BY Art Thiel 07:22PM 04/26/2020

Update: Britt follows Fluker out Seahawks’ door

The Seahawks cut D.J. Fluker, two-year starter at right guard, and center Justin Britt, recovering from ACL surgery. Combined cap savings is about $12 million.

D.J. Fluker is free to take his 350 pounds to the highest bidder. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

The upgrade work on the Seahawks’ offensive line begins with demolition. A second piece was torn out Sunday night when starting C Justin Britt, who missed the second half of the 2019 season after ACL surgery, was waived. That news followed by a few hours the waiving of RG D.J. Fluker.

After the departure in free agency of Germain Ifedi, the Seahawks’ line will have at least three new starters in 2020.

The cut of Britt, 28, who made 86 starts in 87 career regular-season games over six seasons, will save $8.5 million against the salary cap, after a savings of $3.7 million on Fluker’s deal. After the draft Saturday, the Seahawks had 19 offensive linemen on the roster, and cut the two of the three highest salaries.

When coach Pete Carroll said Friday that third-round draftee Damien Lewis “takes a back seat to nobody,” it wasn’t clear that the right guard from NCAA champion Louisiana State was about to settle into the front seat. The ouster of Fluker, 29, a two-year starter, means Lewis is the leading candidate to succeed him.

Fluker  seemed to take the news professionally when he announced his departure on Twitter.

QB Russell Wilson, who watched Britt move from tackle to guard before finding a home at center, tweeted a salute.

The moves weren’t entirely surprising. The suddenness was, coming a day after a draft whose run-up was curtailed by an NFL-wide shutdown from the pandemic, meaning teams had less time to interview and evaluate prospective draftees prior to selection.

Apparently the Seahawks had seen enough film on the 329-pound Lewis, and heard enough about him from his coach, Ed Ogeron, who was an assistant under Carroll at USC, to need no further proof from any pre-season competition — however much there will be as the shutdown continues.

The job has not been handed to Lewis, who will have arguments for the spot from third-year Jamarco Jones and second-year Phil Haynes. Also on the guard roster are holdovers Jordan Simmons and Ethan Pocic, plus free-agent newcomer Chance Warmack.

Joey Hunt took over for Britt in the the season’s second half and held his own despite being undersized. He returns after signing his free agent tender, but will be challenged by free agent newcomer B.J. Finney from the Steelers.

At left guard, incumbent LG Mike Iupati, 33, was recently re-signed, but faces challenges from the guards previously mentioned. Only LT Duane Brown is assured of his spot.

Britt was a second-round pick (64th overall) in the 2014 draft from Missouri and as a rookie started every game at right tackle in a season that reached the Super Bowl against New England. His knee injury in week eight was the first major one of his career.

A first-round pick from Alabama by the Chargers in 2013, Fluker came to Seattle as a free agent in 2018 from the New York Giants. He started nine games that year, when the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing, and 14 in 2019. His 350+ pounds were an asset in the rushing game, but not so much in pass protection. His history of injuries sometimes limited his in-game effectiveness.

Cutting both players now gives each a better chance to catch on elsewhere. After Monday on the NFL calendar, signings of free agents will not generate compensatory draft picks.

In three years in Baton Rouge, Lewis started 28 games in a row with a line regarded as the best in the country, and was decisive in the 15-0 run to the title. LSU tied the NFL record for a seven-round draft with 14 selections, including four O-linemen, one of which was a long snapper.

“From 2017 to 2019 this year, we did a little bit of everything,” Lewis told Seattle-area reporters Friday on a Zoom conference. “We spread guys out, gap plays, true inside, some wide zone. We did pretty much everything.

“I’m mean, nasty and tough, that’s what I got. I don’t take it from nobody.”

 


YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    Okay, so now we’re down to 57 offensive linemen. 58 was just one too many. Only kidding. I’ll miss the lug.

    • art thiel

      Possible, but I would be surprised if Seattle improved its offer. Schneider just doesn’t do that as a matter of policy.

