Will the Seahawks concentrate on upgrading their interior line?

March 18th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Ryan Kelly could be an option for the Seahawks at #26

Seattle’s starting tackles might be on the roster already. Garry Gilliam could be switching to the blindside and J’Marcus Webb could be starting on the right.

With an emphasis seemingly on greater competition this year — nothing is set in stone. It’s at least possible, however, that these two will emerge as the projected starters.

Hidden within a piece of classic football rhetoric (you win games in the trenches) is a feeling that you need a great left tackle to win. The reality might be a little bit different. According to Football Outsiders, these were the top ten teams for pass protection in 2015:

1 St Louis/Los Angeles
2 Baltimore
3 New York Jets
4 Oakland
5 Arizona
6 New York Giants
7 New Orleans
8 Pittsburgh
9 Atlanta
10 Washington

Of that group, one team benched their left tackle during the season (Baltimore), the Giants started a rookie, Pittsburgh started Alejandro Villanueva and the Jets had a player (D’Brickashaw Ferguson) that has been touted as a cap casualty for a few weeks.

Only Washington fielded an elite tackle in Trent Williams.

In the NFL’s top 100 list for 2015, only four offensive tackles were listed. Most teams in the league are not starting a great NFL left tackle.

The four offensive tackles starting in Super Bowl 50 were Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Ryan Harris and Michael Schofield.

It’s an overrated thought that a brilliant left tackle is vital for a successful O-line. Really it’s about creating a chemistry. Knowing what you want to do and finding players that can execute.

In fairness the Seahawks have never hidden what they want to do. Their identity is to run the ball as a priority — so they generally target good run blockers. That doesn’t mean they can’t do a better job consistently pass blocking. And it’s consistency they lacked — nothing more serious than that.

This Tweet shows how productive Seattle’s O-line was in the second half of the 2015 season:

The key is to produce that level of performance over 16 games, not eight. Having big name or ageing veterans is not vital to achieve that. Better depth and competition — plus an injection of young talent — could be the key to finding the right blend.

In 2015 the Seahawks didn’t do a good enough job stocking the shelves. They had automatic, unchallenged starters at new positions and too many players struggled early — especially at the two guard spots and center.

While many focus on what the Seahawks need to do to replace Russell Okung, the more pertinent question might be — how do they upgrade the interior line?

If they believe they can get by with Gilliam and Webb at tackle (much like the Panthers succeeded with Oher and Remmers) — improving at center and guard could be the focus.

It was often the interior that created issues for Seattle. Certainly against the Rams and Panthers they had trouble inside.

Teams want to contain Russell Wilson by having their edge rushers sit. If the pocket collapses, Wilson will try to scramble and it’s an easy sack for the DE just anticipating the move. If they can protect inside to force teams to attack the edge — it not only keeps the pocket clean but it gives Wilson a better chance to improvise because the edge rushers are committed.

Cris Collinsworth raised an interesting point this week in a mock draft. He had the Seahawks taking Alabama center Ryan Kelly:

The more football I watch, the more I’m convinced that center is a very underrated position. The other thing I’ve noticed is that edge rushers are almost entirely dependent on the interior rushers getting a push that keeps the QB from stepping up in the pocket.

So many teams put a premium on the center’s ability to get to the second level that they sign smaller centers that can move. I would put the premium on strength and size that could hold the point and allow my quarterback to step up. The Seahawks need help along that offensive line, and losing Max Unger in the Jimmy Graham trade last offseason hurt, but combining a talented young center like Kelly with Russell Wilson would give the Seahawks a communication tandem that would last a decade.

There are two thoughts here…

1. Collinsworth acknowledges the importance of interior protection and how it impacts the edge rush.

2. Everything the Seahawks do on offense from here on in will be designed to build long term relationships with Russell Wilson.

Make no mistake, Wilson is the heart of Seattle’s offense now. Drafting Tyler Lockett gives him a target he can grow with for multiple seasons during his peak years. The decision to trade for Jimmy Graham was inspired by a desire to aid Wilson. Any future moves on the O-line will also likely be with Wilson in mind.

Maybe there’s a type of O-liner the Seahawks think Wilson needs? It’s worth considering. Maybe that wasn’t obvious when they drafted him? Perhaps that’s why they’ve allowed the entire starting O-line from the Super Bowl to depart?

Wilson is, after all, a very difficult quarterback to block for because of his improvising quality. Extreme athleticism on the line might be increasingly important — along with mobility and the ability to sustain a block.

They’ve maybe decided he needs greater interior protection too. He has the escapability to see the edge rusher and avoid taking a sack. It’s not quite as easy when the interior O-line collapses.

Building a relationship at center for the long term might also be seen as a priority — as Collinsworth suggests. Whether they make that move in round one remains to be seen — there will be options later on.

They might draft a highly athletic tackle who can move inside and offer competition at a couple of spots. It could mean drafting a pure guard (something they’ve tended not to do — but might be more open to it for the right guy). It could mean a new center.

Athleticism, grit, toughness, physicality and run blocking are likely to be the things to look for. Spending two early picks on the O-line appears inevitable at this stage. Let’s look at some of the players potentially on Seattle’s radar if they try to upgrade their interior line…

Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama)
A powerful, physical player who loves to battle and scrap. He’s ranked in the top eight for SLA and is in the 80th percentile for NFL linemen in terms of size and athleticism. He size in the lower body, plays quite top-heavy and could be jolted back without a firmer base at the next level. He sometimes gets stuck hand-fighting at the line. Some see him as a top-25 talent — but there’s a pretty good chance he’s there at #26. They’d have to take him in round one due to his toughness and athleticism. He won’t last too long.

Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
An absolute physical freak of nature with better tape than people recognise. He has ideal length, size and mobility. He’s in the 98th percentile for NFL linemen and he’s the top SLA O-liner in the class. Mock Draftable says his nearest physical comparison in the NFL is Kelechi Osemele. He could slot in at left guard and provide a similar impact for a fraction of the cost. This is what he’s capable of. He’s capable of being a future left or right tackle — but could really excel at left guard.

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
A terrific football player who’s battled cancer and pushed himself towards a NFL career. He’s a fantastic blocker off the edge but could be a beast inside. He too has ideal size, length and mobility. He’s much older than Ifedi and injury means he’s been unable to test at the combine or the Auburn pro-day. There’s a medical question mark here but if Ifedi’s off the board he’s the best tackle-or-guard option. He’d be a top-25 pick with a clean bill of health.

Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
McGovern is far less flashy than Ryan Kelly and would need to transition to center — but he has the ideal frame and base for the role. Unlike Kelly, McGovern has tree trunks for legs and he can squat 690lbs. Nobody is shoving him backwards once he sets 1v1. He’s also a terrific athlete — ranked #4 in SLA and in the 87th percentile among NFL linemen. He appears destined for a similar rise to Mitch Morse — who also played left tackle at Missouri before kicking inside.

Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
A local player, Garnett suggested it’d be a ‘dream come true’ to play for the Seahawks during his combine press conference. Garnett is massive and powerful and does a terrific job in the run game. That would interest the Seahawks. What puts him at a disadvantage is he’s one dimensional and a pure guard. Coleman, Ifedi and McGovern can play 2-3 spots and that appears to be important as the Seahawks work out this line. There are reportedly some concerns about Garnett’s conditioning and he’s only 16th in SLA, in the 67th percentile for NFL linemen.

Christian Westerman (G, Arizona State)
Westerman is really fun to watch. He didn’t blow up the combine athletically as expected but he’s a gritty battler who moves around freely and gets to the second level. He’s a candidate to play either guard spot or center. He’s in the 76th percentile athletically and is a rising prospect. Some have compared his size, frame and athleticism to that of Alex Mack. He could be a good option at #56.

Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
He played tackle in college and had a lot of success. Unfortunately, he’s a T-Rex with 32.5 inch arms at 6-4 and 301lbs. That means he almost has to play guard or center at the next level. His balance, physicality and natural technique has had people suggesting he could be another Zack Martin. Although he plays guard for Dallas — Martin was Notre Dame’s left tackle but moved inside due to short arms. Whitehair will provide someone with a solid option at guard or center in the #25-40 range.

Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Jim Harbaugh, not that he’s biased at all, labelled Glasgow a first round talent before the Shrine Game. He had a tough week when facing off against Sheldon Rankins at the Senior Bowl but otherwise was terrific. He has similar size to Max Unger and plays with great attitude and ferocity. He might be available in round three but he could be one of the big value picks in the draft. He has the flexibility to play guard. Glasgow ranked 10th in SLA in the 76th percentile.

Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
There’s so much to like about Martin’s game. He performed modestly at the combine but that isn’t his stage. His tape is arguably better than Ryan Kelly’s — he doesn’t get stuck in traffic blocking for the sake of it at the LOS. He progresses nicely to the second level, knows how to twist a D-liner to create a crease and he has the bloodlines. He’s not going to blow people away physically but he’ll be a tough, solid pick for someone in the top-50. He can also play guard.

Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
One of the major highlights of the Senior Bowl was watching Dahl and Nick Martin combine as a center/right guard combo. The two appeared to hit it off and developed an immediate chemistry. It’d be great to see that partnership at the next level. That said, neither player is particularly brilliant physically. Dahl is in the 51st NFL percentile, Martin in the 32nd. They might be overmatched against superior athletes. Dahl might be an option to provide competition at right guard, center or right tackle.

There are others we could include. Denver Kirkland and Sebastien Tretola might appeal due to their size, Evan Boehm and Jack Allen are smaller center’s but offer genuine toughness. Le’Raven Clark is raw but has a high ceiling.

It’s a good enough class for the Seahawks to grab a couple of cornerstone players for their line. Guys they can build and grow with. The strength of the class arguably suggests they take a versatile, athletic tackle at #26 (such as Ifedi) and then focus on the interior with their second O-line selection.

If they can stop the pocket collapsing inside and give Russell Wilson time to make a good decision — this line can succeed in pass protection. We know Tom Cable will prepare them adequately to run the ball.

 

How Russell Okung’s departure impacts the draft

March 17th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

For starters, is anyone really surprised?

The Seahawks had an opportunity to extend Russell Okung’s contract well beyond the start of free agency. Unlike Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and several others — they let his deal play out.

Rightly or wrongly, they decided long ago that Okung wasn’t a priority. A player they’d rather not lose? Perhaps. But his $10.6m average in Denver is not crazy money for a left tackle. They could afford to keep him. They chose to prioritise other players in free agency and let him walk.

Seahawks fans have been tracking the free agent tackle market for several days — but did the team show the same level of interest?

Let’s run through what actually happened:

— The Seahawks reportedly made a strong offer to keep Okung — which he chose not to accept in pursuit of more money. An improved offer was not forthcoming despite Okung making several visits to other teams.

— Despite hinting that Seattle was interested, Donald Penn never arranged a visit with the Seahawks. He was set to visit with the Giants before agreeing a $14m, two-year deal to stay in Oakland. There’s no real indication that the Seahawks made a big push to sign Penn.

— Kelvin Beachum was reportedly set to visit Seattle last Monday but instead travelled to Jacksonville where he eventually agreed terms on a $4.5m one-year contract with an option to extend to four-years for $40m. Were the Seahawks really that serious about signing Beachum?

— Seattle was pretty quick to touch base with J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell and signed both players.

It’d be foolish to think the Seahawks don’t have a plan here. They allowed several veteran tackles to sign elsewhere without much of a fight. It might not be clear what the plan is six weeks out from the draft — but make no mistake, the Seahawks will know what they want to do with their self-confessed off-season priority.

So again, why is there no reason to panic?

It’s likely they will spend at least two early picks on the offensive line. The Rams started two rookies on their line in 2015 and were ranked #1 pass protection by Football Outsiders.

They could still add further veterans (they are still in the running to sign Ted Larsen).

The Broncos just won a Super Bowl with the following O-line protecting an immobile, now-retired quarterback: Ryan Harris – Evan Mathis – Matt Paradis – Louis Vasquez – Michael Schofield. The only big name is Mathis who is 35 this year. Vasquez has since been cut and they allowed Harris to sign a modest deal in Pittsburgh.

Let’s not forget the success of the Carolina Panthers in 2015. A year ago their big addition on the offensive line was Michael Oher — fresh off a hugely disappointing spell in Tennessee. Oher’s cap hit in 2015 was $2.4m.

Tackle was seen as a big need for the Panthers — and yet they crafted their line with a certain type of lineman that fit the personality of their team.

Here’s what I wrote on February 1st about Carolina’s O-line:

At right tackle they’re starting Mike Remmers — an undrafted free agent from 2012. He’s 26-years-old and already on his sixth NFL team. He was snatched from the Rams practise squad. His cap hit for this season is $585,000.

Cam Newton is generally well protected. The Panthers gave up 33 sacks during the regular season — the same number as the much vaunted Dallas Cowboys O-line and 13 fewer than the Seahawks.

Carolina are built to win in the trenches and they’re doing it without first round offensive tackles. The Seahawks have to consider a similar path.

