Key off-season questions: O-line takes center stage

December 28th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Okung has missed 23 games in his six-year Seahawks career

ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia said it best after the 23-17 loss to the Rams:

“…the game was another reminder of what makes this offense go. If the line can protect, Wilson can operate from the pocket at an extremely high level, and the Seahawks are difficult to beat. But if the protection isn’t there, and Wilson is forced to constantly improvise and escape pressure, the Seahawks will have trouble making a deep run in the postseason.”

With good pass-protection Russell Wilson has performed as well as any quarterback in the NFL this year. When Seattle’s line has struggled — Wilson’s performance has dipped significantly.

The Seahawks have actively encouraged a dose of controlled chaos in the past. Wilson’s improvisation, scrambling ability and tendency to keep plays alive was seen as a major plus point. Yet watching him play with surgeon-like accuracy in the pocket recently could and probably should change the thought process.

That doesn’t mean you limit Wilson. The scrambling, the creativity — that’s always going to be there. His exceptional play in the pocket, however, could lead to a slight shift in philosophy. Namely — prioritising the O-line.

So what are the questions facing the Seahawks at the end of the season?

What happens with Russell Okung?

The O-line struggled without Okung yesterday. He’s by far Seattle’s most experienced lineman. While not quite in the top echelon of left tackles (led by Cleveland’s Joe Thomas) he’s probably in the second tier.

With an estimate of around $34m in free cap space they have the money to keep him. What is he worth though? He’ll be 29 next October, he’s missed 23 games in his six-year career. What is his market? Can the Seahawks specifically nail it down without letting him test free agency first? What is important to Okung, considering he’s taken the decision to go solo without an agent?

Jake Long received a four-year $36m contract from the Rams when he was a free agent in 2013. Are the Seahawks willing to make that kind of commitment to keep their left tackle? Are they more inclined to use their cap space to re-sign the likes of Bruce Irvin, Doug Baldwin (a free agent after 2016), Brandon Mebane, Jeremy Lane and J.R. Sweezy?

If you lose Okung, can you replace him early in the draft?

It’ll be difficult. The Seahawks cannot pick any higher than #21 overall after qualifying for the playoffs. There aren’t many athletic, promising left tackles that fall into the late first. It’s not impossible — Cedric Ogbuehi fell to #21 this year. He was nursing an ACL injury and hasn’t featured much in 2015. A player with a similar fate isn’t likely to make an immediate contribution as a rookie.

Ja’Wuan James fell to #19 in 2014 (drafted by Miami). That’s usually the range where the options become limited. Seattle’s best hope is that an ultra talented prospect like Shon Coleman is downgraded because of his age (he turns 25 in November 2016) and previous battle with cancer (he’s been given the all clear — but it’s a horrible disease that doesn’t quit easily).

The best left tackles in a draft class get snapped up very quickly. There’s a dearth of good ones in the NFL. You usually have to be picking in the top-ten to have any chance at landing one of the best two or three tackles available.

Is Garry Gilliam the future at left tackle?

He could be — although his performance against the Rams wasn’t a great advert. Tom Cable in a recent press conference said he thinks no one can beat Gilliam with a straight speed rush and only one unnamed player can blow by him outside. That tells you how highly they think of him. There’s at least a possibility he ends up at left tackle if Okung walks.

It’d be quite a gamble. The Seahawks started the year with major growing pains on the O-line. Right before the season began they were swapping players around — moving Justin Britt to left guard, promoting Gilliam, trying to decide which center deserved to start. They’d have to be pretty sure Gilliam can adjust to the blindside to make that kind of commitment.

That said, Gilliam has incredible upside. Physically he looks the part of a left tackle. Cable’s words of confidence and the fact he’s even starting at right tackle are encouraging for his future. It would be a serious boost for Seattle if they could save money on Okung, move Gilliam to the left and use the draft to find a right tackle — without the need to force a pick in the first round.

Where can they upgrade the O-line?

The New Orleans Saints invested heavily in their interior O-line a few years ago, believing that was the best way to protect Drew Brees. If they could prevent the pocket imploding he could pick apart a defense. In a sense they prioritised guard and center over the tackle spots. They’ve perhaps had a re-think after drafting Stanford tackle Andrus Peat with the #13 pick this year — although he’s featured mostly at guard and right tackle as a rookie.

Russell Wilson seems to react to the interior rush more than the outside pressure. Against the Rams we saw a classic example of this. With Aaron Donald consistently collapsing the pocket from the inside — Wilson frequently tried to exit the pocket and ran into the arms of a defensive end. When teams haven’t been able to rush inside but had success off the edge (eg Pittsburgh) he simply stayed in the pocket and took over the game.

Has Justin Britt improved enough to warrant long term consideration at left guard? Perhaps. Do they offer J.R. Sweezy a new contract? James Carpenter signed with the Jets for $19.1m over four years (an average salary of $4.75m). Would a similar deal keep Sweezy in Seattle? Or was the decision to draft Mark Glowinski in round four last year a sign they’ve always been willing to move on?

With around $34m available in cap space — there’s scope to make at least a couple of moves (keep Okung and Sweezy/re-sign one player/sign an outside free agent). This quote didn’t go unnoticed last week:

Alex Mack is 30-years-old and would command a relatively big contract for 2-3 years of service. He’s also one of the best center’s in the NFL. Patrick Lewis hasn’t done a bad job at all and might be a preferable option as a cheap restricted free agent in 2016. Mack, on the other hand, would seriously solidify the interior and lock up a key position during the meat of Seattle’s current Championship window. If they lost Okung, it wouldn’t be a major shock to see another proven veteran added to the line. Especially one motivated by the thought of winning football games.

If you are of the mind that Okung probably departs — the best way to try and find an overall upgrade is to bolster the interior and retain Sweezy.

