Seattle's first signing of the free agent period, offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, became official Saturday afternoon, as the team continues its pursuit of T.J. Lang.
While the Seahawks officially announced the addition of one free agent offensive lineman Saturday — Luke Joeckel — they appeared to take a big step closer to securing another offensive line free agent target, T.J. Lang.
Lang, a 2016 Pro Bowl selection as a right guard with Green Bay, was reported to have had a “great” visit with the Seahawks with a decision possibly coming as early as Sunday, according to Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post (Seahawks’ fans also read optimistically into the fact that almost the minute that report was released, Lang began following the Seahawks’ official Twitter account).
Proof that something was going on at the team’s facility in Renton came in the fact that Seattle had a much-smaller contingent of coaches and execs at the University of Washington’s Annual Pro Day Saturday morning. Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider often attend, as do coordinators. But none were at the Pro Day with the Seahawks wooing Lang, as well as fellow former Green Bay teammate running back Eddie Lacy (Lacy was spotted in Minnesota Saturday night, having flown in after his visit with Seattle).
The 29-year-old Lang was expected to be put through a physical by the Seahawks after having hip surgery in January and also suffering a foot injury last season that he re-aggravated in the Packers’ playoff loss to Atlanta. He was also likely mulling over a contract that would almost certainly be the largest the team has given to a free agent offensive lineman in the Carroll/Schneider era, and possibly threatening the most the team has given any offensive lineman, an honor that for the moment goes to the four-year, $25 million extension handed center Max Unger in 2012. A general expectation is that Seattle would have to pay Lang $8-9 million annually over three or four years.
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While Seattle continued its work on Lang, another piece of earlier reported business became official as the team announced the signing of Joeckel. It had been reported Thursday that he had agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $8 million with the Seahawks.
That was the only move involving the Seahawks listed on Saturday’s NFL transactions report.
Exact details of Joeckel’s contract also had yet to be revealed. As it is, the $8 million reported contract would be the most Seattle has paid to any offensive lineman since re-signing Unger. But it is anticipated that much of Joeckel’s money is tied up in performance and ability-to-play incentives considering he is coming off major knee surgery (ACL, MCL) last October.
The 25-year-old Joeckel was the second overall pick of the NFL Draft in 2013 out of Texas A&M. Texas A&M had three players that year taken in the top 100 in the draft and all three have now been Seahawks, the others being RB Christine Michael, taken that year by Seattle at No 62 overall, and DE Damontre Moore, taken No. 81 by the Giants and then spending some time with Seattle last year before signing on Friday as a free agent with Dallas.
Joeckel played both tackle and guard in four years with the Jaguars, initially viewed as a franchise-type left tackle but moved to guard last season after the team declined to pick up his fifth-year option, which allowed him to become a free agent this year.
It’s unclear if the Seahawks see him specifically as a guard or tackle or if they are bringing him in to add experience and competition, something Schneider said at the NFL Combine last week was a goal of the team this off-season.
Adding Lang, a Pro Bowler as a guard last season and an eight-year veteran with the Green Bay Packers, would add even more experience and a player who would be viewed as a certain starter.
Green Bay allowed Lang to enter free agency due in part to concerns over the hip and left foot issues and age, as well as simply apparently prioritizing other players.
But the Seahawks appear to have made a heavy push to get Lang, a player drafted by Green Bay in 2009 when Schneider was the team’s director of football operations.
Lang played the last four seasons at right guard, the same spot where Seattle last season used first-round pick Germain Ifedi. If Seattle gives Lang a significant deal, though, it undoubtedly comes with the expectation that he will start. Whether that means moving Ifedi back to tackle — he played right tackle his last two seasons at Texas A&M — or moving Lang to tackle, a spot he played some during his first four years with the Packers, remains unclear.
What is obvious is Seattle’s desire to improve an offensive line that many considered among the worst in the NFL last season and was due to have no returning players with more than three years experience before the signing of Joeckel.
Lang visited Detroit Thursday and Friday and also had been reported as considering returning to Green Bay. But a few other potential suitors appear to have fallen to the wayside. An earlier reported trip to Denver for Lang was canceled when the Broncos signed free agent guard Ronald Leary. And it was reported Saturday that the Atlanta Falcons had initial interest in talking to Lang but were no longer expected to do so.
If that makes it just a three-team race, Seattle would be fighting against Lang’s Green Bay ties as well as a Detroit team near his hometown of Royal Oak, Mich., and likely hoping it could get a deal signed by the time the weekend is out.
It was also revealed Saturday afternoon that running back Latavius Murray will visit Jacksonville on Monday and the Seahawks on Tuesday. The Seahawks were also reported to be getting a visit Friday/Saturday from Green Bay free agent running back Eddie Lacy.
Also, safety J.J. Wilcox of Dallas, who had been expected to visit Seattle, instead signed with Tampa Bay on Saturday following his visit there.