Ryan Kalil (center) and Trai Turner (right guard) are Carolina’s two best offensive linemen. Kalil is a pillar of consistency, the unquestioned leader up front. Turner is the ultra-talented, physical guard playing next to him.

This is the strength of the unit.

The Seahawks might attempt to emulate the Panthers by producing a consistently performing O-line built in the same way.

This is something to consider moving forward. Perhaps the Seahawks, like the Panthers, think they can win without elite offensive tackles? Perhaps they believe the interior is the key?

(By the way, for those suggesting the tackles cost Carolina a Super Bowl — watch this).

Perhaps they intend to start Garry Gilliam at left tackle and Webb at right tackle? Perhaps their focus will be to upgrade the interior O-line?

That could mean drafting Germain Ifedi to play left guard. That could mean drafting Ryan Kelly to start at center. It could mean ploughing resources in rounds 2-4 into the interior line.

Just because the Seahawks aren’t paying big money to a name tackle doesn’t mean they cannot succeed. The Panthers and Broncos showed that in 2015. But they will need to upgrade at guard and center to create the same kind of success.

Many will ask whether the Seahawks will trade for Denver’s Ryan Clady as a reaction to losing Okung. Why would they give up a pick and pay Ryan Clady — a more injury prone left tackle than Okung — $9.5m a year? If they were willing to make that kind of investment they surely would’ve just kept Okung?

The only likely way Clady lands in Seattle is if he’s cut and receives a cold market. He missed 18 games in the last three seasons. The Broncos made the Super Bowl twice without him.

On the plus side — the Seahawks now have some cap room to play with. Don’t be shocked if they make a move because there’s little point sitting on that available salary. Trading for a pass rusher could be a possibility — as the Cardinals did recently with Chandler Jones.

That would enable them to add an impact veteran possibly using their second round pick — before fixing the O-line at #26 and in round three.

They’re also reportedly visiting with Mike Neal, formerly of the Packers.

 

NFL mock draft: Free agency edition 16th March

March 16th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Don’t forget to check out this weeks podcast…

A few thoughts before we get into this weeks projection…

— The Seahawks were never going to enter the Kelechi Osemele market and the latest reports have Russell Okung wanting $13-14m a year. Limited cap room plus a desire to keep the bulk of their free agents limited their ability to be extremely aggressive in free agency. They’ve fixed their biggest needs in the draft before and it seems like that will be the case again this year.

— Garry Gilliam possibly switching to left tackle, the idea of starting two rookies drafted in rounds 1-3, adding increased competition at a reasonable price. We’ve discussed these things for months. Seattle’s moves in free agency really haven’t been that surprising. They prioritised keeping Ahtyba Rubin and Jeremy Lane and now they’re looking for value in the market. Increased competition on the O-line is crucial in 2016. They didn’t have that last year.

— This is a better draft for the offensive line than the general media has recognised. It’s deep on the defensive line — but there’s a better mix of freaky athletes and physical tough guys on the O-line. They should be able to find two prospective starters and this is the best way to build a cohesive unit for the next few years.

Cris Collinsworth posted an interesting mock draft earlier today and had the Seahawks taking Alabama center Ryan Kelly. If they were to re-sign Okung and with sufficient depth at tackle and guard — this could be a possibility. At the moment they arguably need to keep adding players that can play tackle or guard. There are some nice center options in the middle rounds.

— Following the Chandler Jones trade yesterday, it wouldn’t be a total shock if the Seahawks put together a similar move to add a pass rusher. This isn’t a great class in that regard. If they want to get back to the depth they had in 2013 — trading for a pass rusher makes some sense.

Round 1

** Indicates trade

#1 Tennessee — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#2 Cleveland — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
#3 San Diego — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
#4 Dallas — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#5 Jacksonville — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#6 Baltimore — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#7 San Francisco — Jared Goff (QB, California)
#8 Philadelphia — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#9 Tampa Bay — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#10 ** Los Angeles — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#11 Chicago — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#12 New Orleans — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
#13 Miami — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#14 Oakland — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
#15 ** New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#16 Detroit — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#17 Atlanta — Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
#18 Indianapolis — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#19 Buffalo — Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
#20 New York Jets — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
#21 Washington — Keanu Neal (S, Florida)
#22 Houston — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#23 Minnesota — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
#24 Cincinatti — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#25 Pittsburgh — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
#26 Seattle — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
#27 Green Bay — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
#28 Kansas City — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
#29 Arizona — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
#30 Carolina — Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
#31 Denver — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)

Round 2

#32 Cleveland — Josh Doctson (WR, TCU)
#33 Tennessee — Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama)
#34 Dallas — Vonn Bell (S, Ohio State)
#35 San Diego — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#36 Baltimore — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#37 San Francisco — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
#38 Miami — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
#39 Jacksonville — Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
#40 New York Giants — Sterling Shepard (WR, Oklahoma)
#41 Chicago — Willie Henry (DT, Michigan)
#42 Tampa Bay — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
#43 Los Angeles — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
#44 Oakland — Karl Joseph (S, West Virginia)
#45 Los Angeles — Robert Nkemdiche (DT, Ole Miss)
#46 Detroit — Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech)
#47 New Orleans — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
#48 Indianapolis — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
#49 Buffalo — Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State)
#50 Atlanta — Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA)
#51 New York Jets — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
#52 Houston — Cody Whitehair (C, Kansas State)
#53 Washington — Joshua Perry (LB, Ohio State)
#54 Minnesota — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
#55 Cincinnati — Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
#56 Seattle — Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
#57 Green Bay — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
#58 Pittsburgh — Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
#59 Kansas City — Chris Jones (DT, Mississippi State)
#60 New England — Devontae Booker (RB, Utah)
#61 New England — Jihad Ward (DE, Illinois)
#62 Denver — Christian Westerman (G, Arizona State)
#63 Carolina — Kenneth Dixon (RB, Louisiana Tech)

Thoughts on Seattle’s picks

Ifedi and McGovern are both flexible players. Ifedi played right tackle in college but has the size, length and athleticism to play left guard and both tackle spots in Seattle. McGovern has started all across Missouri’s line but played left tackle in 2016. He’s projected as a possible center candidate.

The Seahawks love unique traits and athleticism and Ifeid and McGovern are both ranked in the top four for SLA. Physically Ifedi is in the 98th percentile for NFL offensive linemen. McGovern’s in the 87th percentile.

Ifedi can compete at right tackle or left guard immediately (with J’Marcus Webb) and McGovern could start at guard or center.

Mock Draftable says Ifedi’s closest pro-comparison physically at guard is Kelechi Osemele. McGovern shares some comparisons to Mitch Morse — who also switched from tackle to center after playing for Missouri. He started immediately for the Chiefs last season.

