Mike Iupati, who spent the past two seasons as the Seahawks’ starting left guard, is retiring after 11 seasons in the NFL.
Iupati first made the announcement in an interview with The Spokesman-Review in a story published Sunday.
“My body was telling me it was time to close the door,” said Iupati, who was limited to 10 games with Seattle last season while battling knee, back and neck injuries.
Iupati returned to start the playoff loss against the Rams, which turned out to be his last.
Iupati, 33, also played five years with the 49ers and four with Arizona and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro pick in 2012.
Iupati signed a one-year deal with Seattle for the 2019 season and started 15 games for the Seahawks as they went 11-5.
He then signed another one-year deal with Seattle last spring and again emerged as the starting left guard.
His injuries, though, meant Jordan Simmons started six games at left guard.
Simmons is slated to be a restricted free agent, and if he is not tendered, will become an unrestricted free agent March 17, leaving the future of the left guard spot unclear.
Simmons has been with the Seahawks since 2018 and has flashed potential in nine starts. But he has also battled some injuries and even if he is back, Seattle appears certain to want to add competition to that spot.
Coach Pete Carroll said after the season, “We need to improve (at left guard),” hinting at possible changes, and obviously knowing Iupati may have been leaning toward retirement.
Carroll’s comment, of course, was before quarterback Russell Wilson made comments in several interviews about his frustration with the team’s pass protection and having been sacked a league-high 394 times since entering the NFL in 2012. This put that much more of an onus on the Seahawks to do something to improve its line in 2021.
Iupati was one of two starters on Seattle’s 2020 offensive line set to enter free agency, the other being center Ethan Pocic.
Despite his injuries, Iupati performed creditably in 2020. His overall grade of 67.8 from Pro Football Focus was his best since 2016 and was 37th of 80 guards overall in the league. He was assessed to have given up one sack in 317 regular-season snaps.
But he played just 33 snaps in the playoff loss to the Rams while still dealing with his neck injury.
Kyle Fuller, who can play center and guard, will be an exclusive-rights free agent and would appear likely to be back.
Phil Haynes, a fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2019, could be a candidate at left guard. But he has battled injuries throughout his two years with Seattle and has played just one snap in a regular-season game and 10 on special teams.
Seattle recently released Chance Warmack, a veteran signed before the 2020 season who then opted out for COVID-19 reasons. A report from ESPN stated the Seahawks may be interested in re-signing Warmack at some point.
But Iupati’s announcement this weekend only makes it that much more evident the Seahawks will be in the market for a left guard this offseason, be it through free agency or the draft.
Iupati told the Spokesman-Review he enjoyed his time with the Seahawks.
“I fell in love with Seattle,” he says. “The organization was first class. They were so good to me.”
Iupati said his body “felt great” when the 2020 season began but that the neck injury at the end of the year convinced him it was time to retire.
“I know I’m going to miss it,” he said, according to the Spokesman-Review. “But I’m kind of excited. I’ve got four boys (ages 8, 6, 3 and newborn) and I’m taking care of them every day.”