If they don’t (or can’t) target the O-line in round one, what are some of the alternatives?

I sense a lot of Seahawks fans cannot consider a scenario where the team doesn’t go O-line early and often in the draft. However, I suspect they remain committed to their current approach. Okung (R1), Carpenter (R1), John Moffitt (R3) and Britt (R2) haven’t formed the core of a fantastic O-line despite the major investment since 2010. For every hit like Okung there’s a Sweezy or a Breno Giacomini offering value and production.

There’s a chance they look for guys they (aka Tom Cable) like in the middle or later rounds once again. Some people will cringe at the thought — but they’ve made a commitment to Cable. If he believes Gilliam can play left tackle — they might draft a new right tackle in rounds 2-3.

There are options. My personal favourite is Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty (although he might be better suited moving inside). He has a wrestling background (something Cable likes) and was an athletic four-star recruit who played basketball. I wrote about him in more detail here. Indiana’s Jason Spriggs is another — and there’s Washington State’s Joe Dahl too. Some believe Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi will drop into the second or third round.

The Seahawks have generally looked for difference making athleticism in the early rounds. Players with special qualities and incredible upside. Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Percy Harvin (via trade), Christine Michael, Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham (via trade), Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. There’s too much of a trend to ignore.

It won’t be a shocker if they continue along those lines next year. The combine, as usual, will be compulsive viewing for Seahawks fans.

Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller is a tremendous, sudden athlete. Paul Richardson hasn’t been able to stay healthy, Jermaine Kearse is a free agent in waiting and Doug Baldwin’s contract expires after the 2016 season. Fuller has excellent character and production and just feels like a Seahawks-type pick.

There’s a nice group of cornerbacks. Having waited until the later rounds to draft ‘their guys’ — would they consider an earlier pick if the right type of athlete (with length) is available? Especially with so much uncertainty at corner this year. Eli Apple, Tre’Davious White, Cameron Sutton and Mackensie Alexander are intriguing — but could all go early.

Do they re-sign Bruce Irvin? And if not, is there a player available that can fill that role — or maybe act as a converted safety/linebacker hybrid (eg, Mark Barron, Deone Bucannon)?

Whatever happens, it really comes back to the O-line. The one true priority. The Seahawks have had a very clear look at the two sides of the coin. Good pass protection has enabled Wilson to be a genuine MVP candidate. Bad pass protection has made him appear flustered and indecisive and the offense has struggled. There’s no question which they’d prefer to see. Creating an environment for their QB to thrive for 16 games and not five or six has to be the #1 target for 2016 — however they achieve that.

136 Responses to “Key off-season questions: O-line takes center stage”

  1. vrtkolman says:

    This line has proved it can be decent against meh defensive fronts. Against good to great ones, not so much. If they don’t want look overmatched against St. Louis and Arizona next year they are going to have to solidify the interior line. Bring in Mack and upgrade one of the guard sports. Britt and Sweezy are OK but they aren’t anything special.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think it’s a fair point — but there probably aren’t any interior O-lines that match up well against Aaron Donald. He’s an incredible talent. IMO a genuine top-10 player in the league.

      • CharlieTheUnicorn says:

        The Dallas Cowboys OL from 2014 could hold up, but agree…. very special player at DT. JS praised him coming out of college, prior to the draft. He said he wished he had a shot at the guy, because he will be a force.

      • Jarhead says:

        That is one that I will always remember cringing at when I heard his name called. I said to myself “How could the league let the Rams draft this guy?” I wish anyone would have drafted him but the Rams. Serioulsy how did Clowey become the number one pick? I don’t think I EVER saw Clowney being even a remote success in the NFL at any point. But I thought, you can just swap 1st’s and get a 4th, move back to 6 or 7, draft Aaron Donlad and pair him with JJ Watt and take the AFC over entirely. How dumb are they? Seeig him go to the Rams just made me ill. Coincidetally I haven’t been that excited about a Seahawks draft pick since Russell Wilson. I am a huge Kristjan Sokoli fan but by no stretch did I think he would come in immediatwly and change the complexion of our team. We need someone to give us that Aaron Donald feeling

      • vrtkolman says:

        You have a good argument there, but this team will be facing Donald twice a year (maybe three times if they actually get a QB), for the next 8-10 seasons. They are going to need to figure out a way to deal with him.

  2. dave crockett says:

    I just think they’ll get something done with Okung. Who is going to throw “change your life” money at Okung? Jacksonville? Maybe. He’s an above average LT (which is a valuable thing), but the most OT-needy teams draft in the top 12. (Detroit concerns me a little. They’re impatient and spendthrift.)

    I just don’t think he’s a set-the-market LT. If you’re not that, and your team wants you back you’re almost certainly better working something out. For his part, he knows the window in Seattle is still wide open. He’s a key piece to that.

  3. dave crockett says:

    I’m back and forth on Mack. A center of his quality can probably play at a high level well into his 30s. Watching him draw three flags on Seattle for offsides gets me excited.

    Still, centers are like catchers in baseball. The difference between a perfectly cromulent one and a well above average one just isn’t that much; not enough to justify a huge premium. (Seattle unfortunately learned the hard way about the boundary condition — you can’t just throw ANY inexperienced guy in that position.)

    • CharlieTheUnicorn says:

      If he came in for 20M over 3 years….. but you have 3 years of above average to exceptional C play…. I think it is worth it. He is durable, proven and reliable. I would be concerned about scheme fit, but he would instantly turn the center of the OL from a minus to a positive… helping the rushing attack and pass protection.

      As was mentioned in the article, when RW has time to do his thing from the pocket…. magic happens.

    • cha says:

      I think mack would embiggen our OL.

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      I think this dismisses the intangibles of center play. A lot of it is proper line calls, recognizing defenses, effective communication.