Alternative scenario

If the Seahawks don’t make a pre-draft trade for a pass rusher, they might look to move up in round two using one of their third round picks.

In the 2014 draft Philadelphia traded from #54 to #42 with Tennessee for the price of a late fourth round pick. It was a generous deal — but a third rounder should at least get you into a similar range.

It could enable them to target a player like Jonathan Bullard or Emmanuel Ogbah if he drops into round two.

 

Were the Seahawks in for Chandler Jones?

March 15th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Earlier today Arizona traded their second round pick and Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots for pass rusher Chandler Jones. New England subsequently signed Chris Long to a one-year deal to replace Jones, while the Cardinals reached out to Evan Mathis.

Did the Seahawks show any interest in a similar trade?

They could certainly use another pass rusher. While this is a deep defensive line draft — it’s incredibly limited in terms of athletic pass rushers. It’s not going to be easy for the Seahawks to find a solution unless they spend an early pick on someone like Emmanuel Ogbah.

That could be difficult to justify given their needs on the offensive line.

The Patriots reportedly have been shopping Jones since the end of the season. According to Ian Rapoport, Jones had ‘a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana’ before New England’s playoff game against Kansas City. The incident seems to have been a catalyst for his departure.

It’s unlikely they limited their negotiations to one team, especially with Jones coming off a 12.5 sack season. He could’ve given Seattle’s pass rush a major boost, working alongside Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark to provide the kind of depth they enjoyed in 2013.

We know the Seahawks aren’t afraid to make big trades. A second round pick would’ve been a relatively low cost gamble compared to the investment in Percy Harvin. It would’ve also solved one of the teams biggest needs — affording them the opportunity to concentrate on the O-line in the draft.

Jones’ salary is worth $7.8m in 2016 — manageable considering Seattle’s cap room.

Of course, one of the main reasons the Patriots were willing to deal Jones was the likelihood of needing to offer him $17-18m a year in 2017 when his contract expires. Thanks to Olivier Vernon and the New York Giants, that’s now the going rate for a quality pass rusher.

There would’ve been some security for the Seahawks, however. The salary cap will undoubtedly increase even further in 2017. If they watched Jones sign a mega-deal somewhere else — they’d get a third round compensatory pick in 2018 to offset the second rounder they spent in 2016.

The worst case scenario, providing he performs on the field to earn a big contract, is you rent a player for the cumulative cost of a round in the draft.

Seattle’s pick at #56 would automatically be more attractive than Arizona’s at #61. The Cardinals were able to offer Jonathan Cooper — a former top-ten overall pick — as part of the deal. A possible stumbling block for the Seahawks could’ve been their inability to offer an attractive alternative, or perhaps an unwillingness to throw in more picks.

Within moments of the trade being announced it was revealed Shea McClellin will visit with the Seahawks. Was it a coincidence?

We may never know whether the Seahawks were interested in dealing for Chandler Jones — or if they came close to usurping their NFC West rivals. It would’ve made a great deal of sense if they were talking to the Pats. Now they’ll have to plan against Jones at least twice during the 2016 season.

Check out this weeks podcast. Kenny and I discuss the Chandler Jones trade and look at Seattle’s work on the O-line so far…

 

There’s no need to panic about Seattle’s offensive line

March 15th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

J’Marcus Webb is the latest addition to Seattle’s O-line

What constitutes a good offensive line?
According to Football Outsiders, the Rams had the best pass-protecting line in the NFL in 2015. The Baltimore Ravens ranked at #2 followed by the Jets, Raiders and Cardinals.

The Rams started Greg Robinson, Roger Saffold, Tim Barnes, Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein. They started rookies at right guard and right tackle and used an undrafted center.

In comparison, Dallas’ much vaunted O-line (including three first round picks) ranked #19 for pass pro.

Nobody was talking up Havenstein’s pass-pro in college before he was taken in round two. The Rams started a converted tackle (Saffold) at left guard and used an athletic left tackle.

Sound familiar? Jeff Fisher’s approach isn’t too dissimilar to Seattle’s.

The top five run blocking lines were Cincinnati, New England, Arizona, Seattle and Kansas City in that order. So the Seahawks managed to do something right — and their priority is to run the ball productively.

Put it down to Russell Wilson’s scrambling if you want — but Thomas Rawls still averaged 5.6 YPC in a fantastic rookie campaign.

The key for the Seahawks is to improve from #30 for pass protection. Even rising into the early 20’s would provide a platform for a much better performance in 2016.

Has this been a long term problem?
Seahawks fans have had a love/hate relationship with the offensive line since the days of Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson. Perhaps spoilt by the Hall-of-fame duo, there’s been a lot of fist-clenching during the Pete Carroll era despite fielding an explosive offense overall.

Seattle’s line wasn’t given much credit for being serviceable in 2013 and 2014. It still enabled the offense to function as desired — run the ball emphatically and make big plays in the passing game.

That was more or less the case in the second half of 2015 too.

Why did they struggle at the start of the season?
There was almost no competition in camp. J.R. Sweezy was never going to be pushed by Mark Glowinski and Kristjan Sokoli was one for the future.

Alvin Bailey was underwhelming but so was day three pick Terry Poole. That led to Justin Britt being moved to almost an unchallenged spot at guard — with Garry Gilliam handed an unchallenged route to start at right tackle.

With so little at stake — the Seahawks pretty much cobbled together whatever they could and trusted the out-of-his-depth Drew Nowak to improve (he never did and lost his job).

What do they need to do now?
Getting back to a 2013-14 level of play is good enough to sustain a deep playoff run. There was nothing particularly spectacular about Okung-Carpenter-Unger-Sweezy-Giacomini. It just worked.

The Seahawks can create the right formula again — even without any major additions in free agency. It’s going to take better talent and better competition.

They’re already getting there.

J’Marcus Webb signed with the Seahawks today, joining Bradley Sowell as a new addition to the O-line. Webb has tackle experienced and mauling size — just what they prefer at left guard. He could compete with Justin Britt in 2016.

Webb started 16 games in 2015 for a Raiders O-line ranked #4 for pass protection. He’s being paid $6.25m on a two-year deal. That looks like starter money.

They’re also still competing to sign Ted Larsen with the 49ers. He’d provide depth at center. The draft will provide options too.

This is something the Seahawks simply didn’t have a year ago — competition. Let’s not underestimate how crucial that will be as they go about trying to find the right chemistry up front.

