BY Art Thiel 07:16AM 02/24/2017

Thiel: Seahawks could use a little grizzle in ’17

Both offensive tackles from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl champion team, Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, will be available in free agency. Time to go back to the future? Sure. Or do you want a repeat of ’16?

LT Russell Okung will be a free agent again, and he’s only 29. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

If many Seahawks fans had their way, general manager John Schneider would draft or sign in free agency the four biggest, baddest offensive linemen since Troy and Sparta went at it in the early Greek league. But if you were listening to coach Pete Carroll’s presser at season’s end, you will recall that he gave the idea a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag.

“We have nothing but good things to think that (progress) will take place and the guys are going to get better,” he said of the line. “There’s opportunities in the draft and free agency and all of that, that we’re open to. We’ll never turn away from any of those chances.

“But if nothing happened, these guys are coming back, and they’re going to get after it. They’re going to be farther along than they were. It couldn’t be more obvious. That’s just a natural thing that’s going to happen.”

I can hear the crickets in the readership from here.

Carroll is prepared to go into into 2017 with LT George Fant, LT Mark Glowinski, RG Germain Ifedi and RT Garry Gilliam. But besides the career renaissance of Justin Britt converting to center, none of them inspires much belief among the faithful, not after the Seahawks finished 25th in rushing with 99.4 yards a game. For a team with a proud rushing tradition, it was like Superman attempting to fly with his cape caught in the door.

Then again, the line was part of a regular-season feat unique in the NFL in 2016 — the Seahawks beat both Super Bowl entrants, Atlanta and New England.

So it’s not as if things are hopeless. But the fact was the coaches asked a ridiculous amount from two rookies, Ifedi and Fant, and Glowinski was a second-year player with one start. Particularly after the retirement of RB Marshawn Lynch, whose unique beastliness can do wonders for a lineman’s resume.

The line’s future became a matter of intrigue Thursday with the coincidental news that both tackles from the Seahawks’ 2013 team that won the Super Bowl will be available.

LT Russell Okung was told his expensive option would not be picked up by the Denver Broncos, whom he joined last season after six years with the Seahawks. Okung signed a one-year, $5 million deal acting as his own agent, a maneuver criticized by many in the league as foolish.

He accepted a back-loaded deal that could have earned him up to $48 million over the next four years, and played all 16 games for the first time in his career at 29. But the Broncos saved $11 million against the cap in 2017 by cutting him before the March 9 commencement of free agency. He graded out 38th among 78 rated tackles by Pro Football Focus.

RT Breno Giacomini was cut by the New York Jets after three seasons, saving $4.5 million against the cap from the final year of a deal he took in free agency after helping win the Super Bowl in Seattle. In September, he’ll be 32 and played only five games last season because of a herniated disc, which was surgically repaired in January.

Of the two, Okung obviously has more upside, but both are likely better that what the Seahawks fetched in free agency last year, Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb. And the Seahawks are an estimated $32 million under the 2017 salary cap.

But the Seahawks and assistant coach Tom Cable have always preferred to grow their own linemen, particularly in an era when colleges teach run blocking like ballerinas teach blacksmithing.

Adding either Okung or Giacomini would be a much easier transition than teaching newbies the subtle arts of zone blocking. And the investment likely would be for just one year, although Okung benefits from the presence of few quality left tackles in the free agent market, and might draw a multi-year offer.

As long as we’re going gray here, there’s another name that could intrigue the Seahawks — three-time Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth, whose team of 12 years, the Cincinnati Bengals, has to decide whether to invest in him at 35 or let him go to into free agency to seek a job with a contender.

Whitworth doesn’t have a big public profile, but Pro Football Focus rated him, at 35, the second-best tackle last season. In an interview reported by NFL.com, Whitworth would prefer to return to the Bengals, but said also said he was ready to test the market.

The Seahawks’ draft choices would be much better spent fixing the defense, which hasn’t developed a strong starter to succeed their aging core, although DE Frank Clark is coming close. My personal favorite is Michigan’s LB/SS Jabrill Peppers, who may require trading up, but is the kind of hard-hitting, versatile athlete Carroll loves.

And if you’re  buying the notion of one-year patches to take some pressure off youngsters, I have another suggestion — RB Adrian Peterson.

