The Joeckel Is On Us

Seahawks fans got some bad news this weekend when Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang spurned Seattle’s offer to return to his hometown Detroit Lions squad. The queasiness grew after learning the draft bust Luke Joeckel’s one year contract with the Seahawks was guaranteed to pay him at least $7.25M. That staggering sum brought with it a double dose of discomfort as it indicates both that the Seahawks see Joeckel as a starting tackle (where he failed miserably in Jacksonville), and that he will receive a salary usually reserved for quality starters in this league. The other players on the Seahawks roster with a salary cap number over $7M this year are: Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner. Players like K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril will be below Joeckel in the salary ranks. If that seems wrong to you, that is because it is. Terribly wrong. Seattle found itself in this situation after years of mishandled offensive line decisions. The most egregious errors were not made this offseason, but last.


Bumper crop left untouched

If you wince when watching violence and gore, you may want to avert your eyes for the next few paragraphs. As mentioned earlier, Lang left Seattle to sign with Detroit. His contract has been reported to be a 3-year deal with an average of $9.5M per year and roughly $20M guaranteed. That is a hefty sum for a guard, but Lang is Pro Bowl player. The Lions ended up just matching a Seahawks offer, allowing another team to do the negotiating for them.

Paul Allen famously asked Chad Brown for a number that the free agent linebacker would sign for on the spot, without needing to weigh his options. It would have taken that kind of tactic to bring Lang to Seattle. The team rightly does not like being held over a barrel and prefers players who want to be here. The issue is less that they allowed Lang to leave the building, and more that they had so many eggs in that basket to begin with.

Lang’s $9.5M average salary and $20M guaranteed sounds like a lot. Consider some of the players the Seahawks could have signed last year for that amount or less


Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz $6.6M average, $20.7M guaranteed

Schwartz was the top right tackle on the market last year. He was a terrific add for the Chiefs, who is still just 27-years-old. He was #15 on my Seahawks free agent big board last year.


Guard Jeff Allen $7M average, $12M guaranteed

Allen had been a quality starter for the Chiefs for years. He is not quite as good as Lang, but is not that far behind either. He was #29 on my big board.


Guard Alex Boone $6.7M average, $10M guaranteed

A lot of Seahawks fans wanted Boone last year. He signed with the Vikings, and was #28 on my big board.


Guard Josh Sitton $7M average, $7.25M guaranteed

Sitton was a late salary cap cut from the Packers, and the Bears scooped him up. This came later, and would have been harder for the Seahawks to make space for. Sitton made the Pro Bowl last year.


Left tackle Donald Penn $5.95M average, $5.5M guaranteed

Penn was #20 on my big board. He is exactly the veteran tackle the Seahawks needed, and still need. He is a near Pro Bowl player who is durable and excels in both run and pass blocking. Look at those contract numbers.


There were also these two All-Pro level players who would have cost just a skosh more than what Seattle was offering Lang.


Center Alex Mack $9M average, $28.8M guaranteed

Pete Carroll admitted the team was interested in Mack, but he wound up costing more than they were willing to spend. Mack keyed the Falcons rise to a Super Bowl team, anchoring the core of their line. Signing him would have allowed Justin Britt to occupy one of the guard spots. Mack was not high on my big board (#38) because of his age and his price tag.


Guard/Tackle Kelechi Osemele $11.7M average, $25.4M guaranteed

Osemele was #1 on my big board. You knew he was going to command top dollar, but he was a rare youthful player with All-Pro potential who could play both guard and tackle at a high level. If you wanted to truly change the trajectory of your line, this was a player who could do it. He became a first-team All-Pro last year for Oakland. Had he played for the Seahawks, he could have played guard or tackle. Skies would be bluer. Clouds would be whiter. Water would be wetter.


Not listening to themselves

John Schneider, Carroll, and Tom Cable have been telling everyone who would listen the past few years that offensive linemen coming out of college are terrible. The cupboard is bare. They also have been telling everyone that the run game is crucial to their core football philosophy. They are right on both accounts, but seem to have been a year late and a few dollars short of turning those realities into proper action.

If the quality of line talent coming out of college is dropping, what is the logical impact of that? Veteran linemen who have proven they can play at this level will see their worth drastically increase. Last year was the time to get ahead of that curve.

