A visit by free agent offensive lineman T.J. Lang will test Seattle's commitment to beefing up its offensive line.
The tour schedule for free agent offensive lineman T.J. Lang became clearer on Friday as it was reported he will visit with the Seahawks on Friday but will no longer take a trip to Denver.
The Broncos’ trip was canceled after Denver signed free agent guard Ronald Leary, leaving one less team Seattle has to battle with for free agent linemen.
Still, Lang is also considering Detroit, which he visited on Thursday and is in his home state, and is also said to have not ruled out returning to the Packers.
Seattle’s hope, though, may be to get Lang signed and sealed in Seattle before he could be delivered anywhere else.
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A key part of the visit figures to be the physical when Seattle can determine where Lang is in recovery from a January arthroscopic hip surgery as well as a foot injury that he suffered last season (and yes, maybe the Seahawks will make sure Cliff Avril isn’t in the building after their little dust-up last December).
But if Lang, who played guard the last four years but also has some background as a tackle, passes muster on the physical, then the question may be how aggressive Seattle will be about getting him under contract.
A report from Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post stated that Seattle has “a big pitch’’ planned.
Usually, it’s simply the biggest paycheck that wins.
As has been well-documented through the years, that’s something Seattle has rarely doled out in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era to offensive linemen.
Part of why Seattle is more aggressively going after some veteran offensive linemen this year is that it got “a bit too young,’’ last year, in the words of Schneider, after seeing veterans J.R. Sweezy and Russell Okung leave in free agency and then being unable to replace their experience via free agency.
Seattle made J’Marcus Webb its most expensive free agent addition last year with a two-year deal worth $5.75 million. But that was hardly a big investment, and the team had no reservations releasing Webb in November when he wasn’t working out.
Seattle has already committed up to $8 million for one year of Luke Joeckel.
But it is expected that deal is heavily laden with incentives and likely with not much risk to the team.
It will take more than that to get Lang — possibly a multi-year deal in the $8-9 million range per season. While the Seahawks don’t have a ton of cap room — roughly $25 million entering free agency — they appear likely to have enough to make a deal work with Lang without having to make significant cost-cutting moves elsewhere. (And could Lang be using his visits to drive up his market? Don’t all free agents basically do that?)
Lang’s age — he’ll be 30 next year – and injuries are part of why he appears to be more easily available than some of the other top-rent offensive linemen, and why the Packers allowed him to hit free agency.
But he also was good enough to have made the Pro Bowl last season (though he didn’t play due to the injuries) and as such, would rank as the most-accomplished outside free agent offensive lineman signing of the Carroll/Schneider era.
Seattle has not paid significant money to an outside UFA offensive lineman since the first two years of the Carroll/Schneider era when they signed Robert Gallery to a three-year deal worth $15 million in 2011.
Gallery lasted just one season before being released, playing just 12 games.
And there’s been a thought that that experience, combined with the failures to integrate some other veteran offensive lineman brought in through the years (such as Eric Winston in 2014) has led to Seattle preferring to build a line from within.
But you can’t really get more experienced from within all that quickly, leading to Seattle appearing more aggressive in pursuing linemen this season.
And also, the thought that Seattle has never pursued free agents, or wanted to pay offensive linemen, may be overblown and also as much about circumstance as anything else.
Recall that the Seahawks did re-up center Max Unger to a four-year deal worth $25 million in July, 2012 that made him among the highest-paid centers in the NFL, one of the first significant extensions given in the Carroll/Schneider era (Marshawn Lynch had re-signed a few months earlier).
And few observers necessarily have thought the Seahawks blew it in not matching some of the contracts their offensive linemen who have walked away have gotten, such as the five-year, $32.5 million contract Sweezy received last year from Tampa Bay (Sweezy has yet to even practice with the Bucs due to a back issue).
Circumstance has also played a role. Okung’s situation, for instance, was complicated by the fact that he served as his own agent, which meant he was almost sure to test the market barring Seattle giving him a deal ahead of time that almost certainly would have been way above market. Once Okung did hit the market, it was generally considered there was little chance he’d return.
Carroll also revealed prior to the playoff game against Atlanta that the Seahawks tried to make a run last year at free agent center Alex Mack, who ended up signing a five-year, $45 million deal with the Falcons. Who knows? Maybe Carroll let that slip to try to fend off what the team knows is criticism that it hasn’t paid enough attention to the line.
This year, though, the Seahawks seem more willing to put action behind those words.
Just how much will become apparent soon.