The Seahawks went through a mess o’ backs last season, and the Minnesota Vikings would have to pay Peterson, 32, $18 million if he played for them in 2017. That would be after he carried 37 times for 72 yards in three 2016 games after a meniscus tear that required knee surgery. Doesn’t sound like a good investment in Minnesota, although the Vikings have not declared their intentions.

Yes, after 10 years in Minnesota, where he was NFL MVP in 2012, he’s on the downside.  But in Seattle, where youngsters Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise return — health permitting — he wouldn’t have to be the AP of old. Just the once-in-awhile AP.

Peterson did an interview recently in which in mentioned the Giants, Bucs, and Texans as possible fits, but his preference was to stay in the Twin Cities. Much NFL speculation has him going to Dallas to back up rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott.

No one is mentioning Seattle. At least until now. But if he passes the physical, a one-season deal in a new place with a regular contender could constitute a career revival.

Plus he’d have former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh with whom to share a last laugh at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.


YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    The superman cape and blacksmithing are among your best metaphors, Art.

    I still have trouble picturing Sowell, Fant and Gilliam improving enough to make the Hawks competitive.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the kudo.

      I get what they see in Fant. Gilliam had a late-season uptick but I don’t see Sowell returning.

  • Ben

    We wrote about AP coming to Seattle several weeks ago. http://emeraldcityswagger.com/2017/01/03/seattle-seahawks-rumors-adrian-peterson/ Makes sense to me, but still seems like a longshot. Glad to see the great Art Thiel joining the chorus to bring him to the Seahawks.

    • art thiel

      Well done, Ben. Lots of talk about AP and Jamaal Charles, if they can be had on one-year deals. But a team or two is likely to do give them two years, and I think the Seahawks would move on from that.

      • SeaRaays

        Hopefully we see a giant hammer and better anvil in the draft and afterwards. Reece works as a slower 3rd down back …just doesn’t have the push and drive to make holes at the line for short yardage as a FB. Now the top Free agents at RB are to rich of price for the Seahawks. They need that money to get O line help. Okung would be perfect. Knows the system yet his ego must be telling him anyone but Seattle. PC and JS will have to treat him like a number one recruit …sending RW to take him on steak dinners and flying him on Jimmy’s seaplane while landing on Allen’s yacht …bad idea Jimmy’s pay check and Allen’s giant yacht would remind him …that they let him go and want to pay him less.

  • Paul Harmening

    “…he (Carroll) said of the line. “There’s opportunities in the draft and free
    agency and all of that, that we’re open to. We’ll never turn away from
    any of those chances.
    “But if nothing happened, these guys are coming back, and they’re
    going to get after it. They’re going to be farther along than they were.”

    That’s financial positioning speak for potential free agent signings. Pete and John had to have a pretty good idea what possibilities might become available, especially on the OL. And are they really going to roll the dice once again on these same guys? Just how much farther along do they see them going? Enough to get them to the NFC title and another Superbowl trip? As I know you do Art, I seriously doubt it. And please, no more Oakland scraps off the table. Just git-er-done fellas.

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    • art thiel

      I think they see year-over-year improvement because of the athletic upside of all five. Britt is an example of a guy that took three years to find a fit.

      Regarding FAs, I think Carroll/Cable much prefer to draft OLs than hire them. Too many bad habits to break.

  • richardfg7

    Coach Carroll must know both tackles must be replaced

    • art thiel

      He’s happy with Fant’s athleticism, and is willing to let him learn on the job. Gilliam improved late, but if they bring in an FA, that’s where the need is highest.

  • Ken S.

    The rest of the NFL must think it very nice of the Seahawks to take in these OL guys – train them with one of the best OL coaches in the business – then let them go to free agency. I haven’t been very impressed with the Hawk’s ability to retain the OL. Good Lord! You got a 21 million dollar quarterback to protect! I know Cable is a great coach but it seems he’s working harder than ever and getting less than before. Not that I suspect Tom’s ability but damn! Give him something to work with. Get some talent!

    • art thiel

      Seahawks have spent more draft picks on OLs than any other position, but also let them move on because they aren’t difference-makers relative to defense/QB. They trust Cable to coach up athletes. And they think the 5 they have will be much improved ofver 2016.