      If a guy like Mack can make the difference in a divisional game vs SF (much the way Barnes made the difference in this most recent game), and one or two others where SEA was close (like vs CAR and ARI), then he’s worth every penny of the premium needed to sign him.

      • dave crockett says:

        Oh. I deleted a section of my comment on how Mack directly got three offsides flags in our game versus them by rotating different versions of his head bob. He absolutely committed snap infractions that went uncalled. It was brilliant by a fantastic center.

        THAT is the kind of thing that makes me want to go all in for 2 years. But I also have to ask if I wouldn’t rather have Okung + Irvin and develop Lewis. Had KPL show me more…

  4. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    “Cable in a recent press conference said he thinks no one can beat Gilliam with a straight speed rush and only one unnamed player can blow by him outside”

    Well, I guess now we know the name of that player – Willie Hayes – who beat Gilliam off the snap with speed then blew by him with power over and over. And was it a blown assignment or just poor scheme that allowed Hayes to face up 1-on-1 vs Helfet?

    But I’m not picking on Gilliam when there’s plenty of head shaking to make at the entire OL. Lewis struggles against better DTs. Sure, there’s only one Donald (thank goodness), but even Kawann Short and Calais Campbell gave Lewis big problems this year. SEA might not see Short every season (although so far they have), but they do see both Donald and Campbell twice, and they need better protection from the center position.

    I think (I hope) SEA finds a way to retain Okung. That way they can draft a RT and see if he can play well enough to replace Gilliam who then becomes the backup swing tackle (bye bye Bailey) while being groomed to replace Okung eventually – sooner if Okung has more injuries, or later if he stays healthy.

    • C-Dog says:

      The thing that concerns me most about Gilliam isn’t speed rushers, it’s precisely the Power/Speed Combo rushers like he was faced with Hayes yesterday. You can be all kinds of athletic with your feet, but if you can’t handle a DE with power, what’s to stop the opposing teams’ defenses from putting their power rush end against Gilliam and flopping their edge rusher against the RT. You see Seattle do that on occasion with Mike B when they feel they got a LT who isn’t very strong against the bull rush. If they elect not to spend big to keep Okung, they almost have to bring in Mack, and then your spending big money on a 30 plus old veteran. That is eerily reminiscent of the Tim Ruskell era of remedying holes on the team.

  5. cha says:

    Rob, what do you make of the team/Cable specifically stating that Glowinski is a RG (no idea if they’ve practiced him at other positions)? It seems to portend that he would take Sweezy’s spot sooner or later but it goes against the idea of teaching the OL’s several spots to promote versatility.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I found it very interesting. As you say, it kind of limits him. And if they re-sign Sweezy — they’re basically saying he’s a backup. Which is fine. But a fourth round pick seems like a high price (for this team at least) to bring in a player you hope never sees the field. It adds a layer of intrigue. It may just be an insurance move that they felt was necessary. Yet Glowinski’s presence on the roster gives me the greatest reason to question whether they re-sign Sweezy.

      • C-Dog says:

        That’s almost solely where I read into the tea leaves that it would be Okung they would keep, and Sweezy they would let walk.

        • Miles says:

          I think there is a good chance Glowinski is the right guard next year. I’d also think it a good bet that Sokoli will beat out Britt for the LG spot next year.

          • SunPathPaul says:

            If we do keep Glowinski over Sweezy at RG, Sokoli competes/beats Britt at LG, then what is best:

            1. Sign Okung – Gilliam stays at RT
            2. Move Gilliam to LT, Draft a RT
            3. Patrick Lewis at C, or go all in for Mack…

            Okung/Sokoli/Mack/Glowinski/Gilliam
            Gilliam/Britt/Lewis/Sweezy/’Draft pick’

            So many possibilities!

  6. red says:

    Okung’s market is going to be over 10mil a year teams have to spend money Oakland is 72 mil under the cap next year. There is a lot of hidden FA on the team.

    Signing cost first year cap hit

    sweezy 5mil UFA
    Lewis 2mil RFA
    G/OT/C depth WIZ maybe 3mil
    TJACK 1.5mil
    J Ryan 1.5mil
    Kearse 3mil
    Mebane 3mil
    rubin 3mil
    Irvin 6mil
    Shead or Lane 3m

    this scenero gets you to 31mil Irvin and maybe kearse a little back loaded hence 6mil and Mebane and Rubin 3 MIL first year.

    Draft

    OT 1RD
    DT 2Rd
    OT 3RD
    RB 3RD
    TE 4RD
    DE/OLB 5TH RD
    DT 6TH RD
    WR 7th RD
    CB 7TH RD

    If you resign Okung you kill the depth on this team.

    • Rob Staton says:

      “Okung’s market is going to be over 10mil a year”

      I would be surprised if he had a market worth over $10m a year. Joe Thomas’ cap hit for the next four years never goes above $10.2m.

      • red says:

        Look at Anthony Castonzo Colts LT

        ONTRACT:4 yr(s) / $43,812,000 SIGNING BONUS$14,000,000 AVERAGE SALARY$10,953,000 GUARANTEED:$35,000,000 FREE AGENT:2020 / UFA

        • Rob Staton says:

          Sure, but Castonzo was 26 when he signed the deal (Okung is 29 in 2016) and hasn’t missed anything like the number of games Okung has in his career.

          • red says:

            I hear you but I think this is best comp for a future Okung deal. Plus cap goes up to 150 this year and Okung maybe the best LT UFA Clady coming off ACL. Looking at Castonzo deal his first year cap hit was only 6.5 so a deal like that structure might work for seattle with like 6 mil dead money coming into play in year 3 of 4 year deal.

