Newly-signed free agent Bradley Sowell and third-year player Garry Gilliam would compete to be Seattle's left tackle if the season were to start today, general manager John Schneider said Tuesday.
BOCA RATON, Fla. — If the Seattle Seahawks opened training camp today, the left tackle spot would be an open competition between Garry Gilliam and Bradley Sowell, general manager John Schneider said Tuesday.
Gilliam has never started a game at that spot in his two-year NFL career, having started for Seattle last season at right tackle, while Sowell has not started a game at any spot in the NFL in the last two years.
But the departure of Russell Okung via free agency leaves Gilliam and Sowell currently atop Seattle’s depth chart at that position.
“That’s a great question,” Schneider said when asked who would get the nod for the team at left tackle if the Seahawks played a game today. “It’d be a good battle between Gilliam and Sowell.”
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And when he spoke with reporters at the NFL league meetings here, Schneider offered no guarantees that the Seahawks will make any other significant moves via free agency or trade this off-season to bolster an offensive line that many viewed as the team’s weakness in 2015.
“All throughout free agency every position we are going to keep tinkering and working our way through certain deals and see if we can be involved and see if we can’t,’’ Schneider said. “Where we are at right now (salary cap-wise) we can’t be doing anything. We just have to be very responsible.’’
That’s why the team didn’t really get involved in the sweepstakes for Okung, who ended up signing last week with Denver, agreeing to a unique contract that featured no guaranteed money but also could pay him as much as $56 million over five years if he earns everything in it.
Asked if there was ever a point where it seemed like Okung — who was the No. 6 overall pick in 2010 and had been the team’s starting left tackle since then —- might be back with the Seahawks, Schneider said: “Not really because he made a lot of trips (to visit other teams) really quick. So whenever that happens you know people have strong interest.’’
Okung represented himself, and the deal he negotiated — specifically that it has no guaranteed money and could essentially be just a one-year contract leaving him a free agent again a year from now — has generated a lot of criticism.
Schneider, though, said he doesn’t think things would have turned out any differently for Okung’s future with the Seahawks if he had not represented himself.
“I don’t think it affected it,’’ Schneider said. “Russell is a very intelligent person. He has his personal beliefs. We had a good talk before the season started so we knew that he was going to be representing himself and Russell knew where we were coming from. It’s just hard — those conversations are hard to have. Russell was the first player we selected (when they took over in 2010) so that was difficult.’’
The Seahawks have also lost right guard J.R. Sweezy, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent.
Seattle, meanwhile, made two relatively inexpensive additions in tackles J’Marcus Webb (two years, $6 million) and Sowell (one year, $1 million). Webb is slated as a right tackle, the spot Gilliam played last season, with Gilliam moving to the left side to compete with Sowell, who started 12 games at left tackle for Arizona in 2013 but has been a backup the last two seasons. The 12 starts for Sowell in 2013 are the only starts of his four-year NFL career. Webb played primarily guard for the Raiders last season but will move to right tackle for the Seahawks.
“I think signing our two guys in Sowell and Webb, that was big for us,’’ Schneider said. “They are kind of unique signings, kind of prove-it signings. That’s kind of the stage we are at right now. …
“You always hate losing people in free agency. That’s the worst part of our job, really. But you have to be ready, have to have a plan in place and we love Russell and we love Sweezy and we wish them all the best, but we’ve got to keep moving forward.’’
And while some fans may have been expecting some bigger name — and higher-priced — signings, Schneider said it was worth remembering the money the team spent last summer on the likes of quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and how those moves impacted the cap.
“Really, our free agency was started last summer with Russell and Bobby Wagner,’’ he said.
Asked what he likes in Sowell and Webb, Schneider said: “Both are very aggressive, confident individuals and guys who think they can take their career to another level. So we really went with that same philosophy in free agency, not to the same level but the same philosophy, that we did with (defensive ends) Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett (in 2013). Kind of shorter-term deals and kind of come in and bust your butt and hopefully we will be able to re-sign you, and if not you are going to hit free agency quicker.’’ Bennett signed a one-year deal in 2013 and re-signed after the season while Avril signed a two-year contract and then re-upped late in the 2014 season.
As for what the team sees in Gilliam to think he can make the move to left tackle, Schneider said: “He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s played there in college, too, and he’s just such a good athlete. He can play wherever you want. He can play tight end, you have seen him catch the ball. He’s extremely talented, as is Sowell. Sowell is very quick and athletic and again very, very confident in his abilities.’’
Schneider also said that “as of right now’’ second-year player Mark Glowinski would be the replacement, with incumbents Patrick Lewis at center and Justin Britt at right guard.
The Seahawks will undoubtedly select some offensive linemen with some of the nine picks they will have in the NFL Draft April 28-30, and those players could change the equation on the offensive line.
But as for making any other moves between now and the beginning of the season to add the offensive line, Schneider said that’s easier said than done.
“You can look at maybe besides three or four offensive lines throughout the league, it’s a concern for everybody,’’ he said. “So you are constantly working at it. There is a reason we are converting defensive linemen to offensive linemen. There is really a shortage of talent at this point in the league and again it’s kind of a cyclical thing.’’