You might have heard a time or two the last few months that the Seahawks’ offensive line is “in dire need of a makeover’’ or “should be overhauled completely.’’ At times, it seemed as if the only acceptable solution to Seattle’s line issues would have been to send them collectively on the Perseverance to Mars.
OK, we kid. Some.
But the comments of Russell Wilson and others parroting what his camp are saying have put a spotlight on Seattle’s efforts to beef up the line this offseason.
The reality, though, is that there is only so much Seattle can do.
The Seahawks have three starters returning (left tackle Duane Brown, right tackle Brandon Shell and right guard Damien Lewis) and, with a challenging cap situation already, don’t seem too inclined to make moves at those spots.
That leaves the most realistic way for Seattle to upgrade the line is by improving the two open spots — left guard (where Mike Iupati is retiring) and center (where Ethan Pocic is a free agent).
As we continue our preview of Seattle’s position groups heading into free agency, here’s a look at the offensive line.
Players under contract
LT Duane Brown: Brown is entering the final season of a three-year extension signed in 2018. Brown is due a $10 million salary, but none of it is guaranteed. He has only $2 million in dead money, meaning the team could look to extend him again and pare down some of his projected $13.35 million cap hit.
RG Damien Lewis: A third-round pick a year ago, Lewis seems entrenched as the starting right guard after an impressive first year in which he made the Pro Football Focus All-Rookie team. Lewis will make a base salary of $832,825 in 2021.
RT Brandon Shell: Shell is due a $3.075 million base salary and $5.35 million cap hit in 2021 on the final year of the two-year deal he signed as a free agent. Shell ranked as the 21st-best pass-blocking tackle out of 75 in the NFL last year via PFF.
Others under contract
G/C Phil Haynes: A fourth-round pick in 2019, Haynes has played in just two regular-season games, both coming last year, when he battled hip and groin injuries. He ended the year on injured reserve. But he remains an intriguing prospect in part because the team has used him at times in practice at center and he might be a thought in their plans at that spot going forward.
G/T Jamarco Jones: Jones, a fifth-round pick out of Ohio State in 2018, has five career starts at guard and tackle. And as he enters the final season of his rookie deal, he might have one more shot to show he could be a tackle of the future at one side or the other. .
C Brad Lundblade: A three-year starter at center for Oklahoma State, where he helped open holes for Chris Carson, Lundblade signed a futures deal after the season after spending the last month on the practice squad. Lundblade has been on and off the rosters of three other teams the last three years, seeing action in only one game. But the fact that he is a true center is interesting.
T Tommy Champion: Signed as an undrafted free agent last spring out of Mississippi State, he spent all year on the practice squad and then signed a futures deal after the season.
Impending free agents
C Ethan Pocic: Pocic finally found a home last year at center after three years of playing guard and tackle while also battling injuries. Pocic, a second-round pick in 2017, might want to test the market now. Seattle might also let him to see where it is. That means Pocic could easily return to Seattle depending on what the market bears. PFF rated Pocic the No. 27 center in the NFL in 2020 and estimated he could get a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. That’s something it seems Seattle could easily match if it wants to.
LG Mike Iupati: Iupati has already said he will retire, which assures that Seattle will need to find a new left guard.
Also, backup guard Jordan Simmons is a restricted free agent and backup guard/center Kyle Fuller is an exclusive-rights free agent.
Seattle seems likely to tender Fuller. Seattle could tender Simmons at the lowest number — a right-of-first-refusal tender that would mean a $2.2 million salary for Simmons if he makes the team.
Possible free-agent targets
We originally had Washington guard Brandon Scherff on this list. But it was announced Monday night the WFT will tag him for a second straight year. So here are four others who might make some sense.
G Joe Thuney: A five-year vet of the Patriots, Thuney was not tagged, meaning he’ll become a free agent on March 17 unless the Pats can extend him first. Scherff and Thuney were widely considered to be by far the best guards who could be available via free agency. PFF estimates Thuney’s potential deal at four years, $57 million, which would be more than the Seahawks have paid any offensive lineman in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era.
C Nick Martin: Martin was released by Houston last week and available now as a street free agent. Martin was considered to have had his worst season in 2020, with a 56.1 grade from PFF. (Pocic, for what it’s worth, had a grade of 59.8.)
C Corey Linsley: Linsley, who has played the last seven seasons with the Packers, is the best center available on the market and is considered an especially strong pass protector. He’ll turn 30 before next season, but he’s started all but three games the last four years. PFF’s guess is a three-year deal at $33 million for Linsley.
C David Andrews: Another Patriot, the 28-year-old had a bounce-back year in 2020 after missing the 2019 season with a pulmonary embolism. He won’t cost as much as Linsley but maybe a little more than Martin.
As noted, the Seahawks enter free agency with just seven offensive linemen under contract, so there’s work to do to beef up the numbers. Remember when Seattle had 20 for a time last spring?
With just four draft picks at the moment, that might mostly have to be done via the various forms of free agency. The big question is if Seattle decides to put all of its eggs in one basket and make a big splash and sign one of the top available free agents to fill the center or left-guard spot, or stick more to its routine of multiple players for shorter-term, less-expensive deals.
Wilson will be among those watching closely.
Next: Defensive line.