            • Rob Staton says:

              There’s one other thing to consider though. The Colts didn’t let Castonzo test the market. They didn’t even wait until the end of his deal. When you’re approaching a young, talented player and are looking to extend his contract early — you have to expect to pay a premium price. Castonzo’s reps can quite rightly turn around and demand an upper echelon deal. He was 26 and the Colts want to tie him up long term. They can point to Joe Thomas’ deal and legitimately make that demand. The Colts can’t look at what other teams are willing to offer. They have to calculate the players worth to them and either go for it or risk losing him.

              The Seahawks have allowed Okung’s contract to run down. Now if they turn to him before he hits the open market and try to get things sorted — that’s to his benefit. At that point the Seahawks, like the Colts, are only bidding against themselves. But even then — Okung will be in his 29th year (so he’s older), he’s missed games and he isn’t going to sign an extension like Castonzo that ties him up for essentially five years (he is, after all, approaching his 30’s).

              If Okung actually tests the market — I’d be pretty surprised if teams start offering him +$10m. His ceiling is probably Jake Long who went down a similar path at a similar age and got $9m per year over 3-4 years. He might only get $8m per. And if that happens, the Seahawks can then offer a deal (if they wish) that suits them and allow Okung to make his decision.

              • red says:

                Yeah just caught that extension on spot trac real first year cap hit was 9.8 mil. I think 8 would be his floor I think it all depends on how teams feel about his health he gets nicked up but never tore an ACL and spent a whole season on IR. Also Raiders have opening at LT next year and have 72 mil in cap space. Also Rob what do you think Clady’s market? and looks like LSU LT Hawkins coming out early, you got anything on him?

                • CharlieTheUnicorn says:

                  Clady is a very interesting case. He is one of the top tackles in the NFL, when he is healthy. He has missed portions of the last 2 years with injury. His market might not be very big or it could explode….. can’t get a read on him just yet.

                • Rob Staton says:

                  Clady hard to judge because of the injuries. Might be best for him to sign a one-year deal in Denver and then re-enter the market next year.

                  As for Hawkins — for me I’d struggle to give him a late round grade based on what I saw this year. Not a fan at all.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        “I would be surprised if he had a market worth over $10m a year. Joe Thomas’ cap hit for the next four years never goes above $10.2m.”

        Likely. Although contracts are kind of fluid. He probably slots in the 9m/year range with a +- of 2m. If there is a team in need, or if the options are very very lean, then a bidding war could push it to 11m.

        Free agency is unpredictable that way. Sometimes you are Byron Maxwell and are paid better than Earl Thomas. Sometimes you are Michael Bennett and end up getting paid Derrick Morgan money.

        The ebbs and flows of market availability and cash availability can push Okung above 10m. Not too likely. But I could definitely see it and wouldn’t be terribly shocked.

        • Rob Staton says:

          I wouldn’t be shocked but I think age and injury history will be significant. That and a decent crop of tackles in the draft. A team that feels it can contend quickly (Denver, San Diego) might push the boat out to get that immediate upgrade.

  7. cha says:

    What is crazy to me is all 5 OL spots could be different in 2016:

    Okung, Sweezy & Lewis FA’s, Gilliam might move to LT and Britt could be replaced or moved.

    In that scenario, the Hawks go through another 6 game “please be patient while the OL gels and RW runs for his life” stretch to open 2016.

    With that prospect in sight, I’m strongly inclined to favor continuity. I’d like to see the starting 5 we have now get a chance to work together for the rest of 2015 health permitting and the 2016 offseason.

  8. CC says:

    Gilliam is solid at RT, but to assume he can become the LT might be too much of a jump for him. I’d rather see Okung, but he has to be willing to take less money to stay. He hasn’t been healthy and played a full season in years and he should be paid fairly, I hope he’d round down given that.

  9. mishima says:

    Tough call, but I’d let him walk, move Gilliam to LT, sign veteran FA and/or draft RT.

    It’s not about talent, but dependability. You can not count on Okung to be healthy for a playoff run: The ‘championship window’ closes quick if your LT goes down. Hawks need some anchors.

    I see the Hawks offering 4/30, but he gets closer to 4/38.

  10. John_s says:

    Pro football focus name Alex Mack as a guy who didn’t deserve a pro bowl spot. They said that he hasn’t been the same player since he broke his fibula in 2014.

    Instead of investing big money into a guy at 30 yo who could be on the decline, I would rather invest the money in resigning Bruce or signing a vet who can be our swing tackle

    • John_s says:

      In addition to signing a swing tackle, I would also use the money to sign a blocking TE and a pass rushing specialist.

      Nick Martin looks like an interesting center prospect. From what I read he’s extremely smart, able to make all of the line calls. He’s gritty and should eventually be a stalwart for many years.

      • onrsry says:

        Nick Martin, blocking TE and a pass rush specialist who could provide some rest for Avril and Bennett. That would be a great draft&offseason.

    • Rob Staton says:

      He does play for the Browns… that might impact things. Not that PFF’s grades are that reliable.

  11. Ed says:

    Looks ugly in SD with Weddle. I guess he’s not going back, that’s just a bad organization.

    As for the Hawks.

    Let Okung and Sweezy go. Wilson can evade outside rushers, but can’t with inside rush.
    Get Mack and Boone in FA.
    Move Gilliam to LT and draft RT.
    Keep Irvin/Shead

    Draft:

    1st Fuller (WR)
    2nd Killebrew
    3rd RT
    3rd Day (DT)

    Gilliam/Britt/Mack/Boone/Rookie (if Glow looks better than Britt, have Britt be utility OL (RT/G)

    • Jeremy says:

      My gut says that Weddle winds up on the Patriots as the next Rodney Harrison and plays lights out for them for a few years.

      • arias says:

        Only if Weddle is willing to sign with them for a discount because the Pats don’t typically offer premiums to any player. Seeing how Weddle seems to be all about the money right now, I kind of doubt he’d go to the Patriots. Harrison was a few years older and considered past his prime when the Patriots got him for relatively cheap.

