Seahawks’ offensive line is priority No. 1 in free agency

Matt Claassen previews free agency for the Seattle Seahawks, identifying who to re-sign, let walk, and target.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Seahawks’ offensive line is priority No. 1 in free agency


The Seahawks don’t have many needs this offseason, but a couple are fairly glaring, particularly along the offensive line. Here are a few moves that could help Seattle reclaim the top spot in the NFC West next season.

Re-sign

WR Jermaine Kearse

Tyler Lockett’s emergence as a rookie will surely generate continued growth in his role going forward, but Kearse has been productive and would still be an effective option in the passing game. Russell Wilson had a 126.1 passer rating when targeting Kearse, the fourth-highest rating in the league. Seattle should look to re-sign Kearse, but only if it’s for the the right price. The prime time for the Seahawks to get this deal done would be before free agency starts, as a lackluster free agent wide receiver group could drive up Kearse’s price once other teams are allowed to negotiate.

LT Russell Okung

Okung graded among the top 10 tackles in 2012, but he has since followed up with his three lowest-graded seasons and has been average at best. Still, he was the Seahawks’ best linemen last year on a line that has other holes to address. There are potentially a few options better than Okung in free agency, but if they can re-sign the former Oklahoma State standout to a reasonable contract, then the money not spent on an upgrade could go towards a different position instead.

Let walk

RG J.R. Sweezy

J.R. Sweezy has graded below average in each of his four seasons with Seattle. In his last three seasons as a starter, his overall grade has gotten worse each year, while never grading above-average as a pass protector. At this point, it’s time to move on from the former seventh-round draft pick.

LB Bruce Irvin

Irvin adjusted well to playing more in coverage and rushing the passer less often over the last couple seasons, but he still might be better suited in less of a traditional linebacker role. While he has played well, it’s likely he will see more money on the open market than he will be worth to Seattle.

DT Brandon Mebane

Brandon Mebane can still make an impact as a role player, but he’s not the performer he was a couple of seasons ago. Defending the run used to be his strength, but his run-stop percentage has dropped each year since his peak in 2012. Last season, he ranked 64th out of 71 defensive tackles. This might be the best time to move on and invest in someone younger.

RB Fred Jackson

Even with Marshawn Lynch out for much of the season, Jackson didn’t make much of an impact, as Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael were the more effective players. He could still be an asset in the passing game, but there are younger alternatives in free agency that could offer as much (or more) than the 35-year-old at this point.

Target

LG Richie Incognito

In his first full season since 2012, Richie Incognito had the best season of his career, and earned the second-best grade among all guards. Outside of missing time due to suspension, he has consistently been a very good guard throughout his career. He would only be a short-term solution since he turns 33 this summer, but he would be a massive upgrade as both a pass-protector and a run-blocker, while also providing the Seahawks more time to find a younger successor.

RG Brandon Brooks

The Seahawks had below-average play from four of their five offensive lineman last season, and Justin Britt fared worse in his move to guard than he was at tackle the year before. Even though Russell Wilson helps mitigate some pressure with his mobility, they still need to do a better job protecting him. Right tackle might be more pressing than a second guard, but the quality of tackle prospects drops quickly after the top few players, and Brandon Brooks could be less expensive than one of them. Brooks had a bit of a down year as a run-blocker, but he ranked as a top-five run blocker in the two years prior. He also has been an above-average pass-protector in each of his four years, and has improved each season.

DT Nick Fairley

Nick Fairley looked like he might have his breakout season in 2014, but it was unfortunately cut short due to injury. After settling for a one-year prove-it deal with the Rams last offseason, Fairley ended up with just one sack in 2015. That hardly tells the whole story about his season, though. Despite having a more limited role than in Detroit, Fairley finished with his highest overall and run defense grades, and the second-best pass rushing grade of his career. Could Fairly be undervalued again this offseason? If so, can the Seahawks pull out yet another reasonable deal for a productive defensive lineman?

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • Tim Edell

    I think Fairly would be a great fit in Seattle.

    • bill jaffe

      yes he would

    • AJ

      In sub-packages, he could compensate for the loss of Irvin by allowing Bennett to stay on the edge instead of moving inside.

  • Hellifuknow

    Chris Long?

  • Nate Hale

    Glow was a beast in the Arizona game, he is ready to start RG. So:
    C Lewis: Solid and works well with Wilson
    RG Glowinski: Strong and aggressive, always hitting someone, will help……
    RT Britt: He was OK his first season with a sub-par RG, will be better with Glow
    LG Bailey: Knows the left side, will help the new LT……
    LT Gilliam: was good at RT and has the athleticism to block speed rushers

    This should be one of the best young lines next year.

