BY Art Thiel 03:00PM 03/12/2017

Thiel: News on Lang, Joeckel bad for Seahawks

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?!

GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroill didn’t have a great first weekend in the free agent bazaar. / Seahawks.com

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!”

 


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YourThoughts

  • ss

    7mil guaranteed to that guy? How could Schneider have pulled such a colossal boner? Please, say it ain’t so.

    • art thiel

      Pete Carroll loves him some Joeckel. Read today’s story.

  • 1coolguy

    JS does well with the draft yet as to the FA market and trades, I think he needs to get a reality check, as he hasn’t done so well there.

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    • art thiel

      FA has slain many a GM. Flops exceed the successes, but to not try signals failure to many fans.

  • DJ

    To the last two paragraphs – No kidding, Art!! Thanks

    TJ Lang has got it going on upstairs, no doubt! Detroit quality of life for a young family better than Seattle? That’s against the trend of the last 20 or so years. I still can’t figure out why people keep moving to Seattle – it’s been too popular for it’s own good, with no possibility for improvement in sight. It’s ’bout time that a pro athlete recognized and acted on the reality that “is” the Pacific North West as it stands today, instead of bucking to the popular trend.

    Seahawks missed out on the best, and now the smartest, free agent lineman available.

    • art thiel

      I believe the same good-old-days lament was offered to Dad Yesler when he created “skid row” to slide logs down from First Hill. Twas ever thus.

  • John M

    As Lewis Black might say, Well, we had to get a guy, and he was the last guy left . . .

    • art thiel

      Or Janis Ian, choosing sides for basketball.

  • woofer

    For $7 million Schneider could have brought back Percy Harvin. As for Lang, he probably figured out that he could buy a castle in Detroit complete with moat and dragons for the price of a Seattle condo.

    • art thiel

      Pete Carroll said today Lang and his wife just bought a big home on the lake near Detroit. For $7M in SEA, your waterfront is a boathouse and cabana.

  • Paul Harmening

    Sooner or later, legalized pot in Washington St will come home to roost where you least likely look for it. Looks like they growing a bit too much down there in the Hawks nest.

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    • art thiel

      I might have said that regarding Whitehurst, but then that would have gotten them arrested.

  • Kirkland

    This seems like the quarterback situation in 2011. The new Carroll/Schneider regime let Hasselbeck go and there wasn’t an adequate replacement available in the draft or free agency. They then signed Tarvaris Jackson as a placeholder in the hopes of finding something better in 2012. That year, they draft Russell Wilson. Joeckel is likely that Jackson stopgap on the offensive line until the Seahawks see how the 2018 FA and draft classes shake out.

    • art thiel

      Could be. Joeckel was expensive but it’s still a prove-it deal as were Bennett and Avril four years ago.

  • It’s only Sports

    All things equal Lang chose Detroit having grown up a Lions fan. He probably dreamed of playing for the Lions much they way Budda Baker probably grew up imagining his running routes with the Legion of boom. Tough break for Seattle.
    With Joeckel…Here is to hoping Cable coaches up a guy who was expected to be #2 in the 1st round material back in that 2013 draft. If they just get decent value out of the guy it could help them reach 017 goals. Being on a winning team could be just the tonic needed to get the guy right.

    • art thiel

      Overpaying both Lang and Joeckel may have been a worse problem. Lang is 30 coming off two injuries.

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  • turbo_tpl

    I like to think positive. Joeckel was quite possibly the worst lineman in the NFL (and the biggest bust) even before he blew his knee into smithereens. Certainly he couldn’t have gotten worse …. right?