  12. CharlieTheUnicorn says:

    Assume LT Okung is retained / resigned. RG Sweezy is retained. Let’s also say they pick up a FA C/G.
    DE/OLB Irvin may or may not be with the team in this scenario. I presonally think he is toast, due to money he will get offered. Also assume a trade out of the late first round getting an upper 2nd round pick and a 4th round pick. Also assume some comp picks 1 3rd, 1 5th and 1 7th also 1 pick via C Mike trade with Dallas.

    Round 2 (2)
    PHAROH COOPER, WR (I know there is some love for a few other WRs, but I’m rolling with Cooper)
    MILES KILLEBREW, SS/OLB (A consensuses pick amongst the faithful)

    Round 3 (2)
    JIHAD WARD, DT (Need a big ugly, this guy fits the bill)
    BRIAN POOLE, CB/S (Tweener, but decent size and ability)

    Round 4 (2)
    DEON BUSH, FS (Fast/Quick, has some ET to his game, nice depth pick and ST as well)
    DJ FOSTER, RB/WR (A multi tool RB, could be special in NFL with his explosive traits)

    Round 5 (1)
    KAREEM ARE, G (Injuries have knocked him down, but he is raw and needs work in technique)

    Round 6 (1)
    JAKE MCGEE, TE (Solid all around TE, looking for a 3rd TE with this pick)

    Round 7 (3)
    LUTHER MADDY, DT (He could go anywhere from day 2 to late day 3, I like the fit with Seattle)
    JABARI HUNT-DAYS, ILB (Need to draft at least 1 ILB capable guy.. here is my stab in the dark)
    TREVONE BOYKIN, QB (Athleticism, needing refinement as QB….. I like a project pick QB late)

    • Volume12 says:

      Watch the recent draft breakdown cutups of Killebrew. Very disappointing.

      He gets runs through by 2 mediocre RBs, consistently mis-diagnoses plays, and is out of positiob quite frequently.

      • CharlieTheUnicorn says:

        But can he be trained up, does he have athletic gifts and does he fit in Seattle? I could say yes to the latter two questions…. not sure on his willingness to learn or desire

        • red says:

          I like Bush if he available in 4th as well that dude is all over the place on video. Could be a ST ace.

          • Volume12 says:

            Like Bush too. Doesn’t have ET’s speed or explosion, but IF get the comp.

            BTW, only a jr., but keep an eye on Miami CB Artie Burns. One of the most ‘Seahawky’ corners I’ve seen this year.

        • Volume12 says:

          Trained to what though? He’s not a POA player like Deone Bucannon.

          Doesn’t appear he can break things down quickly enough for S, and might get washed out of plays in the NFL. Just like Vic Beasley.

      • Rob Staton says:

        It was disappointing viewing that’s for sure.

  13. C-Dog says:

    Going to stand pat on my belief that Okung is the guy you have to keep. I know he gets injured here and there, I know he is second tier in the realm of LTs, but LT is still a cornerstone position on a roster, right there with QB, Pass rusher, and Shutdown CB. The team has been really fortunate to have all four cornerstones on the roster, I honestly believe that is why it had gotten to back to back Super Bowls and 4 years in a row of playoff football. I think that is why they have survived the season minus Marshawn, Jimmy, etc..

    Gilliam at LT feels too risky, even if his athleticism entices there. I still question whether is is ultimately strong enough, or will get strong enough to hold up against powerful ends, Hayes had him pretty schooled yesterday.

    You can draft BPA at other perceived needs or regardless of position when you got those players already. You have the luxury selecting freak athletes you think are special with your high picks. When you don’t, you run into reaching for an obvious need, and it’s a big roll of the dice drafting in the 20s for a position that is really hard to find there, such as LT.

    But I have to acknowledge that this team operates in some ways that are very counter to what I would think is logical. So, anything is possible.

    • drewjov11 says:

      I think that this is an example of a perfect trade up scenario. If they have to move up to get, say, a shon Coleman, maybe they can move up 7-10 spots. It depends on how well he tests, etc. we will have some extra picks because of compensation, and those are now tradable. People were upset with the picks they gave up to draft Lockett. Is anyone upset now? You want quality, you have to pay a premium. Let’s upgrade this line and see just how high this offense can fly.

      • cha says:

        “extra picks because of compensation, and those are now tradable.”

        They’ll be tradable in 2017.

        • C-Dog says:

          I think trading up for a LT is probably the best way of getting one, for sure. Coleman looks the part as good as anyone. I would say, though, there is some risk with that if the player they trade up for ends up not being very good as an NFL LT and they have to move him to another spot, still evening them searching for the position the following seasons. Kind of why I’m still in favor of hanging onto Okung in that they know what they got. Carroll even mentioned today that not having him in against the Rams had an effect.

          • drewjov11 says:

            That’s like staying with a girl you know you don’t love just so you won’t have to start over with someone new. Settling for high priced and slightly above average isn’t a championship mindset.

            • cha says:

              Actually it’s more like the guy who takes his above-average looking girl for granted and thinks there’s Victoria’s Secret models out there just waiting for him. No team has All Pro players at every position. Okung certainly isn’t a top 5 LT but he’s definitely in the upper ranks of the league.

              What part of back to back Super Bowls don’t you understand? The Hawks HAVE a championship mindset. If Okung demands too much, they’ll let him walk, take the comp pick and figure something else out.

              Trading up in the draft for a LT will be very expensive in trade capital with less guarantee of success than keeping Okung. At best the rookie will have a significant break-in period his first season. It’s definitely possible a great one could slide to the Hawks and it’s possible a team would not command a king’s ransom to trade down, and it’s possible he’s very good right out of the gate, but those are some tough chances to take on a team that clearly has the cap room to sign Okung.