Big name free agents aren’t a solution
These are the notable free agent offensive linemen to sign deals so far:

Alex Mack — Atlanta — 5-years, $47.5m
Alex Boone — Minnesota — 4-years, $26.8m
Jeff Allen — Houston — 4-years, $28m
Brandon Brooks — Philadelphia — 5-years, $40m
Kelechi Osemele — Oakland — 5-years, $60mm
Mitchell Schwartz — Kansas City — 5-years, $33m

The Seahawks, financially, were never likely to compete for the likes of Mack, Brooks and Osemele.

Had they signed Boone, Allen or Schwartz — they’d have landed a decent, albeit relatively expensive, guard or right tackle.

Is anyone seriously disappointed to miss out on that trio?

There are still veteran options available
Here are some of the players who remain unsigned:

Russell Okung
Donald Penn
Evan Mathis
Geoff Schwartz
Stefen Wisniewski
Will Beatty
Jahri Evans
Andre Smith
Zane Beadles
Ryan Schraeder

Some of these players have generated minimal interest so far. The longer they remain available, the better value they’ll provide. If they want to consider adding a veteran later in the process — as they did with Wisniewski and Mathis a year ago — they’ll have that opportunity.

It’s a good draft for the O-line
The Seahawks are likely to spend at least two draft picks on the line — including a strong possibility they spend the #26 pick on a tackle and a second or third round pick on an interior lineman.

There are several offensive tackles with first round grades — and plenty of options inside too:

Tackles — Tunsil, Stanley, Conklin, Decker, Ifedi, Spriggs, Coleman, Clarke

Interior — Kelly, Martin, Whitehair, Westerman, McGovern, Glasgow, Garnett, Dahl

While Tunsil, Stanley and Conklin are unlikely to reach the #26 pick — they should be able to draft one of Decker, Ifedi, Spriggs or Coleman. Clarke is a wildcard. All of the options here are well suited to playing right tackle — or even kicking inside to left guard if they sign a veteran OT.

The interior line is loaded for rounds 2-3. Connor McGovern looks like he’s destined for the Seahawks — while Westerman, McGovern, Martin, Garnett, Glasgow, Dahl and a handful of others could come in and start quickly.

All of this group will need a heavy dose of training and coaching in the off-season — but none appear to be as raw as Nowak or Gilliam pre-2015.

Is it vital to sign a veteran offensive tackle?
It isn’t. The benefit would be some extra flexibility in the first round of the draft. But there’s no sure-fire solution on the open market.

Russell Okung hasn’t played a full 16-game season in his career and appears close to departing. Kelvin Beachum didn’t visit the Seahawks, is coming off an ACL injury and appeared to be a non-starter (he’s agreed a deal with the Jags). Donald Penn is 33 in April and strictly a band-aid.

One of these three might provide some short-term relief. They’ll likely still need to be replaced down the line and you’re starting over again.

What are the benefits of not adding a FA tackle?
Getting younger isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s arguably time for an O-line to grow together, providing genuine consistency for more than a year or two.

Garry Gilliam is 25, under team control at a cheap price until the end of 2017 and has the ideal physique, athleticism and skill set for a modern NFL tackle. So far, he’s also stayed healthy as a starter.

Combining him with another high-ceiling, younger tackle with an ideal physical skill-set (eg Germain Ifedi) could give Seattle the most athletic tackle tandem in the league.

Instead of seeing the relative inexperience of a line including Gilliam, Ifedi, Glowinski and another rookie as a negative — that could be four fifth’s of your line playing together for at least 3-4 years.

That’s cohesion. That’s consistency.

Experience is important. So is talent, grit, athleticism, power and length. The Seahawks have a shot to field the most athletic line in the league. That’s not such a bad thing especially if you want to improve the pass protection.

Could they make a trade?
Never rule anything out with this front office.

The NFL is full of bad offensive lines — and Seattle’s was particularly bad at the start of the 2015 season. Matching up physically and athletically is as important as ever against increasingly difficult pro-defenses.

The Seahawks still have options to add to their line. They have time on their side in free agency and the draft.

They might not be making the big splash (yet) that people expected or wanted — but that’s not necessarily what it’ll take to improve this area of need.

If the Rams can rank #1 for pass protection with a line of Robinson-Saffold-Barnes-Brown-Havenstein — the Seahawks can find a way to upgrade their unit. Even if it’s not quite the way some fans would expect.

 

Monday notes: Russell Okung edging to the exit?

March 14th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Two reports surfaced today suggesting Russell Okung is considering offers from three teams…

The Seahawks weren’t mentioned by either Jason La Canfora or Josina Anderson.

It’s also interesting that Okung is reportedly speaking to Pittsburgh’s O-line coach Mike Munchak today, suggesting they might be in the lead for his services.

The Steelers don’t have much cap room (just over $5m at the moment) but they seem to be dedicating their efforts to bringing Okung to Pittsburgh. The interest appears to be somewhat mutual — with Okung tweeting favourably yesterday about the teams heritage.

It’d be a good fit for him. A contender using a pass-friendly offense. They have a respected O-line coach. It makes sense.

Has he moved on from Seattle?

Bob Condotta suggests not. Or at least not yet. But after meeting with three teams and with Okung still contemplating his next move — the signs aren’t entirely positive that he’ll return to the Seahawks with a positive answer.

Even though he’s clearly not had a can’t miss offer from the Giants, Lions and Steelers — he hasn’t rushed back to Seattle.

Meanwhile the Seahawks have signed Bradley Sowell on a $1.5m contract to add some depth at offensive tackle. They needed to do that anyway — so this is unlikely to influence any decision on Okung.

Kelvin Beachum isn’t currently scheduled to visit with the Seahawks. It was originally reported he would travel to Seattle today — but he went to Jacksonville instead. Fresh reports say he is now heading home to Pittsburgh to evaluate his next move.

They’ve also agreed terms with Sealver Siliga, per Rand Getlin. He was once traded to the Seahawks for John Moffitt in 2013, was eventually cut before joining the Patriots. It’s a one-year, $1.4m contract.

They’re also meeting with Sammy Hill today and tomorrow — the former Detroit Lions defensive tackle. Cincinnati’s Brandon Thompson also made the trip to Seattle as the Seahawks continue to look for cheap depth to replace Brandon Mebane.

Here’s what I wrote about Thompson before the 2012 draft:

“He’s got a great bull rush, it’s really come along over the last 12 months and you can see in the video how often he drove back the interior Virginia Tech lineman to create disruption up the middle. His real value comes against the run – he’s quick off the snap and has great upper body power to jolt back linemen and fill running lanes. You almost expect him to be bigger than the listed 6-2 305lbs because he plays with the attitude of a bigger NT.

