The Seahawks found a replacement for departed free agent J.R. Sweezy Thursday, reaching agreement on a one-year deal with free-agent guard Mike Iupati. The signing was first reported by Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network and confirmed to the Seattle Times. Financial details were not yet available.
Iupati played the last four seasons at Arizona but from 2010-14 played with the 49ers, where one of his offensive line coaches was Mike Solari, who is now the OL coach for the Seahawks.
Iupati has played almost exclusively left guard, which is the spot that Sweezy played last season for the Seahawks before being signed earlier this week by the same Arizona team that Iupati is now departing.
Iupati started 10 games for Arizona last season and has 114 career starts after having been taken by the 49ers in the first round of the 2010 draft at number 17 overall out of Idaho.
But Iupati, who turns 32 in May, has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, playing just 11 games. He missed all but one game in 2017 due to an elbow injury and suffered a knee injury late last year that eventually relegated him to the Injured Reserve list. He had a grade of 62.9 from Pro Football Focus at the time, ranking 35th among all guards — and FWIW, that’s higher than PFF had for either D.J. Fluker or Sweezy, who were at 49.2 and 45.7, respectively.
Iupati, though, has historically been best-known for his run blocking. He had a 70.1 grade as a run blocker last year from PFF, fourth-best among all guards, but 47.5 pass blocking, 75th among all guards.
But PFF was far from glowing in its assessment of Iupati last November shortly before he was injured, writing: “Mike Iupati has never been one of the best pass protectors at the guard position in the league, but even when he struggled there, you could count on him to open up holes in the run game. That hasn’t been the case so far this season. His 61.5 run-blocking grade is far and away the lowest of his nine-year career, as is his 36.2 pass-blocking grade.”
The signing of Iupati to a one-year deal stays in line with what was the team’s philosophy last year with Sweezy and Fluker, who also each got one-year contracts after coming off injury-plagued seasons that saw them either released or not re-signed by their old team.
Iupati is a native of American Samoa who attended Western High in Anaheim, Calif., before signing with Idaho and playing for the Vandals from 2006-09. He made the Pro Bowl every year from 2012-15 and signed a contract with Arizona following the 2014 season worth $8 million a season. He’ll surely be making far less with the Seahawks.
Shortly after the news of Iupati’s signing it was revealed that the Seahawks are also keeping D.J. Fluker, finalizing a two-year contract for him to stay and return to pay right guard. Seattle also has Ethan Pocic, Jordan Simmons and Jordan Roos under contract at the guard spot for 2019 and Germain Ifedi can also play there.