As per usual, the Seattle Seahawks have been rather quiet in the first week of free agency. Staying true to form, they have retained their own players first, and found bargains where possible. While most of the focus remains on pass rush and what happens with Jadeveon Clowney, John Schneider has added four offensive linemen, shoring up depth and adding competition to the starting rotation. What’s changed though? At first glance, some have observed that these four linemen are graded higher as pass protectors rather than run blockers, per PFF. This may or may not seem insignificant, but it could represent a change in profile versus prioritizing run blockers in the past. As if they needed any more reason to protect their expensive investment at QB, the defensive fronts of their division foes are some of the best in the league. What do each of these signings imply though, and where do they fit in?
By way of the Pittsburgh Steelers, BJ Finney is perhaps the most interesting case study. He’s an interior offensive lineman with some starting experience at both guard and center. The fact that Seattle likes his versatility isn’t that interesting, but his contract does indicate they like him enough to keep him on the 53-man roster for at least a year. With only 32-inch arms, Finney is not a guy they’ll transition to the tackle position. So, it begs the question. Is he primarily a center or guard, and is their writing on the wall as it pertains to Justin Britt? Britt is a popular name when discussing potential cap casualties and so some have made the claim Finney is here to replace Britt. Cutting Britt would save the Seahawks 8.5M dollars per OverTheCap. However, I think Justin Britt is still a better candidate for contract restructure. As the market has indicated, teams are hesitant on spending big money for players they can’t medically evaluate. Britt is still recovering from an ACL tear in late October. I think he’s inclined to restructure as opposed to asking for a trade or release. From my perspective Finney is a hedge for Britt, no matter the ultimate outcome. If Britt remains a Seahawk in 2020, Finney can compete with Phil Haynes for the starting left guard position. That said, he does seem to be more natural at center than guard in these cutups I made below:
The Seahawks appear to have found a replacement for Germain Ifedi in Brandon Shell. Physically, the two almost mirror each other in measurement and testing scores. Both have amassed quite a bit of starting experience since entering the league in 2016. And while Ifedi may end up signing a more lucrative contract in free agency, Shell may end up the equal or greater quality at lesser cost. However, we should anticipate the Seahawks to add more competition for that right tackle spot, and lest we not forget Jamarco Jones, who played right tackle for Ohio State. As it pertains to the theme of improving pass protection, Shell has graded out better than Ifedi. If we average out each of their pass protection grades since 2016, Shell comes in at 71.3 with 14 combined penalties, and 16 combined sacks yielded. Germain, a 59.8 with 52 combined penalties, and 21 combined sacks yielded. It’s fair to mention that Germain has played a significant amount more snaps than Brandon, and this obviously impacts the grading. This is a perfect example of why we go to the film after we have the statistics:
If you’re not a draftnik or have a great memory, it may have taken a google search to realize this guy was a 1st round selection in 2015. Like many others before him and to come, Cedric has battled with injuries since entering the league. Tearing his ACL just a couple months before being drafted, Cedric essentially had to “redshirt” his rookie season with the Bengals. Though he started the following year, he battled a rotator cuff injury that ultimately sent him to Injured Reserve. In 2017, he managed to start his personal best in a season (13) but has never played an entire year healthy. Here’s his last healthy start from that season:
Nothing to write home about, but not half-bad. Unfortunately, in the following week from this game, Cedric’s season would be over after injuring his shoulder again. He was never able to take advantage of the opportunity given in the wake of Andrew Whitworth’s departure, and Cincinnati ultimately moved on from him for Jonah Williams. Cedric has spent the last two seasons in Jacksonville but in a backup role with only 209 snaps combined. I imagine Coach Carroll will give him every opportunity to battle for the starting right tackle job but, realistically, the former first rounder is now a long shot, and is likely facing his final opportunity to salvage his career.
Hoping to reunite with former Crimson Tide teammate DJ Fluker, Chance Warmack is another “opportunity guy”. Much like DJ, Chance is now on his 3rd team since being drafted. While DJ has somewhat gotten his career back on track, Warmack has little to show for since 2015, and wasn’t even on a roster in 2019. The Seahawks have been somewhat obsessed with first round reclamation projects from the 2013 draft class.
Though it’s been awhile since Chance played, it’s fair to mention he does have 51 NFL starts. He’s played both left and right guard and graded well in his first three seasons with Tennessee. Most recently, he served as a backup for the Eagles but did start three games in 2017. Of all the guys Seattle brought in, Warmack has the most name value and resume dating back to his days in Alabama. He’s played in big time games, and even experienced a Super Bowl run. That means little to Seattle as they’ll likely add him to the left guard competition with Finney and Haynes. Here were his last two starts in the league:
We still have the draft ahead of us, but if these signings are an indication of anything, Seattle is going to put together a defensive-heavy class. From my perspective, I don’t see them using a first-round selection on a tackle like Josh Jones from Houston, or Lucas Niang from TCU. Folks may not like to hear they’re not using big resources to address offensive line, but they’ve been able to win a lot of games despite having below average offensive lines. Obviously, that’s not a reason to not improve. It’s still a large concern, but the team can only prioritize so much in one offseason and the biggest need is pass rush. With, or without Jadeveon Clowney.
As I’ve said in the past, the Seahawks offensive line woes aren’t due to poor scouting or evaluating. It’s the lack in developing players they’ve drafted. So, while it’s fine to sign veteran guards each year to buy yourself some time, eventually your young players need to be on the field to make mistakes and grow. No prospect becomes a finished product in practice. And there’s only so much a guy can benefit from mental reps in film study. If that means Phil Haynes starts week 1 even if BJ Finney is closer to a finished product, so be it. If you read someone saying, “just put the best 5 out there”, they likely do not understand this can contradict the development of young players. The result? The cycle of relying on stop-gap veteran guards never ends. The competition at camp this year will be fierce, but in my humble blogger-boi opinion, it’s time for the team to play their young players.