      • BB46

        Is Britt going to get his $$$ somewhere else or is it possible Seattle resigns to a better cap deal? I thought Britt was a darn good center. I assume knee if going to be fine. At least 2nd half of year which may be all NFL gets to play anyway.

        • art thiel

          Only the Seahawks know about Britt’s recovery, and Carroll said at one point he was making good progress. My guess is they think Finney is younger, cheaper and better.

  • jafabian

    Sad to see the Warrior leaving but this has been mentioned as a possibility for a while. I’m a bit concerned about continuity and familiarity being lost among the O-Line with DJ, Fant and also Britt gone from the team. (Britt announced it on social media earlier today) When the line was having issues before DJ came on board Warren Moon said part of the problem was that the line wasn’t being kept together for any extended period. That they weren’t allowed to grow together. Hopefully that won’t be the case this time around.

    • art thiel

      Line turnover is a fact of NFL life now, given how few good ones come out of the spread offenses of college. Moon’s observation was true when he played, not so much anymore.

      • jafabian

        DJ is one of the few O-Line players I would watch to see what they’d do. He was the first player I ever saw who’d manhandle ndamukong suh. I saw him pancake Suh several times in the same game and I haven’t seen Suh play at the level we were used to see him since. The Instagram post he and Tyler Lockett did to poke fun at Russell Wilson’s announcement of his contract extension was hilarious! Even DangeRuss laughed. And Britt stabilized the center position after losing Max Unger. Very hard to see these kind of players go.

        • art thiel

          Thanks for the recall. Fluker was enjoyable to talk with, even if some of his answers didn’t quite mesh with the questions. He was a popular guy in the locker room. But if you watch his video, you’ll see that pass-blocking was not his specialty.

          I remember Britt most for risking scorn to stand with his black teammates in the social-justice protests. That was impressive.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Britt gone, too. Makes one wonder what might be up. They certainly don’t need anywhere near the cap space created by the departures of those two players to sign their draft picks…

    • art thiel

      Just updated the post for Britt. Part of it is the courtesy of calendar. Free agents signed after Monday won’t generate compensatory picks, making it easier for them to find jobs. And whether something is in the works imminently, I don’t know, but salary cap room is handy for emergency hires, particularly useful in an offseason in which no one knows how it will work during the shutdown.

    • jafabian

      Could be trying to make room for a last ditch try at Clowney but I’m thinking they’re just making room to sign their draft picks and still have room under the cap in case they do an in-season trade or for next season.

      • Husky73

        The Franchise (Wilson) wants Clowney back. I think the odds just got better.

      • art thiel

        Cap room was never a big issue for re-signing Clowney. Over-paying for his value is.

  • wabubba67

    Fluker was actually a first round draft pick in 2013, not 2016.

    New OL:

    LT Brown
    LG Haynes/Simmons
    C Finney
    RG Lewis
    RT Shell

    Backups:

    Swing T: Jones
    RT: Warmack
    G: Iupati, either Haynes or Simmons, Pocic
    C: Hunt, Pocic

    I’m guessing that there is now enough quality depth that Pocic might become expendable. Iupati could be an EXTREMELY valuable experienced backup for either guard position at some point this season….would keep him healthy and rested until an injury occurs to one of the starters.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the fix, and good effort here. I’d put Jones ahead of either Haynes or Simmons at LG, based on experience. Whenever training camp happens, the OL will be the magnum curiosiy.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Hard to loose a couple of leaders on the O-line. So, here we go with another restart for a unit that only functions well with time achieved continuity.

    I guess since Fluker (BTW a Class Act with that video) isn’t needed for his secondary role in mentoring IfediI it pushed him over the edge of expandability. ‘m more surprised to hear about Britt, being that a stalwart Center can be tough to obtain, and the duration of his significant contributions. I can only think that the Hawks are playing the percentages game with his recovery. Love Joey Hunt, but don’t see him being the permanent starter and he’s more valuable as a reserve because of his effective diversity.

  • Eric Degerman

    Mr. Thiel, I heard some sports radio punditry this week that hinted at the possibility of the Hawks bringing back either Britt or Fluker at a reduced rate. What’s your sense of that speculation and which player might be more likely to be back?