It’s no secret that the decreased salary cap has resulted in a flood of offensive linemen hitting the market in recent days, and many fans of the Seattle Seahawks are excited about how a flooded market could result in the team adding quality players at reduced cap hits. The names that have been bandied about by fans include Gabe Jackson, Trai Turner, Mitchell Schwartz and a host of others, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason many of these players have been released.
Schwartz, for example, has been named multiple times by Field Gulls commenters since his release, but these calls for his addition seem to ignore the reality of the situation. There’s no denying his skill during his prime, which is backed up by his First Team All Pro selection in 2018, but it ignores the reality of the situation with his health. Schwartz last played for the Kansas City Chiefs on October 19, when a back injury forced him out of the game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6. While the details of the injury have not been released publicly, the Chiefs opted for treating the injury conservatively initially.
However, when the injury did not improve in the weeks after it happened, Schwartz was moved to injured reserve in November. However, even months of rest did not allow the injury to recover, and less than three weeks ago he underwent surgery. Many now expect Schwartz to retire, and following his release with a failed physical designation, he can now sit out the 2021 season and earn $2M, much like Justin Britt did during the 2020 season.
That said, there will be offensive linemen on the market who are available, but the simple fact is that many teams are likely to get aggressive when it comes to managing the cap in the pursuit of these linemen. Teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and others have already begun to deploy void years to borrow cap from future seasons to sign players for 2021, and that trend is very likely to continue.
Bringing the discussion back to the Seahawks, who are some of the offensive linemen that fit their profile going forward? That, in and of itself, is the million dollar question. Over the past three seasons under offensive line coach Mike Solari the team has tended to prefer the larger, more mauling type of offensive linemen. Of the three draft picks the team has spent on linement – Damien Lewis, Phil Haynes and Jamarco Jones – two of the three have weighed at least 322 pounts. Of the other linemen the team has added and who have seen playing time since Solari arrived, only Cedric Ogbuehi has not weighed in at 318 or greater. Others, including Mike Iupati (331), D.J. Fluker (342), Jordan Simmons (339), B.J. Finney (318) and Brandon Shell (324) all weighed in at 318 or more.
In contrast, the five of six offensive linemen the Los Angeles Rams have drafted since Sean McVay arrived in 2017 have been below that 318 threshold, with 2018 sixth round pick Jamil Demby at 319 being the lone exception. In short, something will have to give. Either Run Game Coordinator Andy Dickerson will need to adapt and use different personnel than he did during his time with the Rams, or Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari will be forced to change the style of linemen he prefers to coach.
What that means is that it is extremely hard to predict the physical and athletic profile the Hawks are likely to look for in offensive linemen this offseason. However, based on the experience profile they have pursued in past offseasons, here’s a list of names that might bear watching when free agency opens this week:
Of those names, Davenport, Clark and Benenoch could potentially be seen by the Hawks as projects at the tackle position similar to Ogbuehi in 2020, while Lamp, Redmond, Haeg and Feliciano could be targeted for the inside.
All that considered, it won’t be a shock for the Seahawks to be mentioned in conjunction with many of the bigger name free agent offensive linemen. However, just as in seasons past when it came to free agent visits from the likes of Evan Mathis, Branden Albert, T.J. Lang and others, it won’t be a surprise if the Hawks focus their pitch on the ability to compete for a ring rather than on putting the biggest offer on the table.
In any case, while fans are longing for the likes of Corey Linsley, Trent Williams, Joe Thuney and others, the reality is that the Seahawks are far more likely to pursue the less expensive linemen they believe could be on the cusp of breaking out. However things come to pass, things will get started on Monday when the legal tampering period kicks off in advance of the official start of free agency on Wednesday.