Comments from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at the NFL league meetings this week gave some clarity to how the team's offensive line may look entering training camp.
The acquisition of what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on Wednesday called “two really good additions’’ to Seattle’s offensive line also have gone a long way toward beginning to clarify roles up front heading into 2017.
Carroll’s media session was his first since Seattle signed Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi during the free agency period and he further confirmed what general manager John Schneider said earlier — that Joeckel will start out at left tackle and Aboushi at right guard.
“Luke is a guy who started at left tackle, was drafted at left tackle,’’ said Carroll of Joeckel, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft by Jacksonville and played tackle until moving to guard last season. “I’m thinking of him as that, knowing he can play left guard.’’
Aboushi, Carroll noted, has “played everywhere, we’re gonna put him over on the right side – see how he does at right guard – knowing he can move around. We are just going to work it out.’’
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Putting Aboushi at right guard means last year’s right guard — 2016 first-round pick Germain Ifedi — will now move to right tackle where he will compete with Garry Gilliam.
Carroll, in fact, also said that 2016 third-round pick Rees Odhiambo will start out this season at left guard, competing with the starter at that spot last year, Mark Glowinski.
Those moves appear to give Seattle some fairly significant competition at four of the five offensive line spots heading into 2017 — with more possible to come via either the draft or maybe free agency.
The only certain starter at this point would appear to be Justin Britt at center after a year in which he was moved to that spot after playing guard and tackle his first two seasons in the NFL and earned honors as a Pro Bowl alternate, with Joey Hunt seeming again a logical backup.
Here’s a quick look at how the other four spots appear to be shaping up based on what was learned at the league meetings.
Joeckel will compete with last year’s primary starter, George Fant, who was a rookie in 2016 and playing offensive line for the first time at any level since prior to high school.
That Joeckel is on a one-year contract that will pay him up to $8 million with $7 million guaranteed means it is likely to take an awful lot for Fant to beat him out for the job.
Carroll, though, suggested that could be a positive in letting Fant have a year to watch and learn.
“I think it’s a really good situation and if George had to sit for a while what could be better for him than sitting behind a guy who was a No. 1 pick in the draft and knows how to play the position,’’ Carroll said. “If that happens it would only enhance his future and we have high expectations for him down the road — high expectations. We just don’t know … it’s going to be really fun to see what happens.’’
Glowinski started every game at this spot last season and remains the favorite for the position. But Carroll raved about potential of Odhiambo,a third-round pick out of Boise State who played just 33 snaps last season.
“We drafted him to be a starting player, and we thought by the middle of the season through the second half of it, we could see that that potential was all there, the mentality was all there,’’ Carroll said. “It was just a matter of time. When he comes to camp, he should be as pumped as ever, because he’s going to get a great chance to star … we’re going to try to keep him on the left side as best we can and see what happens there. He’ll be right in the midst of it with Glowinski and George.”
With Ifedi moving to right tackle, Aboushi appears the favorite at this spot heading into the season after signing a one-year contract following two years with Houston.
Carroll noted that Aboushi played in a zone blocking system similar to that of Seattle’s in Houston.
“He’s really well-equipped, smart, fits the style,’’ Carroll said. “He’s been in the same zone running style. But particularly we rated him very highly in his pass protection and we’re really excited about that.”
With Ifedi apparently moving here, right tackle shapes up as one of the most intriguing mano-a-mano position battles between Ifedi and last year’s primary starter, Gilliam.
Gilliam was tendered as a restricted free agent with a contract that could pay him just under $1.8 million in 2016. But none of that is guaranteed, and if the Seahawks surmise Gilliam is going to be relegated to a backup role the team could see that as an opportunity to save some money and release him, as Seattle did last year with center Patrick Lewis.
If Gilliam plays well and Aboushi struggles, the Seahawks could easily move Ifedi back to right guard with Aboushi as a backup swing player.
As Carroll noted about the offensive line “we might not be done yet in helping these guys.’’
Seattle had veteran left tackle Ryan Clady in for a visit and he remains unsigned, though the thought is that for now he’s not in the Seahawks’ immediate plans to sign.
The Seahawks also can be expected to add a lineman or two in the draft, though the fact that they added two vets who the team expects to contend for starting jobs as well as a number of young players it still has high hopes for means Seattle may not feel compelled to expend the significant capital of a first or second round pick on the offensive line.
The moves on the line and what he expects will be significant maturation by the younger players had Carroll making one prediction about the line at the league meetings — “we know we’re going to get better,’’ he said.
The alternative might hardly be possible, nor can it be an option if the Seahawks are to do anything in 2017.