Mobility is good, he moves around well for his size. He’s got a relentless approach and has a motor that never stops despite the fact he plays the bulk of the rotation at Clemson. However, I keep coming back to the fact he has just three career sacks in four years. Last season he had Da’Quan Bowers soaking up blockers and still only registered a single sack. This year, Branch is providing the edge attention and he’s had two games with 0.5 sacks only.

He’s consistently in the backfield and you want to buy into his play, but why isn’t he getting more production? For starters I think his hand use could be better to disengage, buying maybe that split second to finish a play rather than ‘nearly’ make it every time. You can’t sniff at a player who looks that disruptive and while he may not reach the dizzy heights of former elite defensive tackles, he looks like a solid R2 prospect who could really promote his stock with a blast of production over the rest of the season.”

The apparent stalemate with Okung further highlights these thoughts from Tony Pauline today:

“Insiders believe there could be a run on offensive tackles early in the first round with as many as three (Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin) ending up as top 12 picks. There are a few reasons for this: A. Offensive tackle is a priority position come draft day. B. There were no top-tier tackles available in free agency. Right now, it looks as though a half-dozen offensive tackles are going to be first-round choices.”

If you want to come out of this draft with an offensive tackle — for the now or the future — it’s increasingly likely you’re going to have to take that player in the first round. The options just aren’t going to be there later in the draft.

Unless Okung re-signs on a multi-year deal and they’re able to dedicate the middle rounds to the interior offensive line — all signs continue to point to an offensive tackle being Seattle’s pick at #26.

The candidates to go in round one

The three that won’t make it to #26

1. Laremy Tunsil
2. Ronnie Stanely
3. Jack Conklin

The three that might

4. Germain Ifedi
5. Taylor Decker
6. Jason Spriggs

The two other possible top-50 picks

7. Shon Coleman
8. Le’Raven Clark

 

Possible Seahawks draft targets in rounds 1-7

March 13th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

It almost feels inevitable that Missouri’s Connor McGovern will be drafted by the Seahawks

What seems likely at #26?
Even if the Seahawks re-sign Russell Okung, all signs continue to point to the offensive line. It was Seattle’s greatest need coming into the off-season. The only moves they’ve made in free agency so far are to watch J.R. Sweezy and Alvin Bailey walk out the door.

There are two possible scenarios:

1. The Seahawks sign Okung, Kelvin Beachum or Donald Penn on a short term contract and draft an offensive lineman at #26. That player competes to start at left guard in 2016 with the option to move back to tackle in the future.

2. The Seahawks fail to sign a veteran left tackle and are forced to move Garry Gilliam to the blindside. The rookie in this case starts at right tackle.

There’s sufficient depth on the defensive line to fill that need later. As we’ve discussed many times over the last few weeks — there are basically five realistic options at offensive tackle and then that’s your lot. Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin will not reach #26. Taylor Decker, Germain Ifedi, Jason Spriggs, Le’Raven Clark and Shon Coleman could be available.

All five are capable of starting at left guard or right tackle.

Signing a veteran this week and investing a top pick in the O-line is the best way for the Seahawks to upgrade their #1 priority this off-season.

Of the quintet, Ifedi and Clark’s upside arguably gives them the edge on Seattle’s board.

What about at #56?
This is going to be a really interesting pick with many options available. We discussed the possibility of trading up on Friday. With two picks in the late third round, moving up ten spots to get an impact defensive lineman could be appealing. Florida’s Jonathan Bullard could be a target.

If they stay put — there are multiple options. They could still draft a defensive lineman (Kenny Clark?). They could take an athletic linebacker such as Travis Feeney (health permitting) or Josh Perry. They value the running game enough to target a running back here and Kenneth Dixon could be an option.

It could also be used to further bolster the O-line. The Seahawks doubled down on a similar need in 2011 using their first two picks on James Carpenter and John Moffitt. One of Seattle’s keys for each draft is to identify the range their guys will be available. That’s why they are often accused or ‘reaching’. They work out who they want and make sure they don’t miss out.

It’s why Pete Carroll can pretty much reveal every pick before the 2014 draft using a series of cryptic musical clues. When you hear them say, “We got two out of three players we really wanted” as they did a year ago — you know they spend a lot of time in the planning process working out how to get specific players.

If there’s a prospect they might ‘reach’ on a little bit — it could be Missouri offensive lineman Connor McGovern. He’s the SPARQ king on the O-line this year with experience at tackle. The Seahawks like their interior lineman to play tackle in college and they’re attracted to the way Mizzou coaches their unit.

Mitch Morse played left tackle for Missouri in 2014 and similarly excelled at the combine. He was the #49 pick in last years draft and played center for Kansas City. Don’t be surprised if the Seahawks see a bit of Morse in McGovern and draft him at #56 to play center in Seattle.

If they were to take Ifedi and McGovern with their first two picks — they’d be drafting two of the best athletes in this years class. According to SLA, Ifedi ranks in the 98th physical percentile among NFL offensive lineman and McGovern is in the 87th percentile. Both players almost feel destined to wear college navy.

An alternative to McGovern at center could be Michigan’s Graham Glasgow. He is almost identical physically to Max Unger and plays with the kind of edge the Seahawks are looking for. Arizona State’s Christian Westerman is another possibility.

What about the two picks in round three?
If they’ve taken two offensive lineman — this is probably the area where they look to the defense. Is Travis Feeney still available? He could be an ideal prospect to try and replace Bruce Irvin. Which defensive tackles are left on the board? Do any of the running backs appeal in this range — such as Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise?

Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry is very intriguing. He’s a run-stuffer plus. He’s not just a space eater but he plays with relative discipline and power. He can hold up against double teams and over time could develop into a long term replacement for Brandon Mebane.

Henry is close friends with Frank Clark. He could be off the board before Seattle’s pick in round three — but if he lasts he’s a strong option.

If they do go O-line with their first two picks — taking a pass-rusher of some description and a defensive tackle would appear to make sense in round three. There’s a dearth of pass-rushers so this might be difficult if Feeney is off the board. That might be why they met with Chris Clemons — and they might feel obliged to sign a veteran edge rusher when the left tackle situation is resolved.

South Carolina State’s Javon Hargrave has the athletic potential (4.93 forty, 34.5 inch vertical at 6-1, 309lbs) to interest the Seahawks in this range. He’s one of the better interior pass-rushers in this class.

Day three?
Despite re-signing Jeremy Lane, the Seahawks have consistently added to their pool of defensive backs. That could easily continue this year.