    • Raymond

      Britt was 2nd worst RT in league rookie year. An even worse guard. Need to upgrade badly

    • JEREMY

      I think you are being WAAAAAY overly optimistic. pro football focus had the hawks o-line ranked 30 out of 32 teams. they were man-handled in all but a few games, its a miracle offense was able to even be productive (thank you Russell Wilson!). more specifically out of 77 offensive tackles that qualified for rankings okung was ranked #31. unfortunately, bailey and giliam were pathetic ranked #67 and #63. sweezy and britt were just as bad ranked #66 and #75 out of 81 guards that were ranked. lewis and nowak were equally terrible, ranked #24 and #25 out of 39 ranked centers. glow was far from a ‘beast’ in the Arizona game with a grade of 49.9.
      hawks need a major overhaul here, as in not drafting late round defensive lineman and turning them into o-lineman. it doesn’t help that graham is no help in blocking anybody, but to be fair, that’s not his game. id rather the trade for him never happened. hawks desperately miss Zach millers blocking at TE a couple years ago and letting carpenter go was a big mistake, he was the #17th ranked guard this year.
      sign okung, and make right tackle a big priority with a high draft pick or free agency. let sweezy go, glow will certainly be no worse at RG. bring in some other guys to compete at C and LG, britt, bailey, Nowak/lewis have shown very little to be optimistic about.
      GO HAWKS!!!

      • Nate Hale

        So yes, I am being optimistic This is why:

        Britt has never had the chance to be successful because: 1) Sweezy is terrible and causes anyone next to him to overcompensate and look bad. 2) He is a poor fit as a zone blocking guard, he was often left standing around with no one to block.

        Glowinski IS a beast. He will hit someone even if they are already blocked. This will free the tackle to slide out to get anyone going around the edge.

        The past 2 years the line play improved when Lewis started. This shows he is an asset. He was the reason they felt Unger was no longer needed.

        Sweezy is bringing the entire line down. Just look at the LOB last year. They looked bad at times until Lane was healthy. Without Sweezy giving opponents a point of attack the line will not give up nearly as many sacks and pressures. If Wilson has a couple of seconds he can scramble out and make plays. That is all they need to do.

        • JEREMY

          im not following your rationale very well…..
          britt has definitely had the chance to be successful, hes started almost every single game the hawks have played the past 2 years. he managed to lead the entire nfl in sacks allowed last year and was beaten out by a guy who played tight end in college this year for RT.
          glowinski cant be any worse than sweezy. but calling him a “beast” because he hits guys that are already blocked requires zero talent
          if lewis was the reason they allowed unger to be traded why did the hawks start a former defensive lineman at center for half the year? I think hes better than Nowak, but that’s not saying much
          and finally, lane is a great nickel corner, but if he was so important to the defense he would have been the other starting corner
          it will be very interesting to see how Schneider chooses to address this position group, which, I believe is the 2nd most important position group on offense behind the play of the quarterback because of the way they affect the passing and running game. ……….

          • Bruce Locis

            I would be happy to have Irvin back, but I think he ends up going to Falcons, Raiders or Jaguars for more money than Seattle is willing to pay. I think Seattle looks for a FA to replace Irvin for less $.

            I think Okung will just be too expensive to retain.

            The other thought I have had is that we need a veteran RB to pair with Rawls (and Michael) and take 3rd down snaps. Here my choices would be Bilal Powell, Jacquiz Rogers or Reggie Bush. All three guys are good receivers out of the backfield and can provide some depth running the ball.

          • JEREMY

            if I was betting I think Irvin is as good as gone because defensive coordinators realize how good he is and will pay him. big mistake on hawks part not to give him an extension last year.
            okung is probably the best of a lackluster LT free agent market, its probably 50/50 if hawks are able to keep him.
            keep in mind any RB you bring in better be able to pass block, something lynch was great at. im not a huge fan of rogers or bush, but powell would be a phenomenal pickup because he can do it all.

          • JEREMY

            im a huge lamar miller fan for RB, but I think he might be too expensive

    • Bruce Locis

      Neither Britt or Lewis should be starting IMO.
      Don’t mess up Gilliam’s feet – leave him at RT, he will be better in his second year.
      I don’t mind if Bailey competes at LG, but I think he may be better suited as a multi position backup.

      • David Stinnett

        Lewis has been the only non-Max Unger to perform decently when he was injured and since he left. If you would sit Lewis, you better give me a veteran Center for the year.

        • Bruce Locis

          I’m not sure Patrick Lewis DID perform decently. Sure, he was better than Drew Novack ex-dline dude, but thats not saying much.

