Nothing Is More Important To The Long-Term Greatness Of The Seahawks Than The Offensive Line

I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of where this defense is headed. As I noted before, I think there can be some immediate and impactful developments with the new coaching staff and a few player additions. Am I still worried about the defense? Of course. But, if I had to rank the units I’m most worried about, the defense wouldn’t be at the top.

If you asked the fans, they’d probably be the most confident in the wide receiver room, followed by the running backs. We’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money pumping up our skill position guys; they should be fine.

I also think, if you polled the fans, they’d probably have Starting Quarterback as their biggest concern, for good reason. Backup Quarterback? We’re solid. But, the worry here is the fact that we’ve got two very good-to-elite backup quarterbacks, but neither are good-to-elite starters.

As we always talk about, though, there are ways around this problem. You can get by with a Just Okay quarterback, if you’ve got the kind of elite talent everywhere else to make up for it (especially the offensive and defensive lines). Look at the 49ers last year. Granted, they ran into the buzzsaw that is Patrick Mahomes, but the 49ers gave the Chiefs everything they could handle.

If the Seahawks can replicate on defense what the Ravens were able to do under Mike Macdonald, I don’t see any reason to doubt his abilities in whipping that side of the ball into shape. And, with our lack of an elite passer holding us back, that means there’s only one area of concern we have to get right, if we’re ever going to be a serious contender for the Super Bowl in the next five years.

The offensive line is the single most important unit on this team. If we can’t do better than what we’ve done from 2015-2023, we’re never going to go anywhere. BUT, if there’s a way for the Seahawks to build a young, impressive O-Line and keep them together for a few years in a row? Then I would say the sky is the limit for this team.

The offensive line is what makes the team go. In that sense, I’m right there with Jim Harbaugh in his line of thinking. Offensive linemen ARE skill position guys. So, what are we looking at for 2024?

Assuming health is not an issue, we’re going to roll with our bookend tackles of Charles Cross and Abe Lucas. Cross, I would say, has been good-not-great. He’s never showing up on PFF lists or talked about like some of the other elite left tackles in the league, and I would say that’s a problem. We took him 9th overall, that guy NEEDS to be talked about in the same breath as the game’s best. This will be his third year in the league, so it’s now or never. Because going forward, he’ll be looking for his second contract. The best of the best get that taken care of before they hit their fourth season. If we have to go into next year not knowing if he’s even worth the fifth year option, I’m going to be extremely upset.

As for Lucas, obviously he missed most of last year with a chronic knee injury. By all accounts, he’ll be ready for training camp, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Based on what the Seahawks did in the draft and free agency, I think they feel the same way.

As veteran insurance, we have George Fant (newly signed to a 2-year deal) and Stone Forsythe (entering into the final season of his rookie contract). Fant is obviously a known quantity, and a very good backup plan for either tackle spot, should the injury bug hit. Forsythe, I think, played better than expected last year. But, he also seemed to be overwhelmed at times, and the team definitely sped up the offense to take some of the strain off of this line. Was that more because of Forsythe’s ineptitude? Or the interior linemen replacements? Or a combination? My guess is that Forsythe will enter training camp as this team’s fourth (and final) tackle, but will need to work his ass off to keep his job, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see him cut at the end of the pre-season.

As younger insurance, we have two sixth round draft picks in Sataoa Laumea and Michael Jerrell. We’ve also got a couple of practice squad-ish type guys we signed to battle it out this year, but obviously I’m more interested in the rookies. I don’t think BOTH of the rookies will make the team out of camp, but one certainly might. Laumea obviously has a lot of fans out there among the amateur scouts who did their research on this draft class. Of course, there’s always a chance that he slides inside and competes for guard, which a lot of people think will be his destiny. As for Jerrell, he’s as big of an unknown as it gets. So, given that, maybe we shouldn’t quite discount his chances. After all, he chose to go to a smaller school and stay there, rather than move up in the college ranks. He might actually be great! We don’t know.