Colorado State’s DeAndre Elliott ticks all the boxes in terms of length, size and athleticism. Keep an eye on the cornerbacks visiting the VMAC over the next few weeks. The Seahawks consistently pick from this pool of players, several of which won’t have been invited to the combine.

If they haven’t taken a running back yet — round four could be their range. It’s where they selected Robert Turbin and the re-signing of Jermaine Kearse reduces the need for a high pick at receiver.

The only problem is — the talent pool isn’t great beyond the first few rounds. Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams might be an option here. It’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do in free agency. If they go into the draft without adding a veteran or two — this could be a much greater priority than round four.

D.J. Reader met with the Seahawks at the combine. He gets good publicity as part of the Clemson defense — but he’s generally been graded in the late rounds or even as an UDFA (by Tony Pauline). He’s a classic run-stuffer, two-down DT. The Seahawks can add to their depth up front by taking Reader later on. Whoever replaces Brandon Mebane — it’s likely to involve a competition involving veterans and rookies.

They might take another D-line conversion project for the offensive line. J.R. Sweezy was a seventh round pick and Kristjan Sokoli a sixth rounder. Michigan State’s Joel Heath could be primed for a similar switch and might be there in the sixth. He’s 6-5, 293lbs with 34.5 inch arms and he jumped 33 inches in the vertical. Ferris State’s Justin Zimmer is another possible project for the O-line.

As pointed out by regular contributor ‘Volume 12’ — the Seahawks took an interest in Oregon’s Alex Balducci at the Shrine Game. Seahawks coaches were also heavily involved in his pro-day workout recently. He could be another camp body for the D-line competition.

If they do consider a receiver — keep an eye on Marquez North for his athleticism and untapped potential plus California’s Kenny Lawler. While not an amazing athlete, Lawler is a touchdown machine with big hands and he high-points the football. He scored a touchdown every 5.3 receptions in college. Washington State’s Dom Williams could be another target.

Free agency latest
The Seahawks will meet with former Dallas running back Lance Dunbar according to Adam Caplan. Dunbar is an explosive player when healthy — he suffered a bad knee injury in 2015. He could be a useful third down option.

Sealver Siliga is also visiting Seattle. The Seahawks once traded for Siliga and he most recently played for the Patriots. They continue to look for depth and competition on the D-line after losing Brandon Mebane to San Diego.

Russell Okung has completed his meeting with the Steelers and seemingly has no further visits on his schedule despite some talk of a trip to Houston. Decision time appears to be looming. As Joel Corry points out — his recent tour of the east coast indicates nobody is willing to match his contract demands.

 

Some thoughts and the latest on Russell Okung

March 12th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Saturday began with Michael Silver anointing Detroit as the favourites to sign Russell Okung…

Saturday finished with Okung leaving Detroit without a deal — heading to Pittsburgh for a visit with the Steelers…

Visiting with the Steelers is in an interesting angle. They’ve only got $5.3m in spare cap room — and that’s without considering a rookie draft class, practise squad and injured reserve list.

Unless Okung is willing to play for a few bucks in 2016 — the Steelers are a highly unlikely destination. They’d have to offer him a long term deal that is severely backloaded.

So why make the visit?

As this process drifts on — it appears nobody is willing to pony up a substantial multi-year contract. He would’ve signed otherwise, wouldn’t he? Perhaps Detroit, the Giants or lingering San Francisco will come up with the goods in the next 24 hours? It’s not impossible.

Yet the longer this drags on — does it increase the chances of Okung returning to Seattle? After all, if he’s signing a one-year contract to return to free agency in better health next year, why not just stay with the Seahawks?

There are a couple of thoughts here.

Firstly, it might be better for Okung’s stock and health to play in a less aggressive, pass-friendly offense. Seattle’s system is based around physically pounding the ball in the run game and Okung isn’t the only one to suffer injuries over the years. James Carpenter, Max Unger, Breno Giacomini — they’ve all missed time.

If he plays in 16 games next season his stock will receive a boost when he returns to the market.

Secondly, playing in a pass-friendly offense plays to his skill-set. Pass-blocking for a quarterback like Matt Stafford should be relatively straight forward for Okung. That’s a major shift from having to protect the blindside of a scrambling, creative quarterback who frequently leaves the pocket.

The best way for Okung to advertise himself in 2016 is to play in Detroit’s offense, in their dome for 16 injury-free games. It arguably gives him the best opportunity to shine.

That could be the reason Michael Silver says the Lions are favourites. What keeps Seattle in the game is Okung’s attachment to the area, the likelihood they can compete on price and they’re a contender.

They have $12.7m in free cap room — enough to make a somewhat attractive offer for the next year or two.

One positive sign could be the apparent u-turn by Kelvin Beachum…

Beachum was reportedly set to visit the Seahawks on Monday — but he’s now going to the Jags.

It’s a curious move because the Jaguars already intend to start Luke Joeckel at left tackle. Beachum can play guard but made it clear to Pittsburgh he wants to continue protecting the edge.

With the Seahawks needing a tackle if Okung departs — surely it would’ve made sense to take the trip to the North West? Maybe he’ll still visit after heading to Florida? It might be a sign that Seattle is confident they will get either Okung or Donald Penn one way or the other — and that has been made clear to Beachum.

A resolution to this situation appears close.

 

Would the Seahawks trade up in round two?

March 11th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Last year we spent a fair bit of time debating whether the Seahawks would trade up in round two — their first pick in the 2015 draft. Mario Edwards Jr and Dorial Green-Beckham were discussed as possible targets.

In the end they moved up in round three instead to take Tyler Lockett. Could we see a similar move this year?

Even if the Seahawks are able to finalise a deal with Russell Okung (or Donald Penn, or Kelvin Beachum), the offensive line still looks like a priority. All three veterans appear destined to sign short term contracts — so it would make sense for the Seahawks to draft a player at #26 that can play left guard initially before eventually converting back to tackle.

Jack Conklin, Taylor Decker, Germain Ifedi, Jason Spriggs and Shon Coleman are all well suited to play inside. Le’Raven Clark is a bit of a wildcard too.

The range to draft any of the above is pretty limited to round one. If you miss out — good luck finding another tackle later on. It would make sense to invest in the O-line at #26 and address other needs later.

The defensive tackle depth in this class is well advertised. We’ve also discussed how it’s heavily weighted towards run stuffers and not pass rushers. The Seahawks should be able to find a solid rotational run stuffer on day three to add to their stable. If they want an interior pass rusher — they might have to be bold.

It’s hard to judge how far the Seahawks would need to move up to target a specific player. They have two third round picks at #91 and #97. They can only deal #91 because the rule on trading compensatory picks doesn’t kick in until 2017.