              • drewjov11 says:

                As soon as you start paying Okung north of $10 million you lose the value of keeping him. He’s unreliable due to his games missed. You want to overpay for a decent player, ok. But honestly, this team can’t get better overpaying aging, non-star players like they are star players in their primes.

              • C-Dog says:

                Yup, I think this is the more accurate analogy. Okung is a good LT. Good LT’s are hard to acquire. Letting him go to save some cap room, trade draft picks to move up for someone who is an unknown is an unnecessary role of the dice if Okung can be retained.

  14. vrtkolman says:

    Watching the Denver/Cinci game, and Denver is a team that is going to down in flames because of their offensive line. Fix the offensive line Seattle!!

  15. drewjov11 says:

    Rob, can we get your thoughts on josh Garnett? To me, he’s got so much upside and I feel like he could lock down one of the guard spots for a long time. Smart, athletic, powerful, really good feet. Always seems to be in control and shows power in his pass sets.

  16. drewjov11 says:

    Also, what is the story with Joe Thomas? He was on the block this season. Any chance they make him available again this offseason?

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      He’s not really a viable option for SEA. He’s 31 and has a +10mm/year salary. Not to mention what CLE would want in exchange – either a high draft pick or a key player.

  17. franks says:

    I think we keep Okung for the right price. 9 million would be too high for a guy who gets hurt this often, but if he goes to someone else for 9, who do we replace him with? Starting Gilliam at LT would be like starting Nowitski at Center I think, which means Cable would really do it. No free agent tackles good enough no rookie prospects in our range.

    So it’s a bit of “darned if you do, darned if you don’t”, and there aren’t any good options at LT this offseason. Compromise is the name of the game….

    Without a doubt Sweezy goes if he gets an offer that high and I’m sure Pete and Cable knew that when they picked Glo. I’d rather make a run at Mack, if Lewis doesn’t prove himself going forward.

  18. sdcoug says:

    Latest report was that Mack wants to be highest paid center and top $9M per. Doesn’t mean he gets it, but….

  19. onrsry says:

    The last sentence of this article is sums up everything in a great way. Very good read, appreciate your work.

  20. Volume12 says:

    Oregon’s Tyler Johnstone is a name that keeps popping up in my head. He’s better than Jake Fisher, even watching them together, he was the better one. Johnstone just kept gettin’ better as the year went on.

    Fantastic athlete, perfect for a ZBS, has great feet (something you can’t teach), great length. I know he has the ACL injuries, but IMO he’s proved he can overcome adversity. He’s gonna be a riser. Bet on it.

    And Michigan St’s G/T Donovan Clark. Blows guys off the ball, moves his feet on contact, just a severly underrated player.

  21. Jeremy says:

    I expect the team to explore several options, kick the tires on just about every possibility and compete relentlessly this offseason to make the team better. Rookie offensive linemen typically struggle. There are exceptions (Bitonio) but the general rule is that they are typically overmatched. Scheme fit matters too. How well can they play in our ZBS? How much have the guys who were drafted grown and can they compete for spots next year after a redshirt season with Cable?

  22. Greg haugsven says:

    One thing to remember is that free agency is before the draft. Well know ahead of time what they will do in the draft. Resign Okung and it changes things. I agree with Rob that they like game changing talent early, whether it’s your biggest need or not. Noah Spence to me could be that guy this year for the Seahawks. He could slide into Irvins role, dudes a monster.

    • cha says:

      Yeah. My heart kinda sunk when the Rams drafted Aaron Donald. They had gobs of draft capital in the DL already but took clearly the best player available and are reaping the benefits.

      • CHawk Talker Eric says:

        What benefits are those? Another losing season? Personal stats or a satisfying victory here and there aren’t really important.

        Donald is a special player, but one could argue that STL would have been better served by focusing on other position groups with greater need.

    • Volume12 says:

      I’m with in regards to Noah Spence. One of the best edge guys in this class.

      • Attyla the Hawk says:

        I’m not one to just blanket rule out positions. Since I think that’s how teams miss out on real opportunities to add talent.

        But I tend to think that Seattle has both invested heavily (Avril/Bennett/Clark) at the edge and really hasn’t invested much in the interior. Teams that give us trouble tend to be the ones that can ante up in the physical part of the game.

        I do think that Seattle is in danger of losing that toughness edge. Certainly on the OL side. But on the DL side as well. And with the prospect of life after Lynch — Seattle definitely feels like they’ve lost their edge in this way.

        We’ve lost key contributors to that circle of toughness. Browner. Tate. Giacomini. Miller. I liked the Clark pick as it pertains to this. We need some thumpers who can bring a little edge with them.

  23. line_hawk says:

    The two guys nobody is talking about are Kelechi Osemele and Alex Boone. Both are in their prime unlike Mack; plus spending money on a guard is better than on a center. Especially Osemele has been a probowler for a couple years now, only 26 & big upgrade over Sweezy.

    • DC says:

      Alex Boone is a name that comes up fairly often on this site actually. I feel like a broken record mentioning him again but he is familiar with the Hawks and seemingly chummy with several of our players already, has started at both guard spots for the 9ers and has played at both T spots in college if I’ve read correctly. Versatile and cromulent.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Would be surprised if they spent big on a guard — based on how they’ve approached that position and had at least some success with Sweezy.

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      While we can’t know exactly how this staff views the development players at OG — I think the fact that they chose to keep both Sokoli and Glowinski on the active roster as opposed to other alternatives maybe gives us a bit of indication that they are bullish on these guys going forward. It’s not as if we haven’t shuttled a lot of guys on and off the roster this year. The fact that these two didn’t sniff the waiver wire may be telling.

  24. Greg haugsven says:

    Also I don’t think they will resign Bruce Irvin. I always like to say that you have to create holes to infuse youth. If you don’t you all get old at the same time and that’s a bad thing. I love me some Irvin but he’ll get $8 mill plus from someone.