With the guards and center spots, it looks like an absolute free-for-all. Laken Tomlinson is the only veteran of the bunch, but he’s here on a cheap one-year deal, and he’s never really been a star in this league. The Jets signed him to some reasonably-big money in 2022, but he obviously didn’t make it to the end of that 3-year deal, so how good could he be?

The obvious starter in the interior is third round draft pick Christian Haynes, but at this point, we don’t know where that’s going to be. I think someone said he was a right guard in college, but that he’s smart and talented enough to play on the left side. Someone on the radio even suggested he might be converted to play center, so who the hell knows? Tomlinson, apparently, is a left guard, but again, he has no guarantees.

There’s also a holdover in Anthony Bradford, who got some play as a rookie last year. Clearly, he didn’t impress enough to win himself a job with that effort, but he’ll obviously be in the mix. I hope, for his sake, that he put in a ton of work this offseason, as there likely won’t be a more important period in his professional life.

An interesting name – aside from some of the other practice squad pick-ups we’ve got as likely camp fodder – is Tremayne Anchrum, who has been with the Rams the last few years. He was by no means a regular for them, but does have some experience, which could at least give him a leg-up as a backup.

Then, that takes us to the center spot, which looks like a two-man race at the moment. We’ve got holdover Olu Oluwatimi (a rookie last year, who also got some playing time taking over for injured guys) and newly signed Nick Harris (a former Husky who has spent most of his professional career on injured reserve with the Browns). I would think this is Olu’s job to lose, but again, the whispers of Haynes sliding over and joining that competition are pretty interesting. I don’t think that happens unless Olu looks bad, or if we’re just so strong at guard, we don’t necessarily NEED Haynes there. Regardless, I see Haynes as a starter for this team for the next 4 years.

Everyone else? Your guess is as good as mine. Ideally Cross will take the next step and be worthy of a big money left tackle contract, that crosses off two spots on the line. Even if Lucas manages to play through his knee all year, I have serious doubts about him sticking around for a second contract. Right tackle is going to need to be addressed (if it hasn’t already with one of these young guys we snagged).

My hope is, with Ryan Grubb’s scheme, and Scott Huff coaching them up, our neverending O-Line woes will finally be part of the past. But, they need to get this figured out in a hurry. Because I don’t want to be sitting here five years from now lamenting the fact that our offensive line is STILL the God damn worst.

The Seahawks Had An Unexciting Draft This Year

It’s interesting to go through the years – dating back to 2010, because I’m less into the idea of going back to the wild west days and trying to decipher a through-line – and see where things went right and where they went wrong. Obviously, the 2010-2012 drafts were epic and life-changing. But, there’s a real argument to be made that every single draft since then has been a failure.

Just scroll through this. Let’s leave 2022-2024 out of it, because there’s just not enough information to make a sound judgment in such a short period of time. But, 2013-2021? I think Seahawks fans with rose-colored glasses will say there have been peaks and valleys in our draft classes in this span. 2013 was pretty miserable and I don’t think anyone can really defend it at this point. But, if you want to think positively, you can say they’ve consistently found role players, contributors, and even starters.

In 2014, they got an offensive line starter in Justin Britt; in 2015, there was Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. In 2016, there’s Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed; in 2017, there’s Ethan Pocic and Shaquill Griffin. In 2018, you’re looking at Michael Dickson and Will Dissly; in 2019 there’s D.K. Metcalf. You could say 2020 was the start of a rebound by this organization, with guys like Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Damien Lewis rounding things out; but, also, almost this entire class is on other teams, and the three picks in 2021 produced absolutely no one.

Not a lot of second contracts in Seattle among this bunch. Lockett, Metcalf, and Dickson are the three greatest Seahawks draft picks since 2013. Everyone else were just role players, or able bodies who ate up an offensive line spot. But, no one has really flashed. No one has stood out. It’s all been pretty middling talent, which has led to middling results for this team.

