A visit to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday raises questions about the future of right tackle Garry Gilliam with the Seattle Seahawks.
Seahawks right tackle Garry Gilliam, a restricted free agent who visited the 49ers on Thursday, could well remain with Seattle despite receiving a multi-year contract offer from San Francisco.
A league source confirmed to the Times that Gilliam turned down an initial offer from the 49ers and that while he will continue to talk to San Francisco, if he does not receive an increased offer then it is expected he will sign his tender next week to stay with the Seahawks.
Gilliam is a restricted free agent and received a tender from the Seahawks in March at the lowest level, meaning Gilliam would get a one-year contact for $1,797 million for 2017. But Gilliam has yet to sign the tender and until he does he can field other offers.
As first reported by Field Yates of ESPN, Gilliam visited the 49ers Thursday.
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By tendering Gilliam, Seattle has the right of first refusal to match any offer he would receive within five days. If Gilliam were to get an offer that Seattle didn’t match then Gilliam could sign with a new team and the Seahawks would get no compensation, since he was tendered at the lowest level and originally came into the league as an undrafted free agent.
RFAs must sign their tenders by April 21 — tenders can also be rescinded and the player allowed to become an unrestricted free agent, as happened with former UW star Chris Polk with the Eagles two years ago.
That Seattle tendered Gilliam indicates that the Seahawks had a certain desire in bringing him back.
But the Seahawks have also made a few moves on the offensive line since Gilliam was tendered prior to the start of unrestricted free agency, signing free agents Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi and announcing that last year’s first-round pick, Germain Ifedi, is likely to move to right tackle, with Aboushi likely getting his first shot at right guard.
That would almost certainly mean Ifedi and Gilliam competing for the right tackle spot with Gilliam in a precarious position since his $1.797 million salary is not guaranteed. At the moment that salary would make Gilliam the second-highest paid member of Seattle’s offensive line in 2017 behind Joeckel, who got a one-year contract worth up to $8 million.
And it would make Gilliam vulnerable to being a salary cap casualty as the regular season nears. Seattle last year tendered Patrick Lewis at the lowest amount of $1.67 million. But after losing a battle with Justin Britt for the starting center spot, Lewis was released, allowing the Seahawks to save all of his salary — he would have been the second-highest paid offensive lineman on the team in 2016.
Gilliam had rollercoaster of a 2016 season. After starting all of the 2015 season at right tackle in his second year with the team, he was named as the heir apparent to Russell Okung at left tackle in the spring. But after missing much of the off-season program to have a cyst removed from his knee, he struggled in the pre-season and was moved to right tackle.
He was then benched late in the season when Bradley Sowell returned from injury and was inserted at right tackle.
But when Sowell struggled, Gilliam returned to the starting lineup for the final two regular season games as well as both playoff games.
Gilliam was the only restricted free agent the Seahawks tendered this year.