There was a terrific selection of veteran linemen of all shapes, sizes, and positions available via free agency, and maybe even trade in the case of a guy like Sitton. The Seahawks walked away with Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb. Yikes.


Spilt milk

Those decisions cannot be undone any more than Lang’s decision to sign with Detroit. Seattle is now left with largely the same underwhelming line they exited the season with. More critical than signing another free agent at that position is avoiding any more desperate signings of guys like Joeckel.


The worst free agent decisions are almost always made when a team misses on their primary target and moves to their secondary and tertiary options. They want to add someone, anyone, and they overpay a mediocre or worse player. Do not throw bad money after bad money.


They also need to be careful not to oversteer their draft board to overcompensate for the free agent failings. Getting another mediocre or worse lineman with a first round pick would be a huge gut punch when the team really needs to grab from the list of great corners there.

The hope is the Seahawks start bargain shopping. Grab a guy like Breno Giacomini at a small salary. Look at other stopgap veteran options who could come in here and compete for a job. See if there are any options available via trade. Be wise.

There is always an upshot when your team loses out on an expensive free agent. The money can be spent elsewhere, and in other ways. Should we, however, look back on another lost Seahawks season with problems along the offensive line as the primary culprit, it will be due to a failed 2016 free agent strategy more than any decision made this year.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. Unless I’m misreading your commentary, there’s a flaw in your analysis. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    It’s been pretty widely reported that Seattle extended Joeckel the contract offer minutes after free agency began, nearly two full days before Lang was offered a contract (upon arriving in Seattle).

    Three days after Joeckel was signed, Lang declined (not “spurned”, as you characterized it) Seattle’s offer. However your analysis positions the Joeckel signing as a desperation move because they didn’t get “their guy” in TJ Lang.

    I certainly agree with the notion that the team can’t ‘over-react’ by skewing their draft board, or desperately signing other FAs, but I don’t see Joeckel’s signing having anything to do with (and definitely not the result of) Lang declining to sign in Seattle.

    1. Plus, the only time a player has leverage is before he signs a contract.

      Since Lang didn’t get an offer he couldn’t refuse, he wanted to give his hometown team a chance to match. This doesn’t mean that Lang didn’t want to be in Seattle — he just wanted the best deal he could get. Can’t blame anyone for that.

  2. I’ll start with your closing commentary laying it on the bad decisions of ’16. I can’t help but wonder what JS has learned from that. This is a team that, to their credit mostly, doesn’t typically throw it’s people under the bus publicly. The comments JS made a short while ago about the O-line getting too young were telling, particularly when coupled with his lament for buying into the decision to release Jhari Evans. That may be as close to a public rebuke of Cable, and maybe Carroll, as he’ll get. But has it changed any of the decision making behind closed doors? Perhaps, as demonstrated by responding more readily to current market pricing…….albeit to little avail so far. The cap space was tighter last year for sure just in raw numbers, but quite frankly the inflation in linemen salaries has translated into pretty much the same constriction this year for relative dollar availability. There’s a discussion to be had about maximizing salary allocations, but this isn’t the time or place.

    That being said, they would have had to have gotten two of those prospects from last year to have had sufficient impact in my opinion. Only one would be the silver bullet approach that rarely works. Not to throw mud on your commentary, but none of those guys listed above lifted their team to super bowl victory with Mack’s help to Atlanta the narrow, near, exception. Arthur has a pretty good commentary today about the insanity of current pricing…………Okung highest paid tackle in the league? Denver dumped his butt after one season…………a season where his addition may not be responsible for, but was part of, their not even getting into the playoffs.

    I agree with you that they shouldn’t mortgage the defense rich draft pool this year by panicking and forcing an O-line choice with fingers crossed. For those that think taking a flyer on a draft choice, especially a highly ranked one, need look no further than the guy we signed last week that many fans now complain bitterly about…………….Joeckel was so sure fire 4 years ago he was a #2 pick. Risky business, this football stuff…………..

