The Seahawks began the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era using their first pick in their first draft to take a left tackle sixth overall, Russell Okung.
And if Okung didn’t become a perennial All-Pro, he did provide a solid foundation for an offensive line that helped lead Seattle to two Super Bowls.
Now as things come full-circle for Carroll and Schneider as they try to build another Super Bowl team without anyone left from the previous ones, could they consider a left tackle again at what is their highest pick since drafting Okung?
They certainly seem to need to do something to add to their tackle position soon.
Let’s take a look at the offensive line as the draft approaches.
Players under contract for 2022: Guards Gabe Jackson, Damien Lewis, Phil Haynes, Pier-Olivier Lestage; centers Austin Blythe, Dakoda Shepley; guard-center Kyle Fuller; tackles Stone Forsythe, Jake Curhan and Greg Eiland.
Key offseason losses: Jamarco Jones (signed with Titans), Ethan Pocic (signed with Browns).
The Seahawks appear set with their interior offensive line positions after signing Blythe as a free agent to replace Pocic at center to team with the returning guard duo of Lewis and Jackson, with Haynes back to compete for time at guard, as well. Haynes was signed as a restricted free agent for a salary of $2.54 million for 2022, third-highest of any linemen after Jackson and Blythe, indicating the value the team saw in his play last season (though none of it is guaranteed, meaning he’ll have to earn it during camp).
Fuller was also re-signed to add depth at guard and center.
That leaves the tackle spots as the big questions with both left tackle Duane Brown and right tackle Brandon Shell remaining unsigned. Seattle could still bring back either or both — general manager John Schneider said Thursday the team is still in contract with Brown.
“We haven’t moved on (from Brown),” Schneider said. “We’re still talking.”
But the Seahawks may be waiting until after the draft to see what they have gotten and may still need before making final decisions on Brown and/or Shell. And likewise, the players also might be waiting at this point to see how the draft unfolds to assess their best fit.
Curhan showed potential in five starts down the stretch last year, but Forsythe saw little time and Eiland was on the practice squad all year. The Seahawks obviously won’t go to camp with just that trio at tackle.
Recent draft history
All of the understandable discussion about Seattle’s offensive line issues through the years may obscure that the problem hasn’t been devoting draft resources to position, but rather how they have drafted.
Seattle has drafted 20 offensive linemen in the Carroll/Schneider era, including 16 from 2010-17 — the most of any team in the NFL in that eight-year span.
That also includes three first-round picks of the eight the team has had in that time, more than any other position group (the other first-round picks are two defensive ends, one safety, one running back and one linebacker).
The first-round picks were each used on players who have/had productive careers, if not overly illustrious — Okung, James Carpenter (2011) and Germain Ifedi (2016).
That pace has slowed the last few years as Seattle has taken four the last four drafts one each year — Forsythe (sixth, 2021); Lewis (third, 2020), Haynes (fourth, 2019) and Jones (fifth, 2018) — with it worth noting Seattle has only had 11 total picks the last two years.
Seattle’s main issue drafting offensive linemen was not getting enough out of a bunch of mid-round picks from 2014-17 such as fourth-rounder Terry Poole in 2015 who never played in a game, and third-rounder Rees Odhiambo in 2016, who played just 16 games in three seasons.
But the Seahawks hope that trend has changed the last few years as Lewis has become a dependable player, Haynes showed some good flashes last year once healthy, and the team seemed happy with the progress of Forsythe last year.
Draft need (on scale of 1-10): Tackle 10, guard-center 4.
Unless something changes between now and the draft it’s hard to figure that the Seahawks won’t take a tackle or two.
The good news is that this is regarded as a strong year for tackles throughout the draft.
Three could go before Seattle makes its first pick at nine — Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State, Evan Neal of Alabama and Charles Cross of Mississippi State. But if any of the three are there at nine then you’d think Seattle would leap.
Two other tackles who could go high are Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa and Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan.
But there could be some good quality tackles available at 40 and 41 as well, notably Tyler Smith of Tulsa and Abe Lucas of Washington State.
The Seahawks also reportedly had Cole Strange of UT-Chattanooga in for a private visit. Strange played primarily guard in college but also saw some action at center and left tackle. He’s generally considered a third-round pick or so. And while the Seahawks seem fairly set with their interior positions, they could look to add competition there, especially with Haynes’ deal not having any guaranteed money.
Next up: Defensive line.
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