    • CharlieTheUnicorn says:

      I could see him doing to the Raiders. He has a working relationship with the DC already in the past…. natural fit and they have money to burn. Pair him up with Mack…. very explosive combo.

  25. Greg haugsven says:

    Osemele is a beast. That dudes a serious road grader. I just don’t see the Seahawks giving that middle of the road contract to anyone. It seems like they go big or go rookie contract, no middle ground.

  26. Nathan says:

    Does mack count as a free agent for comp pick purposes?

    • Nathan says:

      If they can sign Mack, let Okung go, and pocket an extra pick in the process, they may do it.

    • Rob Staton says:

      If he’s on the open market and you sign him — yes any player you lose of a similar price would count against any comp picks. Although Seattle would need to have a very expensive free agent departure to begin with and would also need to have sufficient care for a late fourth rounder vs the impact of a proven veteran in the middle of their Championship window.

  27. red says:

    I think if we sign Okung we let Sweazy go and vice versa also Lewis is RFA so second round tender on him 2.5mil against cap Bailey is also RFA so decision will need to be made on him also. The future of the NFC west looks like having deep and quality DL with Gurley and Johnson establishing themselves would not mind beefing up on DL would like to resign Mebane Rubin and drafting 3 tech in second round. Francis is ERFA so if we want him he will be cheap and Hill needs to get healthy, also read Jesse Williams is ERFA next year if we decide to bring him in.

    • Volume12 says:

      The Rams have the recipe to give RW fits. Fast, athletic D-lineman.

      Aaron Donald is truly special. He shold’ve been a top 2 pick. One of the top 5 defenders in the game IMO.

      • CHawk Talker Eric says:

        Top 2 – Donald and Kuechly.

        I’d take it a step further and say that the difference between Donald and the next best DT is a wider margin than any other top 2 players at any other position, if that makes sense.

  28. DC says:

    If we were allowed to bring in only one external free agent this off season I would love to add an impact, interior pass rusher. Keeping an eye on Denver’s DT Malik Jackson.

  29. Volume12 says:

    Auburn DT Montravius Adams has got an amazing 1st step. Explosive. I like this guy.

  30. Mike B. says:

    I have a strong feeling that Shon Coleman will be available late in the first round (or even into the early second), and because of the reasons Rob stated in the post–his age and the disease he battled. He sure looks like an impact player at the pro level, and it’d be amazing if Seattle were able to draft him.

    I’m very curious what’ll happen with Sokoli, Glowinski, and Poole next year–I have a feeling that at least one of those guys will get some starts earlier in the year. As I understand it, Sokoli is learning both G and C positions, while the other two are purely guards.

    In the draft, I see Seattle trading that first-round pick for a mid-high 2nd + 4th round pick like they did in 2014. Will Fuller is intriguing, but my money would be on Sterling Shepard. Shepard doesn’t have the ridiculous top speed of Richardson or Lockett, but he’s a more physical receiver and creates good separation. Having Lockett and Shepard flying all over the field would give opposing secondaries fits. I also see Seattle drafting a center somewhere in rounds 2-4, perhaps Austin Blythe from Iowa. Blythe was one of the best blocking centers in college football, and against some of the best defenses out there.

  31. Nathan says:

    Also, on Okung, the calf strain is known as the ‘old man injury’

    I follow rugby quite heavily, and plenty of careers are cut short by guys who can’t get their calves right, might be nothing, but something to think about.

  32. Nathan says:

    And we definitely need to do something about the interior O line.

    25% of our games are against Aaron Donald or Calaias Campbell, and next year we face the AFC East, and NFC South.

    So to list the Interior D Linemen we’re playing next year:

    Donald
    Campbell
    Suh
    Dareus
    The Jets
    Kawahn Short
    Gerald Mccoy

    Gonna be ugly if we don’t improve there.

  33. Miles says:

    The argument for re-signing Russell Okung seems to follow like this: It’s hard to get good left tackles, so re-signing Okung is the best chance of having a good one, albeit he has injury issues. $8m seems like a coup to make sure you have that position locked down, even theoretically.

    But the most optimal scenario, in a perfect 2016 offseason, might look like this:

    1) Let Okung walk.
    2) Shon Coleman falls to the Seahawks pick in the last first. They draft him.
    3) Coleman competes with Gilliam for starting LT job in camp. They both flourish, and each earns a tackle spot.
    4) Seattle uses Okung money on Alex Mack; 3yrs/$24m.
    5) Seattle can afford to keep Sweezy if they’d like.

    These events, and the theoretical prowess of Gilliam and Coleman, would give the Seahawks a huge advantage and probably the best O-Line they have had in the long-run. The offensive line would be solidified without bringing down the cap at all. And, they get the assurance that they won’t be dealing with Okung’s injury concerns any longer.

    LT Gilliam
    LG Britt
    C Mack
    RG Sweezy
    RT Coleman

    • Trevor says:

      If Coleman is there that would be an ideal scenario. Let Glowinski and Sokoli battle Britt and Sweezy for the Guard spots as well.

      • cha says:

        Highly unlikely they’d re-sign Sweezy then put his spot up for battle. If they thought they had either Glowinski or Sokoli or both ready to compete with Sweezy they’d let Sweezy walk and take the comp pick.

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      I realize you’re just positing an optimal off season scenario. But the reality is there are approximately 6 weeks between the opening of FA and the 2016 Draft.

      So what would you do if Okung tests the market during that time and receives a decent offer?

      Do you let him walk hoping (against hope) that Coleman falls into the bottom of R1?

      There’s no way a FO, let alone one as savvy as SEA’s, leaves such an important position to the luck of the draft.

      IF (and that’s a big if) SEA let Okung walk before the draft, it will be because they think Gilliam can be effective as a LT.

    • Alex H says:

      The problem is that A LOT of things have to go just right for the Hawks in that optimal scenario.