          I think C is one position on the oline that is critical to have experience (no converted D line guys at this position, pleeeease!).

          I’d be happy to have the Hawks sign a veteran C. My choices would be S. Wisniewski or B. Jones. I’m also not against using a high draft choice on a C.

          I have heard that the Saints may cut Unger for salary cap reasons, I wouldn’t be against resigning him either.

          • David Stinnett

            I guess my emphasis was off. I want a veteran C for a year. If drafting a C, still likely use a veteran for a year. If no veteran, will need Lewis, at least to start the year. He did get us thru playoffs and on to SB 49. Not proof of individual performance, but I wouldn’t throw a rookie right in there.

          • eYeDEF

            No he didn’t. Unger had returned by the time the ’14 playoffs rolled around.

          • David Stinnett

            SB 49 was 2015 playoffs. Not talking about 2014

          • eYeDEF

            SB 49 was the 2014 playoffs.

            SB 50 was the 2015 playoffs.

    • YouBarkIBite

      Britt needs to go to the bench and not come off except for injury or until his contract runs out. He was terrible at LG last year and that seems to have obscured the fact that he was a below-average RT the year before.

      Bailey was basically handed the starting LG position last off-season and completely blew it. Watch any of the pre-season games last year — he looked awful (as awful as Britt did in the regular season).

      Lewis is OK but it’s hard to believe they couldn’t improve at this position if they bothered to spend some draft capital. Unfortunately at this point the only competition on the roster is yet another d-line convert (Sokoli).

      I am OK with giving Gilliam a shot at LT.

      The team has gaping holes at LG and RT that need to be addressed in the draft or FA. Hopefully Cable has nothing to do with the selection of new players. The o-line acquisitions since he’s been in Seattle have been underwhelming (to put it mildly).

  • Raymond

    Kearse gonna be too expensive. Need that money for offensive line. Osemele a good place to start

  • Bruce Locis

    Oline…..
    Move on from Sweezy.
    I am ambivalent about resigning Okung. He has been our best oline player, but is often injured. So keep him at a reasonable cost or let him walk. If he walks, our first round draft pick should be a LT.
    At Center….. I am happy to Have Patrick Lewis or Lemuel Jeanpierre as a backup, but not as a starter. Sign a good, young FA C with experience – Stephen Wisniewski or Ben Jones.
    I like Glowinski at RG.
    Alvin Bailey or a FA or draft pick for LG.
    Justin Britt can remain on the roster, but only as a back-up.

    Don’t resign Kearse. I love him, but Tyler Lockett will play a bigger role this year and we have other cheaper options – Kevin Smith or Kassen Smith. Maybe Paul Richardson will be able to play more this season.

    Would be happy to have Mebane back at a reasonable cost. Same with Rubin. But this is a great draft for DT’s. I am cool with signing Nick Fairly.

    • JEREMY

      i think you are spot on in almost everything you posted. only changes i would make would be to make resigning okung a priority, unless he completely overprices himself.
      bailey took a major step back last season. barring a major turnaround, were in deep trouble if hes starting.
      id love to keep Irvin, hes one of the most well rounded LB in the league against the run, coverage, and pass rush. i doubt we are able to sign him though
      Gilliam might be a good athlete but hes a terrible OT, hawks need to get a free agent or a high round draft pick to address RT

      • Bruce Locis

        Thanks Jeremy.

        I agree that Gilliam wasn’t terrific (or even good) last season. But given that last year was his first year as a starter, I am expecting him to be better this season.

        Britt, Sweezy, Lewis and Jeanpierre have more than 1 years experience, so I don’t expect them to make significant performance improvements this season. If they are below average starters without much chance for improvement they should be cut / not resigned or relegated to back-up roles.

  • Bruce Locis

    I don’t mind the idea of Richie Incognito at LG.

    The same thought (productive, older veteran on a short contract) applies to LT with Donald Penn.

  • RW111

    1) Resigning Jeremy Lane and Ahtyba Rubin should priority 1) and 1a).

  • AKjester

    The Seahawks hated Incognito. I always wonder about the dynamic when a player that was hated for being a jerk comes to a new team.

    • Bruce Locis

      Seahawks “hated” also Jimmy Graham before he came to the team.

  • Bruce Locis

    Just for fun….. how about signing George Iloka and trade / release Kam Chancellor. I’m sure that Iloka would be happy with Chancellor type money.

  • Brandon

    I’d kinda like to see them trade Chancellor and sign Weddle. You get arguably the same player on the field while getting a true leader. Yes you get a bit older, but you can easily groom a replacement for 2 years down the road when weddle retires.