Of the 68 players the Seahawks have under contract as of Monday (or have given qualifying offers), 16 are offensive linemen.
That includes four veterans signed as free agents in March, all of whom have significant starting experience.
Those four (tackles Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi, guard Chance Warmack and guard/center B.J. Finney) seem to be logical replacements for three veterans Seattle did not re-sign — tackles Germain Ifedi and George Fant and guard Mike Iupati.
All of which might make you think Seattle doesn’t have a huge need for offensive linemen in the NFL draft.
Conversely, none of the new free-agent signees have contracts for more than two years, and the long-term outlook at most of the offensive line spots is somewhat hazy.
That includes the all-important left tackle spot, which is set for now with veteran Duane Brown. But Brown is 34 and battled a slew of injuries last year and in 2021 has a cap hit of $13 million but with no guaranteed salary and a dead cap hit of just $2 million, meaning Seattle could well start looking for his successor at any time.
And Seattle basically always drafts offensive linemen, having taken at least one in every year of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era (which dates to 2010) and 19 overall.
As the draft approaches April 23-25, we’ll continue our overview of Seattle’s position groups with a look at the line.
Projected starters: LT Duane Brown; LG B.J. Finney/Jamarco Jones; C Justin Britt/Finney/Ethan Pocic/Joey Hunt; RG D.J. Fluker; RT Brandon Shell.
Key backups: Chance Warmack, Cedric Ogbuehi, Phil Haynes, Jordan Roos, Jordan Simmons.
Key offseason losses: Germain Ifedi, George Fant, Mike Iupati.
The Seahawks seem to have two sure things on their offensive line entering the 2020 season — Brown will again start at left tackle and Fluker at right guard. Shell appears the strong front-runner at right tackle.
But the other two spots are more uncertain, particularly center because the future of Britt remains a little unclear.
Britt has been the team’s starting center since 2016, but he missed the final eight games and the postseason last year due to an ACL injury and leaving it somewhat unclear when he will be healthy. And there has been widespread speculation he will be released to clear out $8.5 million in salary cap space (or, the team could also renegotiate his deal, which has one year left).
Finney has played both guard and center and his signing led to much speculation he could be viewed as a possible replacement for Britt. Hunt, who filled in for Britt last year, was given a qualifying offer to return and Pocic returns for the final season of his rookie deal.
Finney, Pocic and Haynes (a rookie a year ago) could also be contenders at the left guard spot, as could Warmack, who has 51 starts in his NFL career after being taken in the first round by Tennessee in 2013, before sitting out last season to get healthy (he started three games at left guard for the Eagles in 2017).
And while Shell (a regular starter for the Jets the past three years) is widely regarded as the heir apparent at right tackle, Jones, Ogbuhei (25 career starts at tackle) and possibly even Chad Wheeler (who started 19 games for the Giants in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the first of which came when current Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari was the Giants’ OL coach) could all factor in, as well.
Depth, at least, is not an issue.
But whether Seattle has the front-line talent it needs is another matter. And one NFL axiom holds that you never really have enough offensive linemen.
Draft need (on scale of 1-10): 8.
Potential draft fits
The guess here is that if the Seahawks take an offensive lineman with one of their first three picks — which are at 27, 59 and 64 — they’ll likely grab a tackle.
That’s in part because Seattle might have more young players who project as possible longer-term answers at guard (Haynes, Simmons, Jones and Finney) and also because this is regarded as an especially good and deep crop of tackles.
Lindy’s wrote “offensive tackles just might be the most talented position group available in the 2020 NFL Draft.’’
Here are a few tackles, and a couple other players, who could prove intriguing:
Ezra Cleveland, Boise State: The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder, a graduate of Bethel High in Spanaway, is regarded as a player who might need a year or so to mature into an NFL player, which could work well with Brown’s situation. Cleveland started all 40 games he played at Boise State, with 39 of the starts coming at left tackle. He had just two holding penalties in his career, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Austin Jackson, USC: Jackson started 25 games at left tackle for USC the past two seasons and has drawn comparisons to former Trojan Tyron Smith, who has made seven Pro Bowls with the Cowboys.
Josh Jones, Houston: The 6-5, 310-pound Jones has drawn some comparisons in style to former Seahawk Russell Okung, who was the first player Seattle selected after Carroll and Schneider took over in 2010. Jones started for four consecutive seasons at Houston.
Nick Harris/Trey Adams, Washington: While Cleveland, Jackson and Jones are all players Seattle might have to take in the first round to get (or just a little later if the Seahawks again trade down), Harris and Adams are players Seattle could get in later rounds. Seattle has taken a UW player in the middle rounds of the past two years — linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven in 2019 and tight end Will Dissly in 2018. Could they do so again? Harris is regarded as one of the top centers available — Athlon’s lists him No. 1 — and that he did make 17 starts at guard in his career adds to his value. Injuries have led to a fall down the draft board for Adams over the past few years, and he might now be a late third-day pick. If so, he could prove intriguing to Seattle.
Next up: Defensive line.