evan Brown and Phil Haynes, both signed to one-year deals in 2023, are also free agents. Haynes, as expected, played in only 42% of the snaps and mostly gave away to fourth rounder Anthony Bradford, a player who is inconsistent but has more potential to get better than Haynes and played in over 60% of the snaps. Brown played in 91.3% of the snaps, most on Seattle’s offense, and has versatility to play all three iOL positions.
Brown only cost $2.25 million in free agency and I’m not sure if he did enough to justify significantly more interest in 2024. This is a knock on him, for sure, but if the Seahawks are to keep any veteran why not the versatile guy who didn’t get as injured as the others and costs less? Ideally, Oluwatimi (who did NOT cross over with Mike Macdonald at Michigan but they know the same people) wins the starting center job going into the season.
So even if the Seahawks re-sign zero offensive line free agents (Lewis, Brown, Haynes, Peters, and Jake Curhan is a restricted free agent), they could in theory return with a line that includes Cross, Lucas, Bradford, and Oluwatimi. The only other player officially under contract is Stone Forsythe, while undrafted rookies Raiqwon O’Neal and McClendon Curtis, who were picked up late in the year and kept on the 53, are exclusive rights free agents.
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This tells me: Draft
The strongest position in the 2024 draft class is offensive tackle. There are three who look like top-10 picks (Joe Alt, Olu Fashanu, Taliese Fuaga) and at least five more getting regular first round buzz: J.C. Latham, Amarius Mims, Troy Fautanu, Tyler Guyton, and Jordan Morgan. Even if any of them fall out of the first round, another (like BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia) could have a great combine and move up. Adding outstanding interior prospects like Graham Barton and Jackson Powers-Johnson, the over/under on first round offensive linemen in 2024 could be set at 8.5 or 9.5.
I would love to see the Seahawks steal Tacoma native Fuaga, but there will be many who mock a trade down that ends with Seattle picking someone like Powers-Johnson. An elite center or guard could be fine, if not great, although I personally do think that the first round is where teams must take their shots on players who have the most potential for financial value and the cost of a left or right tackle in the coming years is over $15 million just for a top-15 guy. An elite left tackle costs more like $23-$26 million per season.
Whereas an elite center, the BEST of the BEST, costs $14 million per season.
The Ravens picked center Tyler Linderbaum in the first round in 2022 and even if you thought he was elite, he carries about $10 million in surplus value for a center. An awesome left tackle pick, someone like Christian Darrisaw who costs the Vikings just as much as Baltimore pays Linderbaum, carries a surplus value of $20 million+ compared to the top players at his position. And it’s just a more important position.
At this moment, new coaches are digging into Cross’s tape, analytics, and deciding for themselves what they think they have; they likely come away with the opinion to keep him there. But for many right tackle has become just as important—the Chiefs paid $20 million per season for Jawaan Taylor out of fear they’d struggle there—so the Seahawks would be better off with three tackles to choose from than one or two…or zero.
So important was Macdonald’s comment about Grubb being an “o-line guy at heart” that Seattle could double-dip with offensive linemen in the first and third rounds, which wouldn’t rule out Oluwatimi, Bradford, and Lucas from having key roles in 2024.
SEASIDE BONUS ARTICLE: IF SEAHAWKS DRAFT A QB, THEY MUST DO THIS DURING HIS ROOKIE SEASON
Super Joes Q&A
Paul G: Since college coaches are looking to get out, why not expand the search to well-regarded young college OC? This seems like a perfect time to go after the cream of the crop.
Grant: Is it strange that we haven't heard much from any current or former players about Macdonald leading the Seahawks, or other coaches leaving town, or anything really? I'm sure no one wants to put their foot in their mouth before they've gotten to know their new coach, but I thought I'd hear more chatter from around the community about this huge change to the program. I'm not that tuned in, so maybe I've just missed it and none of it's juicy enough for the media to really care about.
Glassmonkey replied one answer already—”KJ likes him. His former players love him.” (Here’s K.J.’s response on Seattle Sports.) I also briefly addressed Richard Sherman’s thoughts on Sunday.
We heard from Ravens players around the time Macdonald was hired, like Kyle Hamilton, that he was a great coach. Honestly, what else should a player really say? I know that Jaxon Smith-Njigba was caught not-endorsing Shane Waldron, but I never put much stock into player quotes. It surprises me less every time when I hear a player endorse a quarterback who is clearly not very good. I’m not sure if they’re too deep in the sauce—a lot of players surprisingly watch very little football outside of their own team and I’ve seen quite a few say they didn’t even grow up watching the NFL—but soundbites don’t mean much to me.
Your guess is often as good, if not BETTER, than theirs. If I found out that Michael Bennett thought it was a terrible hire and Cliff Avril thought it was a great hire, neither quote would move the needle for me. Generally, the needle isn’t like to move a great deal until Macdonald has a couple of seasons under his belt as the head coach.
Flurb - SSJ, please give us some funny, laugh-out loud streaming and movie recs
I have found my recommendations to be such a risky endeavor, and often feel pangs of embarrassment soon after sharing those opinions, including how enamored I was with the 2019 Nicolas Cage movie Color Out of Space, because my tastes don’t often line up with majority. I thought Color Out of Space was so different, and classic over-the-top Cage, that it would be a cult classic streaming hit. It does have 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. From what I can tell it’s only streaming on AMC+, which I doubt anyone has. And I don’t know if it’s “LOL” unless you really dig that crazy Cage like I do.
I don’t know that many movies to come out last year made me laugh out loud very often, but Theater Camp (Hulu) and No Hard Feelings (Netflix) exceeded low expectations. A dark comedy on Netflix a couple years ago that’s not bad is I Care A Lot.
Generally, anything created by a streaming service seems to be the modern day TV movie but because they can cast bigger name stars and hire notable directors, it seems like they’re not regarded as such. A movie released in theaters—like Poor Things, which we just went to go see and I think should win Best Picture next month—is funny, weird, and not suitable for the whole family. I recommend going to the theater for POOR THINGS.
Regular Joes, add your own recs in the comments: