T.J. Lang, the best remaining free agent offensive lineman, spurned the Seahawks Sunday for the Lions. And it turns out $7 million of Luke Joeckel’s $8 million deal is guaranteed. What?!
Seahawks fans must be hoping that the “alternative facts” national trend will trickle down to the NFL. Otherwise, they may have to accept as true that the Seahawks guaranteed $7 million next season to a broken-down lineman for whom lamentable Jacksonville had no room, as well as being told to drop dead Sunday by T.J. Lang, the last remaining quality lineman in NFL free agency.
Sunday’s news for the Seahawks might even be deemed deplorable.
Nothing in the four-year professional resume of Luke Joeckel says the tackle is worth $7 million guaranteed, even if the deal is just one year. His career with the Jaguars ended Oct. 4, when he tore up his left knee so severely in a game against the Colts that he required surgery to repair his ACL, MCL and meniscus — the third injury in his career that cost games. Dave Caldwell, the Jags GM who drafted Joeckel, said a year ago he would not pick up Joeckel’s fifth-year option.
The assumption was when Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, and the Seahawks agreed to terms in the first hour of free agency Thursday, the reported deal for $8 million was heavy with incentives, making it a relatively low-risk gamble. But no.
He’s guaranteed nearly as much money as the entire Seahawks line was paid in 2016. Even before his latest injury, Jacksonville considered him such a flop at left tackle, where he starred for four years at Texas A&M protecting QB Johnny Manziel, that they moved him to guard for 2016.
While it’s true that the Seahawks have little experience paying O-linemen big money, there doesn’t seem to be much point in tossing money into the Grand Canyon on a windy day. Perhaps there was undisclosed competition for the services of Joeckel, but at least eight teams found free agent lineman they liked better since the start of free agency.
The Seahawks were $25 million under the salary cap, but giving $7 million to a guy with a rebuilt knee and a still-damaged reputation suggests that the financial floor for pro-grade offensive linemen suddenly eclipses that of gold bullion. It also could be that Seahawks John Schneider simply lost his mind.
So far, there has been no medical evidence to support the notion. I’m going with the speculation that Joeckel is actually Wolverine of the X-Men film series who has superhuman powers of healing.
Regarding Lang, the well-regarded, eight-year veteran guard from the Packers who visited the Seahawks Friday and Saturday, reports say that the Lions matched the Seahawks’ three-year offer, said to be $28 million, with $19 million guaranteed.
Lang told the Detroit Free Press Sunday that the decision came down to where he wanted his young family to grow up. That may seem like a first for Detroit to beat Seattle on a lifestyle choice, but Lang is an area native who attended Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, 36 miles from Detroit.
“The easy part is we narrowed down to (Packers, Lions and Seahawks) because I really felt like all three of these teams are ready to win now and ready to compete and ready to contend for championships,” Lang said. “So that’s not anything that I’m really thinking about. I really feel strong about all three of those teams.
“Right now, I think the biggest thing is it’s not just me making a decision on where I want to go play, what team I want to play for, what city I want to live in. It’s more for my family. My son is going to be in first grade this year, my daughter’s growing up. It’s trying to narrow down every single scenario and we did a lot of homework.”
Lang, 29, also had arthroscopic hip surgery in the offseason as well as a foot injury. So he had to demonstrate they were no impediment to a 2017 return.
“That was the biggest reason why I took the visits, just because teams wanted to see the hip, teams wanted to see the X-rays, the MRIs, they wanted to see how I was doing up to this point,” he said. “And everything I got from everywhere I went, from Green Bay’s doctors to Detroit’s doctors to Seattle’s doctors, everybody was really pumped about it. They’re like, ‘Yep, the hip honestly from where you’re at from six weeks (out of surgery), it looks great.'”
So where does that leave the Seahawks?
Unless they want to make an offer to another mediocre lineman from the remainders table, it seems as if Joeckel will compete for a starting job with tackles George Fant and Garry Gilliam, the latter a restricted free agent who received a qualifying offer from the Seahawks.
The draft this year seems an unlikely source of replenishment because the O-line class is so weak, and also because Schneider said recently the Seahawks “got too young” on the line last year. A trade is always a possibility, but given the dearth of run-blocking O-linemen coming out of the colleges recently, even a below-average player would likely require treasure akin to the casinos of Macao to obtain.
The Seahawks are set at center with Justin Britt, and figure to go again at guard with Mark Glowinski on the left and rookie Germain Ifedi on the right. Another rookie last year, backup Rees Odhiambo, will be in the mix.
Knowing line coach Tom Cable, he’ll probably lobby the Seahawks to draft a nasty defensive lineman in the sixth round to mold into a capable offensive guy. But the Era of Perpetual Experimentation would seem to have run out.
Hey, Russell Wilson is about to become a father, and the least the Seahawks could do is offer him a little something other than a loud shout of, “Duck!”