Throughout Seattle’s injury struggles on the offensive line I’ve spent some time looking at the tackle class for 2014.
It’s inevitable the Seahawks will have to use the next draft to improve O-line depth and possibly replace current starters. I’m a Breno Giacomini fan and I’d love to see him back beyond 2013. But re-signing Michael Bennett and Golden Tate — plus extending Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas — has to be the priority.
It doesn’t leave much room for the club’s starting right tackle.
That’s not to say re-signing Giacomini would be impossible. He’s not going to attract big offers in free agency. Just look at the difficulty Eric Winston had finding work when he left the Houston Texans.
NFL teams don’t ever go crazy trying to fill the right tackle position. Giacomini could easily end up back in Seattle if he tests the market, finds there’s not a great deal out there for him, and decides to remain with a competitive team where he’s a great scheme fit.
Yet the Seahawks are entering an era of selective paying. The veterans they keep and release will have to be managed carefully. The other spots and overall depth of the team will have to be filled via good drafting.
As much as Winston struggled to find a gig with his reputation, he’s still costing Arizona $2m against the cap this year.
So you have to know when to move on and rely on the draft.
It’s the only way to “Win Forever”. Putting a rookie at right tackle in place of Giacomini will almost certainly equal a cost saving. And that saving allows you to have a better shot at keeping the best players on the roster while also paying Russell Wilson.
The wild card is, of course, Michael Bowie. He’s played very well at times this year. Against the Cardinals, he struggled badly. He’s still learning and might be better for his eight games and seven starts.
Has he done enough to win the starting job in 2014? It’s a tough question.
He might end up with the job by default. Good offensive linemen don’t last long on draft day — to the point many get over-drafted. If the Seahawks end up picking in the 25-32 range next year they’ll find their options extremely limited unless they want to trade up.
When you get out of the first round, are you likely to find anyone better than a more experienced Bowie? Perhaps not.
Of the 2014 eligible tackles I’ve watched, Cyrus Kouandjio is the one I want. And it’s not that close.
He had a difficult start this season with a tough outing against Virginia Tech. For one or two weeks after he struggled to live up to the pre-season hype as a likely top-10 pick.
And the critics grew.
ESPN’s Scouts Inc recently dropped him down from a top ten slot to the #17 overall prospect.
I’ve watched last week’s Alabama-LSU game twice and I’ve seen Kouandjio five times this year. And I’d love the chance to draft the guy. For me, he’s the complete package. If teams drop him because of a sluggish start to this year — more fool them.
Right off the bat he’s a terrific run blocker — the kind that really appeals to Seattle. He’s tall (6-5) and moves well (310lbs). He’ll dominate with sheer power — and he’s not top heavy. There are few tackles coming out of college with his lower body power and balance. It’s impressive.
Against LSU he and brother Arie Kouandjio (‘Bama’s left guard and another player I’d love to see with the Seahawks) were just driving guys off the line creating huge running lanes. I don’t think either lost a single 1v1 battle in a traditionally tight contest at the LOS.
Kouandjio’s pass protection is solid too. He handles speed rushers well, forcing them to take deep angles with great footwork and he’s always quickly out of his stance. I think we’ll see at the combine how well he can mirror and side step. He seems to have the long arms that everybody looks for. And he flashes upper body power with a good jab to the pads plus underrated technique with his hands.
I also think he’s a better all-round athlete than people think — not Trent Williams, more Russell Okung.
But perhaps the thing I like the most is he plays with an edge and an attitude — just like Breno. He’s going to have the same steep learning curve all tackles get in the NFL, but playing with fire will help keep him on track during the growing pains. I’m not sure any of the top-10 guys last year had this.
Kouandjio could play left or right tackle at the next level. And as I mentioned, I’d love to see he and his brother reunited in Seattle (Arie looks more of a mid-round fit at guard).
Is it likely?
Almost certainly not.
Despite the knockers it’s hard — in November — to imagine him not cracking the top ten. He’s better than Taylor Lewan. He’s better than Anthony Richardson. For me he’s better than Jake Matthews.
If he does suffer an improbable fall I hope the Seahawks are ready. This guy is legit.