I’m willing to believe in the 2022 and 2023 classes, because I think there’s a lot of meat on the bone. Charles Cross can still be great. Boye Mafe really took a big step in year two. Kenneth Walker is a fuckin’ stud. Abe Lucas, when healthy, can be a beast. Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen can be ball hawks in the right scheme. Devon Witherspoon clearly has All Pro type talent. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be amazing if he’s unleashed in the right offense. Derick Hall has the body type to do great things, Zach Charbonnet flashed true elite greatness as a rookie, Anthony Bradford could be a mauler at guard, Cam Young and Mike Morris could be big bodies in a solid D-Line rotation, and Olu Oluwatimi figures to be in a battle for this year’s starting center job as a fifth round pick in his second season. That’s a lot of potential greatness just waiting to be unleashed by the right coaching staff.

But, then again, we’ve already seen the writing on the wall that many of these guys could be busts. Should it really take a left tackle in Charles Cross 3+ years to develop into a star? Shouldn’t that guy enter the league ready to take it by storm? You’ve got two second-round running backs in there, a devalued position that’s frequently getting itself injured. Speaking of injuries, Lucas appears to have a chronic knee issue, and it can only be a matter of time before Witherspoon – with the way he attacks players with reckless abandon – plays himself out of the league a la Jamal Adams. If Kam Chancellor had to retire early due to medicals, what makes you think some tiny dude like Witherspoon is going to last very long into a second contract? JSN sure looked pedestrian for his rookie season as the #1 receiver drafted; Mafe and Hall could both be one-trick ponies unable to set an edge or play at all against the run. There’s whispers about Woolen’s toughness and ability to stay healthy; I could go on and on picking these draft classes apart.

The thing is, I really want to believe in John Schneider. I want to believe it was Pete Carroll putting his foot down and leading to the worst personnel decisions of the last decade. But, I dunno. The last three draft classes – including this one that took place over the weekend – have had decidedly different feels compared to the ones that came before. It’s really felt like a Best Player Available festival, which is a strategy I hold near and dear to my heart. But, if we proceed to spend the next 3-5 years finishing at or around .500, without any real charge towards Super Bowl contention, then I think it will be pretty obvious that this front office doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing any more than any other front office, and 2010-2012 will be seen as flukes more than anything else.

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That’s a lot of preamble – and a negative one at that – to get to what I actually thought was a pretty smart draft by the Seahawks. If there’s ever going to be a draft that seriously turns things around for this franchise, it’s going to be one that features a lot of bulk along the line of scrimmage, and absolutely nothing with any of the skill positions.

What have we been complaining about for years? Even during the Super Bowl years, what were we after? Elite defensive tackles who can rush the passer and be a force in the middle against the run. From 2013-2019, we drafted 12 guys who were either DT’s or plus-sized DE’s who we wanted to slide inside on passing downs; those were all some of our greatest busts. Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Naz Jones, Jesse Williams, Demarcus Christmas; the list goes on and on. Jarran Reed was the only guy worth a damn in that bunch, and even he wasn’t worth it – in the minds of this front office – to spend on that second contract he received. Defensive tackle has been a fucking wasteland for this franchise, and if it wasn’t for Michael Bennett sliding inside during the glory years, we’d be talking about spanning multiple decades of futility.

So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about Byron Murphy. I’m also justifiably reserved in my excitement, because while it’s great to say we got the best all-around defensive lineman in this class, you also can’t deny that we got him with the 16th pick. The NFL deemed 15 other guys better than him. I know a lot of those teams had more pressing needs – mostly on the offensive side of the ball, what with the first 14 picks going that way – but if there was a true juggernaut, no-doubter of a defensive behemoth ready to plug-and-play as a future All Pro and maybe even Hall of Famer, there’s no way that player would’ve fallen to 16. You think Will Anderson – had he left for the NFL this year – would’ve been there for us? Or Aidan Hutchinson, or Chase Young, or Nick Bosa, or Quinnen Williams? I don’t think so.

I think the odds are a lot better that Byron Murphy was the best of a very weak defensive line class, than he’s a future game-wrecker in the mold of Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. He’ll probably be good, but I’m not holding my breath waiting around for him to be great. As long as he’s not a fucking turd like just about every other defensive tackle we’ve drafted in the last decade, I’ll be happy.