  3. I love reading your articles cause you tell the truth vs what mist Hawk fans want hear. The issue with extends past even last year in my opinion. Letting go of guys like Breno, Carpenter and Okung without having replacements ready has been devastating to this O-line. They seem so obsessed with maintaining the defense that always number 1 that they completely overlook thing like the oline and general. I would much rather have a good defense with good offense that consistently score vs the greatest defense in the league with an offense and do crap cause all the olinemen are revolving doors. Teams may be successful for a year with that kind of setup it invariably will lead to its downfall. Great example is Denver who won the superbowl based on a great defense but fell off a cliff the next year. Compare that to New England who has consistently maintain a solid balance and won 5 Superbowls in the last 15 years.

    1. “They seem so obsessed with maintaining the defense that always number 1 that they completely overlook thing like the oline and general.”

      Of the team that won the SB, Baldwin, Kearse, Wilson each received a second contract from the Seahawks. On defense, Avril, Bennett, Chancellor, Lane, Sherman, Thomas, Wagner, and Wright received second deals. It’s not clear to me what they could have done differently. Kearse and Lane stand out as not exactly core players, but they came relatively cheap, too.

      Basically, they could have drafted better offensive lineman, which we already know.

  4. Convincing and depressing column. Never gonna get this right until they get over the idea that Cable is an offensive line guru. Even on the Super Bowl teams the OL was the biggest weakness. Poor Russell.

  5. Does anyone know if there was competition for Joekel? They jumped on him quickly and it just seems like a huge guaranteed contract for a guy who quite honestly has been completely terrible and without value. Who was JS competing with that led him to believe that a guaranteed salary of that magnitude was required. The real person who deserves a huge increase in salary is probably Joekel’s agent.

    1. The only commentary remotely related I’ve seen is PC saying that Gus Bradley gave him a strong personal reference…………….for what that’s worth. Whatever was said there may have given PC or Cable a belief they had some inside dope to “train him up”. Cable has enough hubris to believe he can “train up” a ham sandwich to be a good O-lineman, and apparently, since he’s also mostly in charge of the running game, he believes he can discipline Lacy eating as well (it has been good for some funny commentary so for though…… favorite being “feast mode”, whoever came up with that deserves season tickets). Again, time will tell. I do get that the Hawks need to “think outside the box” in order to excel. Those that follow conventional wisdom (as do most fans and sports writers/broadcasters) are mostly mired in mediocrity (see list above of some teams that tried to buy championship caliber by overvaluing FAs). While almost everyone is tired of Belichick/Patriots references, they think way outside the box, and look at how much cap room they started the new season with.

      1. Exactly, Uncle Bob. Well said. I guess that is why they are, the NE Patriots, always in the conversation of an SB contender. I remember a couple of years ago when we won and went back to the SB, the fans and pundits were ready to make us a dynastic team, which I thought it was premature for the coronation at the time. As the cards are unfolded as time passed by, we can see the differences of greatness between organizations. Regarding the arrogance of TC, I squarely put the responsibility on PC. He is the head coach and the leader of this team, and the ONLY one who can make decisions relating to his staff. IMO, PC is a great coach, but he is one trick pony in the context of adapting/changing. I’ve seen this picture before from the USC days. I guess when you are at a certain age, we can’t expect people to change. In the end, it is PC has the hubris not to think outside of the box or can he? Correct me if I am wrong, have you ever heard PC admitted to any “mistakes” or wrong “decisions” publicly? I hope that I am wrong, but this project will be another example of “bad money drives out good.”

  6. I agree with most of your article but disagree they overpaid for him. They didn’t pay him Tackle money as most of the Free Agent tackle money is MUCH higher on a per year avg basis for this Free Agency Season. They paid him Guard money comparable to what the Free Agent guards have been signing for.

  7. Hey Brian, who stole the half-full water from your glass?

    Stufr over at FG had an interesting fanpost here:

    The point is that the Fant-Glo-Britt-Ifedi-Gilliam combo was actually a decent line by Football Outsider metrics. Adding Joeckle to this combo will make the line stronger: either as a help to Fant while he learns, or an upgrade to Glo while Ifedi pushes out to RT.

    The Seahawks just need their OL to be “average” in order for everything else to work–I think one of the reasons that Lacy makes sense is that his yards after contact numbers are very close to what Lynch’s were–the guy can handle himself in traffic even when the holes aren’t really there.

    The OL is going to be better–all of those rookies have experience and Joeckle brings positives to it. The run game is going to be better. 2017 will be a good year!

