Seahawks Lose Okung & Look To Re-Shape The Offensive Line

Also while I was gone over the weekend, Russell Okung decided to sell his soul to the Denver Broncos.  I get why the Seahawks couldn’t bring him back on a similar deal (it would look like too much of a demotion/decrease in salary), but it’s just insane how the Broncos have all the leverage and Okung has fuckall.  In what amounts to a 1-year deal for $5 million, with an option to pick up the remaining 4 years at $47 million, with $0 guaranteed, and with the option to cut him prior to Week 1 of the regular season while only costing the Broncos a whopping $1 million.  So, if Okung blows out his knee in the pre-season, he essentially has $1 million for his troubles and a pink slip.

It’s annoying as a Seahawks fan, because if his deal isn’t picked up, we’re looking at a significantly reduced compensatory pick for a guy we probably weren’t going to be able to re-sign anyway.  Ultimately, Okung is betting on himself – staying healthy and producing at an elite level – which you could say is commendable, but it’s also a FAR cry from what Darrelle Revis had been able to do in recent years with his short stints with Tampa and New England.  One might argue that Okung set back the movement for players to represent themselves, but at the same time he probably got the best deal he could with all that’s handicapping him at the moment (his injury history, combined with his current injury issues).  We all kind of wondered if he was just going to do a 1-year deal to build up his value and re-hit the market next year; well, this is essentially that deal, only he’s giving the Broncos the right of first refusal.

In the wake of all of that, we’ve got the Seahawks headed into the 2016 season with five questionmarks along the offensive line.  Barring any unforeseen free agent moves and/or trades, word trickled out yesterday about what we’re looking forward to.

At Left Tackle, it appears the plan is to flip Garry Gilliam over there from where he started as a right tackle last year.  He’ll compete with incoming signee Bradley Sowell (and surely kick his crap in) and any possible draft picks or camp fodder signings.  We all sort of figured Gilliam would be the last-resort option, if the Seahawks opted to defer from wading into the left tackle free agent market, so it’s not much of a surprise.  Short of making that big splash, I like the idea.  I thought Gilliam was decent last year – his first year as a starter – and prior to that he’d been Okung’s understudy anyway, so it’s not like he’s totally unfamiliar with the position.  He’s athletic, if a bit undersized, and should only improve as a pass protector.

At Left Guard – the position I most wanted the Seahawks to address this offseason – I guess we’re looking at Justin Britt keeping his job.  He’s been a starter – and a constant disappointment – since he came in as a rookie.  While he’s a mean run blocker, he leaves a lot to be desired in pass protection, getting absolutely murdered on the reg earlier in the regular season, and again in our playoff defeat to the Panthers.  The fact that the Seahawks have done and likely will do nothing to address this hole in our line is probably the most disappointing aspect of the offseason.  One would think, if a stud falls to us late in the first round, the Seahawks SHOULD pick him up and put him in the competition, but it’s looking less and less likely that the organization feels this spot is a position of need.  Here’s to hoping a little continuity – with Britt playing the same position two years in a row – will enable him to find a comfort level and improve to the point where he’ll be at least adequate.

At Center, Patrick Lewis looks like the odds-on favorite to keep his job, for at least another year.  I still anticipate the team will look to the draft – and draft his future replacement – with one of our top three picks, but on a one-year deal, Lewis doesn’t sound too bad.  You can’t argue with the fact that the Seahawks’ O-Line drastically improved with his presence in the second half of last season.  With Britt on his left, you’re looking at the only two guys likely to return to their regular spots from the end of last year.  If continuity means anything in the NFL offensive line game (and, I’m told, it means practically EVERYTHING), then here’s to hoping we’ll be seeing some improved play in the interior.

At Right Guard, we’re looking at Mark Glowinski taking over for Sweezy.  Given how well he did in his only start for us last year, combined with the fact that he was healthy all year and will look to build upon that this offseason, I’d say Glowinski is at worst just as good as Sweezy, with the very real possibility that he’ll be an upgrade immediately.  Remember, we’re talking about a guy who played Guard in college, and not a converted defensive lineman or a converted right tackle.  In that sense, he’s got a leg up over MOST of the linemen we have on the roster right now.  It’s not wrong to feel the most confident about our right guard position than any other along the line right now, so that’s something I guess.