Can they jump 10-15 spots using a third rounder?

According to this chart it could move them up from #56 to around #42.

It would be an expensive move — one that many will oppose. Afford me the opportunity to make the case for why it might appeal:

1. Having two late third round picks this year gives the Seahawks a fall-back to still select in that range. The compensatory pick is really a ‘bonus’.

2. The Seahawks were aggressive to move up for Tyler Lockett — a player that filled a crucial need at receiver and returner. Does anyone think back to the compensation required to land him? Or do you think about him scoring touchdowns in 2016?

3. If you can land a genuine impact player in the 40’s — would that be a better use of one third round pick than hoping to land an extra player later on that might not have the same impact?

4. The #91 pick is, in essence, similar to a high fourth rounder. That’s not a range where the Seahawks have had much fortune (especially when drafting receivers).

So who could they move up for?

I’d make the case for Florida’s Jonathan Bullard.

Personally he reminds me of Mario Edwards Jr — one of the players we talked about a year ago. He went #35 overall to Oakland.

At the combine Bullard ran a 4.93 at 6-3 and 285lbs, jumped a 32 inch vertical and had a 1.66 ten-yard split. His SLA score put him sixth among defensive linemen.

Edwards Jr ran a 4.84 at 6-3 and 279lbs with a 32.5 inch vertical. The similarities are pretty clear. Even their length is virtually the same (Bullard has 33.5 inch arms, Edwards Jr 33 inches).

More than anything his high intensity style of play, his grit and physicality will likely appeal to the Seahawks. He says he returned to Florida in 2015 to prove a point after an average mid-round grade from the draft committee. He ended up having the best season of his college career.

It’s that kind of chip on his shoulder that seems to get the Seahawks going.

So what does he do well?

He’s very good at timing the snap count and winning with get-off. That might not be quite as easy to do at the next level — but you see excellent anticipation show up consistently on tape. He’s pretty one-dimensional in how he wins (power or shooting the gap) and doesn’t offer a lot of variation (occasional rip move) but if he sees a crease he’ll generally exploit it.

You’re not talking about a quick-twitch Sheldon Richardson or Aaron Donald. It’s often forgotten how freaky Richardson was at Missouri amid all the character issues with the Jets. Bullard is different — but he does impact games from the interior. His motor never stops and he’s an absolute grinder. He’ll take on a double team and fight to the whistle, he’ll pursue a ball-carrier until it’s over.

He needs to develop better counters but that could come if he adds extra weight/power. He’s not a brilliant run defender and that could limit his ability to play early downs. That’s not why you bring him in though — he’s your Clinton McDonald/Jordan Hill.

In terms of character and personality he’s an ‘A’ grade there. He’s dedicated to football, level-headed and won’t be an issue off the field.

Bullard is generally regarded as a high second round prospect. Others have him in the second or third round range such as Scouts Inc. I’ve been projecting him to Indianapolis at #48 and that might be the range you have to get into to take him.

Finding a way to add a long, athletic offensive tackle and an impact interior pass-rusher is arguably the key to this draft for the Seahawks. Trading up in the second round might be the way to do it.

Example projection

#26 — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
Comes in to start at either right tackle or guard

#46 — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
Trade up ten spots with the Lions using the #91 pick

#97 — Connor McGovern (C, Missouri)
Add competition to the center position

Do these three players have more impact than the four you get if you stay put at #56?

With needs filled at cornerback (retaining Jeremy Lane) and receiver (retaining Jermaine Kearse) — your picks on day three could be used to add another run stuffer and a linebacker. Could Travis Feeney last into day three if concerns over his shoulder injuries linger?

There are counters to a plan like this. What if Bullard goes earlier than projected here? If the Seahawks cannot retain Okung or replace him — do they need four picks in rounds 1-3 to bolster their O-line sufficiently?

Even so — keep in mind the possibility of an aggressive move in round two.

 

Free agency latest (day three)

March 11th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

What we know

— The Seahawks will receive three compensatory picks in rounds three, five and six
— Jon Ryan is signing a four-year contract to stay in Seattle
— Alvin Bailey has signed with the Browns
— Jermaine Kearse is re-signing with the Seahawks on a three-year deal
— Russell Okung will visit with the Lions and Giants
— Jeremy Lane has agreed a four-year deal to stay in Seattle
— Bruce Irvin has left the Seahawks to join the Raiders
— J.R. Sweezy signed with the Buccaneers
— Brandon Mebane signed a three-year deal in San Diego
— Ahtyba Rubin has committed to staying in Seattle
— Multiple veteran O-line and D-line players are visiting the Seahawks

Offensive line interest hots up

Multiple reports are linking the Seahawks with interest in Kelvin Beachum and Donald Penn as well as Russell Okung. Today Okung visits with the Giants and possibly the Lions.

Adding a tackle makes a great deal of sense for obvious reasons — and all three are likely to be short term measures. Beachum will likely get a shorter deal after tearing his ACL, Penn is 33 this year and Okung is nursing an injured shoulder.

Of the three, Okung is most likely to sign a multi-year contract. Any of the trio will provide the Seahawks with at least some security going into the draft. Taking an offensive lineman at #26 would still be a strong possibility because the likes of Germain Ifedi, Jack Conklin, Taylor Decker, Shon Coleman and Jason Spriggs all project well to left guard. In the future they could move back to tackle.

However — if the top tackles are off the board at #26 or they just want to go in a different direction, having a possible starter already in place at tackle gives the team that little bit more flexibility.

Okung is almost certainly the preferred option, with Beachum and Penn the fall backs.

Live blog

Jon Ryan has announced he’s staying in Seattle. It’s a four-year contract worth $10m.

— Former Pittsburgh left tackle Kelvin Beachum is set to visit with the Seahawks on Monday according to Ian Rapoport. The Steelers want Beachum to kick inside to guard after he lost his job on the blindside after tearing an ACL. He’s just under 6-3 so doesn’t have prototype size for a tackle. He could be a nice hedge for the draft (and could still kick inside for the Seahawks).

Rapoport also says defensive tackle Al Woods is visiting Seattle along with Cam Thomas. Woods spent time with the Seahawks in 2011.

May Kay Cabot says Cleveland linebacker Craig Robertson will visit the Seahawks. Offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb also adds to the growing number of visitors to the VMAC. A lot of these moves will be based on added competition and hedges for the draft.

— As expected the Seahawks have been awarded three compensatory picks in rounds three, five and six. That’s the 97th, 171st and 215th overall selections — taking their total overall to nine.

The Browns have signed Alvin Bailey. The Seahawks need a new swing tackle (and they will find one, easily). Remember this?