    1. Totally agree that our OLine only needs to be average for us to win bigly. Also, as per MSando’s detailed research, the biggest leap forward made by any player is by OL men in their 2nd full year. Fant-Glow-Britt-Ifedi-Gilliam (I think) will all be entering their 2nd full season at their positions. Lets also not forget Britt was savaged by the 12s during first 2 yrs, but last season was in PFF’s top 10 for OLC, & almost selected to PB.

      The Lacy-Rawls 1-2 combo, with a healthy CJP & Russ could be huge game changers. Russ is always at his best behind a good C, just go back & look at what happened when Unger was out. Vannet & PRich could also make big leaps forward to. Jimmy will finally have a full pre-season & highly motivated by contract yr. Maybe my glass is overflowing, but I feel really optimistic. ((good health permitting (no IR & good fitness for our 11 irreplaceable players please, eg D’s ET3, BWags, KamC, MosesB, RS, CA & o’s RussW, JBritt, JimmyG & DougB ) & good karma luck permitting)).

  8. Disagree with almost your entire post. They did not spend money on free agency last year because they had little cap space. So, they went dumpster diving hoping to find something. It didn’t work out. But, managing a team is hard and winning the Superbowl is never guaranteed.

    I also disagree with take on the worse decisions regarding free agency. The worse decisions are those that are multiple years because it compounds a bad signing for several years. The players that the Seahawks have signed this year have been all one year. If they turn out to be poor players, they can move on quickly.

    Again, winning the Superbowl is never guaranteed. For example, after winning the division in 2015 and with the moves that the Cardinals made last offseason, many people predicted them to be in the Superbowl.

  9. Be wise… INDEED. Well said Brian.

    JS will probably trade 1st pick to get extra picks then draft more future stars. Biggest need is to dispel bad karma/bad luck of last 2 yrs.

    SB50 was lost due to Avrils concussion & in the play before INT, where PB Okung failed to stop Hightower tackling Beast (who shouda still scored). Yet instead bad karma causing rumours were circulated about how Russ was forced to pass in order to deny Beast a glory TD (but he had his chance, failed to smash past Hightower).

    Prior to that, there were unkind rumours about Russ not being black enough, rumours about his first marriage. JLane on eve of SB50 saying Gronk not that good (he maybe the best TE ever)

    We then had that KC strike & then RS publicly criticising PC about that INT. I could go on.

    So boys how about we take a page out of Pats book & stop complaining, stop rumour mongering & play like 2013, as a true brotherhood. How about Russ & Jimmy giving the team a Brady/Gronk like discount so that a better OL can be built, which in the long term will earn all more money. Its not rocket science, money cant buy u love or glory (said the Beatles).

    1. Draft Picks are no guarantee of success. ESPNs Sando’s comprehensive research showed there’s only 20% chance of a 1st rounder becoming pro-bowl & 3% of HoF calibre. Also 50% of 1st rd picks struggle with 25% chance becoming total busts, & 25% + average squad players.

      Keep Sherman, & if he does not improve his anger management issues then let him walk in 2019 & take the 3rd comp pick. However, I think he will mature, played last season with mcl sprain, & months long inflammation from which affects behaviour, he also may have been sleep deprived due to fatherhood.

      Last 2 seasons have been v tough on secondary especially losing teams 2nd best player ET3. Do we want Sherman doing what Browner did, who after joining the Pats, caused that INT by alerting Butler & then blocking Kearse’s route which would have left Lockett w an easy TD.

  10. 2017 FA OL Contracts:

    Russell Okung (age 29)
    4yr/53M/25M guaranteed
    uncuttable until 2019/2020

    TJ Lang (age 29)
    3yy/28.5M/19M guaranteed
    uncuttable until 2019

    Andrew Whitworth (age 35)
    3yr/33.75/15M guaranteed
    uncuttable until 2019

    Ricky Wagner (age 27)
    5yr/47.5M/20.5M guaranteed
    uncuttable until 2020/21

    Luke Joeckel (age 25)
    1yr/8M/7M guaranteed

    The market got away from them, and they made the best deal that they could out of a tough situation.

    BTW, Russell Okung turned out to be a great agent for himself.

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