Everybody loves a trade. It is exciting and brings new hope with new possibilities. They are also rare in the NFL. Making a deal is hard just due to salary cap ramifications and the incredible value of draft picks. Should you find a way past those hurdles, there is still the not-so-insignificant issue of getting a player who can actually contribute. A productive player on one team may not be on another. Integrating a new player onto a team midseason is a little like trying to put on a wingsuit while already falling. Still, the Seahawks are right to explore all options this season. One quality addition to the offensive line could drastically increase the odds that Seattle reaches their championship potential.
At what cost?
Cleveland is said to be asking for “more than a first [round pick]” for tackle Joe Thomas, and somewhere around a third for center Alex Mack. Those are incredibly steep prices for players who are basically on the last year’s of their contracts and are right around 30 years old. Both players also happen to be very good at what they do. If you believe a player can be the difference in hoisting another trophy, no pick is too costly.
That is really the key question here: can one player truly make that big of a difference on the offensive line?
Seattle has three problems on the line. Their left guard has been atrocious in pass protection. Their center(s) have been less than stellar in either pass or run blocking. Their right tackle has been overwhelmed at times in pass protection.
Consider what happens if the Seahawks were to somehow acquire Joe Thomas, who many consider the best tackle in football. Russell Okung probably slides over to right tackle. Garry Gilliam most likely sits, but could compete with Justin Britt at left guard. The edges are now more secure than ever. Interior problems remain. Tom Cable could adjust protections so that the backs were more focused on helping on interior rushers. Tight ends would be far less likely to stay in for pass protection as they usually are helping on the edges. The offense would undoubtedly improve, but the weakness on the interior line still feels like a question mark that makes giving up a high draft pick pretty difficult.
Now think about addressing either the center or guard position. Grabbing a guard, say Alex Boone from San Francisco, would allow the team to either sit Britt or move him back to right tackle. He was at least as challenged in pass protection at right tackle as Gilliam has been. Cable and Pete Carroll have also hinted that Britt can play center. A move like this could allow Britt to take over at center. It is hard to say whether he would be an improvement at that position. Solidifying the left side of the line, though, would give Darrell Bevell more confidence in certain play designs and create more reliability in the run game. It would also put two veterans on either side of whoever was playing center, which should help reduce mistakes. I would be hard-pressed to give up more than fifth for a quality guard on a one-year rental contract.
Center is particularly appealing because that person would be in charge of protections and can help either guard in both pass and run blocking. A veteran who could come in and confidently adjust protections would take a big load off of Russell Wilson’s shoulders. Let’s ignore the fact that we traded a center who fits this description and gave up a first round pick along the way. That ship has sailed. A sturdy center can help combination block to either side in either the run game or in pass protection. Adding a guy like Mack might be worth a third or a fourth if the film proves he can still play at a high level.
There may be more than Alex Mack and Joe Thomas available. Here are some options I explored a few weeks back. Tackle seems like a less likely possibility, so they are not listed here.
An All-Pro who has a contract to match is a pipe dream. He makes the list only because he is so good and playing on a team that just fired its coach and might choose to rebuild.
Smith had been a good center for the Packers, but he was allowed to move on in free agency. He has an ankle injury right now, but could be made available by a very bad Bucs team.
Zuttah just signed a new deal, so he’s probably not going anywhere. Baltimore may also not consider themselves a seller quite yet.
A player who made a free agent visit to the Seahawks this offseason, Wisniewski eventually signed a one year deal with Jacksonville. We know that front office values draft choices and will work with Seattle. He’s not a great player, but definitely has more experience than Nowak and could be a decent stop gap.
Jones plays for a surprisingly bad Texans team. They have a zone blocking scheme that is similar to what Seattle runs.
Mack has been one of the best centers in the league, but has not been playing that way. His Browns team is in the familiar position of being a non-contender. His deal essentially expires after this season, and is said to be on the market.
Kelce has been a great center in Philly. That whole Eagles line is struggling and the team is off to a 1-3 start. Chip Kelly has shown a willingness to make trades but parting with a guy he just gave a long-term contract to last season seems unlikely.
Yanda was listed before he just signed a new extension. He won’t be dealt.
Brooks is an unrestricted free agent after this season and the Texans stink. He is young (26), and could be a nice chance for Seattle to kick the tires on a player who could be part of their long-term plans.
All 49ers eventually end up as Seahawks right? Boone is another player on the last year of his deal playing for a terrible team. Unlike Brooks or Yanda, Boone plays left guard already. Seattle is very familiar with him within the division.
Would you believe Ramirez is another guard in the last year of his deal? It is true, and Seattle just got a chance to see him up close with the Lions. Detroit is winless, and would have to listen to any offers right now.
The former Bronco was rumored to have the Seahawks interest when he became a free agent, but the team never acted on it. He signed a long-term deal with the Jaguars, but has no more guaranteed money on his deal after this season. Jacksonville is not great, and has done business with Seattle before.
Mankins was a former All-Pro lineman in New England who got traded away to Tampa. The Bucs are losing and Mankins is not playing well. A return to a contender might be just what he needs to find that former glory.
Do not hold your breath
I happen to think making a deal is the right thing to do this season. John Schneider may feel the exact same way. A lot has to go right for it to happen. Seattle added a right tackle as a free agent midseason named Chris Terry many moons ago, and it completely unlocked the offense. Picking the right player can absolutely have a ripple effect on the rest of the team. It will be great if the Seahawks find a way to upgrade their talent on the offensive line, but the team goals are not reliant on it.
This group has showed meaningful growth through eight games, and should continue to improve. People point to the zero sack game against the Cowboys, but their performance against Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and the Bengals on the road was the most impressive thing I have seen from them thus far. Their arrow is pointing up. A new infusion of veteran talent could increase their trajectory and make this team that much more dangerous.