      2) Coleman falling to the Hawks is one.
      3) Coleman even being an average LT is another, much less “flourish”. Recent history has been really rough on rookie tackles.
      4) Assumes Seattle can woo Mack over.

      • Miles says:

        Not saying this is a likely scenario. Pretty unlikely, but in a perfect world they might want to do this. It’s good food for thought because they have been known to take risks on unknown commodities based on upside over known ones like Okung. Last year they traded Unger and replaced him with a journeyman. But they first gambled by trading Unger then they likely had their eyes set on Mitch Morse. When that option faded they played the hand they were dealt. My scenario here probably mirrors that series of events, almost.

  34. Volume12 says:

    Rob, IDK if you noticed or saw this, but every team that beat us at home or in the CLINK was coming off of a bye or a Thursday night game. Essentially giving every team at least 10 days of prep.

  35. EranUngar says:

    A few observations:

    Everybody seems to be happy with Gilliam as RT or even LT. Gilliam is an UDFA ex TE that has spent a year preparing for his role on our PS under Cable. Glo and Soko are spending this year preparing for their roles under Cable. Keeping Soko on the active roster all year in spite of injuries at other positions etc is very telling.

    The numbers tell us that we can, at best, keep 2 out of Okung, Sweezy, Irvin. Assuming that all 3 are ready to sign for the kind of contract the Seahawks can offer, having Glo/Soko ready may send Sweezy to the open market.

    If we make it deep into the playoffs they will try to retain at least 4 of OL starters. If we don’t, they may opt to let Okung go and try to get a future LT with the higher pick.

    Watching Helfet block made me miss Willson so much. His chips where useless and his size is a blocking liability. I think that the need for a good blocking TE has just moved up the board.

    Another lesson from yesterday, with the RAMS rushing 5 constantly, we need another receiver with great hands and very precise & polished short route running. Having sub 2.5 seconds targets for RW sounds more doable than producing a line that will protect him for 3 sec or more.

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      Last night CIN used Ogbuehi as a blocking TE with some success. SEA has used Bailey the same way, but they couldn’t vs STL because Okung was out.

    • Volume12 says:

      Gonna hard to find a blockng TE. There’s a reason why there’s a dearth of them. With more and more spread offenses, college coaches just aren’t asking TE’s to block any more.

      Give me a guy that can do more than just block. While a blocking TE could be seen as a need, those guys don’t come off the board until late in day 3.

  36. AlaskaHawk says:

    I’ve seen at least one football draft that only has four offensive tackles going in the first round. They project Seahawks as taking Taylor Decker of Ohio State. So it is possible that the Seahawks could get a good tackle in the draft. Just have to be willing to commit to upgrading the offensive line.
    Picking a tackle in the first round,
    large receiver or tight end in second,
    and a guard/center in the third would go a long ways toward solidifying this offense.

    • Volume12 says:

      I don’t see Decker as a LT. He’s a ‘seal’ blocker not a ‘drive’ blocker. Watch when he comes out of his stance. He instantly loss the battle by getting to upright, thus losing his leverage.

      Conklin isn’t a LT either. There’s 2 in this entire class. Guys like Tyler Johnstone have the feet and athleticism to play LT, but they’re all gonna be developmental guys. Not exactly a scenario that says ‘we improved the blind side position by letting Okng walk.’ Let’s wait until later in the season again?

      • Alex H says:

        Correct. It’s basically Coleman and Tunsil. It’s not even guaranteed that they will work out. As prospects, they’re no better than when Okung was a prospect back in 2010. At that time, Okung had no signs of injury history and was as consistent as a player as there was in the draft.

        Again, LTs are RARE. There’s a reason genuine LTs go within the top 8 picks.

        The reason we see more tackles taken in the 1st round than ever before is that RTs are increasingly picked up in the mid 1st to early 2nd rounds. The Seahawks selection of Britt is an example. All the OL tackle prospects they had their eye on were picked by the end of the 2nd round. The only one left was Britt (with something closer to a 4th round grade) and hence the Hawks had to reach for him.

      • Rik says:

        I think Ifedi has a lot of potential. He is very athletic, which I think will come out in the combine.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve also seen a mock draft with LSU’s overrated Jerald Hawkins in round one. I’d say there’s little chance of Decker falling. That would be like expecting Taylor Lewan to fall a couple of drafts ago. It’s very easy to say ‘pick a tackle in R1’. Name me the last great offensive tackle drafted between picks 21-32.

  37. Volume12 says:

    Miami CB Artie Burns declared for the draft. Him and William Jackson from Houston are my 2 favorite mid round CBs.

    Artie Burns lost his mom unexpectedly this year, his dad is in jail, has a son of his own that he raises, and has custody of his 2 little brothers. And he’s a track star. Ran a 13 110 M. How’s that for overcoming adversity?

    Is he one of the ‘best’ corners in this class? No. But, he’s got the length, likes to tackle, and keeps everything in front of him, hardly ever giving up an explosive play.

    6’0-195 lbs., with 6 INTs.

    • cha says:

      Nice write up V12. Do you think he’s more suited to the slot or can he play on an island?

      • Volume12 says:

        Both. With his speed and flexibility due to being a track star he can play nickel/slot.

        But, with his physicality and length, he can play boundary or on an island. And is probably better suited to playing outside.

        Miami was +13 in TO margin this year, 5-6 of those where from Burns, who lead the ACC in picks.

  38. neil says:

    s far as I am concerned they can get rid of Okung. If he can’t stay on the field, what good is he?

  39. Purpleneer says:

    I’m late to this discussion, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why Sokoli wouldn’t be checked out as a possible OT. He’s already a conversion project and fits the much rarer physical profile of the more valuable position.
    I know it’s difficult, but the only reason it would be tougher than converting to guard is the length/athleticism needed, which happen to be his best assets.