Seahawks: Fixing the Offensive Line (in 2017)

Jan 3, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Seahawks’ offensive line took a step forward last week against the 49ers, but questions still remain. How can they fix their issues in the future?

Do not be fooled. What you most recently witnessed was merely an aberration. A mirage. The reason the Seahawks’ offensive line excelled last week was because the opponent wasn’t very good and the game flow was conducive to limiting risk and therefore catastrophe.

The real Seattle offensive line and its true identity will re-introduce itself to us this Sunday in the Meadowlands, unfortunately.

As good as Miami’s D-line was and as great as Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn are in LA, an argument could be made that this week’s matchup versus the Jets could be the most problematic of all when you consider Russell Wilson’s injured knee, injured ankle, and THREE bona fide studs charging him from all angles in Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams.

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I pray Wilson will make it through this game no worse for wear than he already is, though I have serious doubts.

There is just no realistic way to make the line better this season because in-season trades are unlikely, the Seahawks have little cap room to add worthy players and offensive line coach Tom Cable isn’t going to change or improve anytime soon.

There are, however, several veteran options that could be added next offseason that could provide immense improvements over what is being performed out there now.

With that in mind, here are a handful of players to keep track of between now and March the Seahawks could add to a line that is currently so bad it threatens to ruin the entire 2016 season, not to mention the long-term health of the franchise quarterback.

Three Trade Options for the Seahawks

Joe Thomas

This is by far the most talked-about solution for the problem of Tom Cable’s line getting Russell Wilson maimed. It makes so much sense that it is unlikely to happen.

You have a team in clear rebuilding mode- Cleveland- with this one valuable, aging asset that can still bring back premium draft pick compensation due to his sustained success at the left tackle position. Where they could once have gotten more than a first rounder for Thomas, by next offseason it should take no more than a (late) first round choice to pry the future HOF’er out of Cleveland.

Sep 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas (73) against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens defeated the Browns 25-20. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Seattle, assuming they fall short of their goal of adding to their Lombardi Trophy collection in 2016 (by no means am I giving up on it, but the sheer difficulty of winning it all is daunting), may look to shore up the offensive line by trading a draft pick for Thomas–a la the knee-jerk deal for Jimmy Graham just weeks after having to try to win Super Bowl 49 by throwing to a glorified special teamer instead of a true red zone threat.

The desperation of that situation is equalled or surpassed by the need to fix the black hole that is this offensive line–specifically both tackle positions.

The trade-Seattle’s first round pick in 2017 for Joe Thomas (who is under contract through 2018). It’s a classic now-for-later deal.

The likelihood- 25%

Doug Free

While not as sexy a move as the Joe Thomas deal, this one might be more plausible.

Dallas’ offensive is as good as Seattle’s is bad, and the Cowboys are perpetually flirting with the salary cap’s ceiling. In 2017, Dallas ALREADY has $173.8M tied up in charges on just 44 players, which is a problem since the cap is likely to be set around $166M. Their future up front is dedicated to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. As of now, the Cowboys are to allow $6.5M to be tied into right tackle Doug Free’s last season under contract. No way that happens.

Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Doug Free (68) blocks against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

While Free might be amenable to a cut in pay to stay in Dallas, it would be best for the player to be traded to a team that can handle his full salary. Seattle is entering the 2017 season with roughly $30M in cap room and clearly a decent chunk of that should go toward fixing the sieve-like line that “protects” Russell Wilson.

So we have a team looking to shed a contract and a team with cap room in dire need of help at that player’s position. Great. So, what would Dallas want in return?

Considering Free is 33 next year and has just one year left on his deal, Dallas is in no position to ask for a lot. They are benefiting from unloading the contract here.

The Cowboys are weak on defense- especially at the defensive end position, where they have trouble pressuring the opposing quarterback. The Seahawks have a player with one year left on his deal at just a $807,563 cap hit that has proven the ability to at least compete there, as well as at linebacker and on special teams. So…

The trade- Seattle trades DE/LB Cassius Marsh to Dallas for RT Doug Free. Dallas gets cap relief and a rotational piece to add to their defense. Seattle buys a year of competent right tackle play before having to move Ifedi outside in 2018.

The likelihood- 40%

The Seahawks’ Free Agent Options

Aug 28, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) heads for the locker room at the half during a football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Andrew WhitworthCincinnati’s left tackle has been rock steady for a long time. His contract expires after 2016 and he is 34 years old. Will he retire at year’s end? Maybe. If he doesn’t and Cincinnati feels it’s time to move forward with their young tackles (Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi), this could be a perfect one-year signing that helps Seattle immensely while buying them time to find a long-term solution at LT.

The likelihood- 15%

Ryan Schraeder Atlanta’s right tackle has scored well on analytical and metrics-based evaluations. A natural right tackle with a mean streak, he would fit in well next to Ifedi and be a significant upgrade over Garry Gilliam.

The likelihood- 10%

Kevin Zeitler Whitworth’s teammate could enter 2017 free agency as the top-rated offensive lineman overall. It would cost a lot in term and salary to add Zeitler but if the Seahawks did it, they could plug him in at right guard and move Ifedi to right tackle, improving two spots with one move.

The likelihood- 5%

Riley Reiff Another tackle that is scheduled to be available in March of 2017, Reiff has professional experience at both left and right tackle, though he is best suited on the right side. It would be an upset if Detroit did not re-sign him, but if he is available, he becomes a viable option for Seattle.

The likelihood- 5%

Matt Kalil Former top-5 pick at left tackle has been a disaster since his respectable debut season. Now is an injury risk. This would be both the cheapest signing and the highest chance of blowing up in Seattle’s face. No thanks- I’ll pass.

The likelihood- 0%

The Seahawks’ Line Looking Forward

Regardless of the players trade for or signed, we can expect the Seahawks to be very active in terms of acquiring talent to shore up the hideous mess that is the current version of the offensive line. In addition to these veteran options, the team will of course draft more help in late April, almost certainly including at least one tackle prospect.

Next: Sounders Return to the Promised Land

Let’s hope the team is able to fix this mess before it shatters the body and confidence of the best quarterback in franchise history.