At Right Tackle, incoming free agent J’Marcus Webb looks to be the guy.  He has experience as a tackle – where he bounced from right to left tackle and back again in his first four years in the league – but he also has experience as one of the NFL’s very worst tackles by advanced metrics.  Last year, as a guard for the Raiders, he was average, which appears to be the impetus to him getting the deal he’s gotten; but, either the front office knows something we don’t (highly likely), or they’re completely ignoring how terrible he was in this very same role.  Who knows?  Maybe he’s gotten it all figured out.  Maybe last year it clicked for him, and he’ll come in here ready to fire on all cylinders.  Or, maybe he’s a guy more adept to the zone blocking scheme we run, and those other teams were just using him wrong.  My hunch is that he’s a better run blocker than a pass protector – like four of the other five guys on this line – and we’re still going to see our fair share of plays broken down by this turnstile of an O-Line.

As usual, the offensive line is the point of greatest consternation among Seahawks fans.
And, make no mistake, I’m right there with all of you.  I think it SUCKS to see the dearth of talent at a very key spot on an NFL team.  But, I guess I can’t get my panties in too much of a bunch, once I settle down and remember “Can’t Pay Everybody”.  Would I rather have the ultimate top 5 O-Line in the NFL?  Or, would I rather have an ultimate top 5 defense and quarterback?  I’ll take the defense and quarterback any day of the week.

Furthermore, when I look at this team in 2016, I don’t see a lot of outrageous contracts on it.  Yeah, MAYBE the $9 million cap hit for Jimmy Graham makes me go, “Hmmm.”  But, I still think we’re going to want his presence on this offense when he gets healthy (and I still think it’s better to have zero dead money on his deal if we decide to cut him).  And, other than that, I like the guys we have on this team for the money they’re going to cost us going forward.  I like the deals the way they’re structured, and I like where the money is allocated.  7 of our top 10 cap hits (not counting Lynch, for those worried about why he’s technically still on the roster) are on defense, at premium defensive positions, for outstanding players with a lot left in the tank (presumably).  We’ve transitioned into a team that’s spending peanuts for the running back position (which is smart, when you’re not employing someone of Beastmode’s calibre), and we’ve still got plenty in reserve to extend Doug Baldwin and make him a Seahawk For Life.  Our wide receiver position as a whole is very reasonable (with Lockett not set to make big money until Kearse’s deal has effectively run its course, and after Graham will likely have moved on), and we’ve retained our core special teams guys.

With all of that, it’s pretty easy to see how this team doesn’t have the funds to upgrade along the offensive line.  When you take into account how the vast majority of the league’s teams are also lacking along their own respective O-Lines, combined with how the increased pace of the college game has rendered the position mostly inadequate by the time they enter the NFL, and we’re really talking about an epidemic.  An epidemic where improved defensive line play is going to dominate for the foreseeable future.  An epidemic where guys like J.R. Sweezy – who’d be reserve fodder 20 years ago – are getting paid like Pro Bowl regulars.

The fact of the matter is, we’re going to have to get used to building offensive lines from scrap and giving guys more time to acclimate to the game.  More converted defensive linemen getting opportunities, and more draft picks sitting for a year or two before getting their big breaks.

What we, as Seahawks fans, have to hope for this year is to avoid the calamity that happened last year.  This team needs a more firm and concrete plan going into the pre-season than they had in 2015, where they were scrambling after the first game and shuffling guys all around the line.  With Britt, Lewis, and Glowinski practically locks along the interior, and with Gilliam assured of a spot at one of the tackle positions (with Webb’s contract dictating he gets the other starting spot), here’s to hoping the line finds its footing early and maintains it throughout the pre-season.

And, for fuck’s sake, here’s to hoping we can dodge playing that ferocious Rams D-Line for a few weeks into the regular season, until these guys have solidified as a unit!

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