One of the big problems with this draft is how it laid out for the Seahawks. This was a top-heavy draft, with an extremely thin bunch of players in Day 3. If ever there was a draft to select your next punter, kicker, or even long-snapper, this was the one. And, unfortunately for us – when all was said and done – only two of our eight picks were in the first three rounds, where the odds were best we’d actually find useful players. Even though we traded down once – at the top of the fourth round, to get an extra sixth, I think – we didn’t have any sort of capital to make the kinds of moves necessary to give us back the second rounder we lost in the Leonard Williams deal. Had we traded out of 16, we likely would’ve missed out on the last remaining true impact players. Would that have been worth a pick in the mid-20’s and mid-50’s? Probably not.

So, instead, we stuck at 16, took the best player available, and had a LOOOOOONG wait until pick 81 in the third round.

Where we took Christian Haynes, a quality guard who figures to start right away, and might even convert to center, to give us more beef at that spot than we’ve had since Max Unger. I don’t know how good a lineman is from UConn, but draftniks seem to like him, so that’s good enough for me.

I hear the inside linebacker we got from UTEP in the fourth round, Tyrice Knight, is more of a project than a guy we can plug and play. I’m assuming we missed out on the linebacker we actually wanted, and settled for this guy because that was a particular need (one of the few instances where we probably went away from our BPA strategy). I don’t expect Knight to be much of anything.

I also don’t expect much out of our other fourth rounder, A.J. Barner, tight end out of Michigan, but for very different reasons. I actually like the pick, because it sounds like he’s one of the better blocking tight ends in this class, and that was certainly a position of need. If we can get tougher at that position, I’m all for it, because it’s almost like drafting another lineman. He’s probably NOT the stone-hands catcher we’re all imagining, but he’s also not going to drastically improve this offense with his receiving. But, if he opens up holes in the running game, and gives our quarterback a little extra time to make a throw, he’s exactly the kind of tight end I want on my roster.

With our last four picks, we took two cornerbacks from Auburn, and two more offensive line projects. It certainly seems strange to invest so heavily in cornerback depth, when there’s no realistic way we can keep all these guys on our roster (Witherspoon, Woolen, Brown, Jackson, the two rookies, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant (unless we’re still turning him into a safety)), but maybe we’re looking to wheel and deal during training camp. Or, maybe some hard cuts are a-comin’. Either way, until further notice, guys like Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James are just camp fodder, and probably practice squad-bound, unless they really stand out as special teamers.

As for the O-Line projects, we got a widebody from Utah named Sataoa Laumea, and some no-name guy from Findlay who goes by Michael Jerrell. Laumea, by all accounts, is the more interesting of the two, as he could conceivably have a shot at contending for a starting spot. Jerrell might as well already be on the practice squad, but I’m not going to hold that against him.

We took three offensive linemen in this draft, that’s not lost on me. I think that’s a huge development for this team. Not that they’ve neglected the O-Line, necessarily. They’re always taking bites at the apple. But, they’ve also failed so miserably for so long, while getting by with middling production from guys on rookie deals. It’s nice to see they haven’t given up. There’s a way to build this unit up from the draft; other teams do it all the time. You need your foundational guys like Charles Cross to pan out, but you also need your mid-rounders like Lucas and Haynes and Bradford and Laumea to develop in a hurry and take the world by storm. I want to be the team that’s the envy of fans across the league. I want them to look at the Seahawks and think, “How do they keep finding these diamonds in the rough later in the draft?!” It’s nice to do it at cornerback and wide receiver, but when you can do it on the O-Line, you’ve really got something.

Half of this draft went to the line of scrimmage; when you throw in a primarily blocking tight end, and an inside linebacker who’s going to have to attack that LOS on the regular, that’s 3/4 of your draft going to the most important non-quarterback spots on the team. If we’re ever going to turn this thing around, it’s either going to be by finding another transcendent quarterback, or by killing it everywhere else. Since we’re bound and determined to ignore QB in the draft every fucking year, then we’ve gotta start putting in work on Plan B. Devoting the bulk of your draft to the LOS, while signing Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, and bringing back George Fant to be offensive tackle depth, is a great start to that process.

Now, let’s check back in three years and see if this class – and any of the others that came before it – are worth a damn.