2014 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part V: Offensive Line
The Seahawks are Super Bowl Champs. The best team in football. Players want to be with them, teams want to be like them. So starts the Dynasty Off-Season for one of the youngest teams to ever win the Lombardi Trophy. This series will dig into each position group, look at who we have, who might be available, and what the team may do in each area. It will end with a projected off-season plan. You can check out last season’s analysis here. They have been largely accurate, so if you want to know what Seattle will do before they do it, look no further.
Michael Bowie figures to play a large role in the future of the Seahawks offensive line
State Of The Position
One group on the Seahawks was less than super in the 2013 season. An offensive line that featured one Pro Bowl starter at left tackle and a first-team All-Pro at center from the previous season, struggled to produce any sort of consistency at any position. Russell Okung suffered another injury, and missed almost half the year. He courageously battled through the toe injury that very well might require surgery in the off-season. His talent is undeniable, but his durability makes it key to have options at back-up left tackle.
Seahawks coaches chose to stick with Paul McQuistan at left tackle in Okung’s absence, and the offense suffered for it. Going from a top three left tackle in football to possibly the worst tends to show up on game day. The good news is that there actually was quality tackle depth on the roster. Rookie Alvin Bailey got some snaps just before Okung returned at was a far superior left tackle to McQuistan. Bailey is arguably the second-best pass protection tackle on the roster. Michael Bowie, another rookie, is an excellent right tackle or guard prospect, but is not the pass protector Bailey is. Both rookies may wind up starting next season. Bowie could take over at left guard, but a better bet is right tackle. Bailey could become the starting left guard. There is no shortage of irony that two years after spending a first and a third round pick on James Carpenter and John Moffit to be the future starting right tackle and guard, John Schneider looks to have finally found those positions in the 7th round (Bowie) and via undrafted free agency (Bailey).
Carpenter may not be on the team next season, depending on salary cap needs elsewhere. He was given every opportunity to step forward this year, but consistently was the source of pressure up the middle. When he and McQuistan were next to each other, Seattle was allowing pressure on about every other play. Carpenter shows flashes as a run blocker, and heading into the final year of his deal, Seattle likely will want to play this out until the end on the chance that he blossoms into the Larry Allen-like player they envisioned. If nothing else, he makes for a terrific part of a jumbo package against power teams like the 49ers.
Max Unger had a few injuries himself, and never approached the elite play we had seen the year prior. There is no reason to think he is incapable of recapturing that level of performance, but any honest evaluation of his last season has to admit he was less than a Pro Bowl player. His backup, Lemuel Juanpierre, had a terrific year filling in. He is capable of being a starter somewhere, and may get his chance this year as a free agent, assuming the team does not tender him.
Right guard was relatively stable, with J.R. Sweezy getting nearly all the snaps. The team appears to be more satisfied with his play than most observers. He looks to be an adequate guard, who is a plus athlete at the position, and a nice nasty streak. There were not consistent breakdowns or dominant play. It is just his second year playing the offensive line, so he should have more upside ahead. Still, the thought of Bowie and Bailey at both guard spots is appealing.
Breno Giacomini earned some appreciation after he was lost to injury, and people saw that he was not as terrible as they liked to think. He was generally a better pass protector than Bowie, but with the money the team needs to spend elsewhere, it seems like this was The Big Russian’s swan song in Seattle.
2014 Seahawks Free Agent Offensive Lineman:
C/G Lemuel Juanpierre (Restricted)
RT Breno Giacomini
G/T Paul McQuistan
Seahawks Offensive Lineman Under Contract:
G/C Greg Van Roten
T Caylin Hauptmann
2014 Positional Spending
These numbers are provided by OverTheCap.com, and represent what the Seahawks currently have on the books to spend at the position in 2014, as well as where that ranks in the NFL. Being ranked #1 means the team is spending more at that position than any other team, and #32 would mean they are spending the least.
OL: $21,269,861 (#14)
It is hard to imagine the team going big in free agency to address the offensive line. They have their center, left tackle and right guard. They have a right tackle, and two left guards. What they need is depth. That is part of why you saw them grab Greg Van Roten after he was let go. He could be a cheap replacement for Juanpierre. Hauptmann was someone they thought highly enough to carry on the 53-man roster most of the year while jettisoning other quality talent. The only players you may seen them go after in free agency would be cheap depth, like McQuistan has been.
They could probably have McQuistan for the veteran’s minimum. The question will be whether they want younger and cheaper options to maximize the money going elsewhere. Chances of re-signing him are about 50/50, maybe closer to 40/60.
Giacomini is a great fit for the team. His upside is limited, though, and his price will be multiple millions per season. His chances of coming back are under 30%. If he strikes out on the open market, it could mean Seattle gets him back for cheap, and can save a draft choice for another need while also allowing for the potential of Bowie and Bailey to play guard. Not likely, but possible.
Lem has been a perfect back-up lineman, who was solid as both a guard and a center. He will likely get more money elsewhere.
The Seahawks have found their starting right guard, probably their starting left guard, and starting right tackle in rounds seven or later (undrafted). There is no reason to think they need to spend a high pick on a lineman with a guy like Tom Cable coaching them up. Then again, adding another top-shelf talent to the line can only help the offense for years to come. The team has four players who can play tackle and five who can play guard. The versatility of Bowie and Bailey allow the front office to take the talent that comes to them. At least one choice will go towards the line, but it won’t be the high-round priority that some will expect it to be given the unit’s struggles last year.
Seattle had a horrible injury year for their line. The depth held, but barely. That is no way to sustain winning, especially as a running team. A healthy Percy Harvin will help any line they throw out there, as his routes and uses require minimal protection. Still, a young and talented offensive line is the best way to find sustainable offensive success over time. Bailey and Bowie are two of the best prospects this team has seen. Their first year success bodes well for what is to come. Both are stellar run blockers and at least average pass protectors, with Bailey being well above average there. Both can play guard or tackle. Bailey can play either tackle spot. The offensive line should improve just with another year and Bowie and Bailey getting more snaps. Sweezy should continue to grow, although I’m not convinced he will ever be more than a solid player.
Unger and Okung are star quality lineman, but need to stay healthy. Guys like Hauptmann and Van Roten remain unknowns. It is hard, though, to question Cable when it comes to teaching up depth players. Seattle should add 1-3 more lineman, most likely late in the draft and through undrafted free agents. People will freak that they did not do enough. Just wait. This group will enjoy a resurgence next year.