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Report: Seahawks to give Garry Gilliam lowest RFA tender

Right tackle Garry Gilliam was in and out of the Seahawks' starting lineup in 2016, his third NFL season. (AP)
LISTEN: Will another team make a run at Garry Gilliam?

The Seahawks plan to offer right tackle Garry Gilliam the lowest of the three restricted-free-agent tenders, according to ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia.

What it means: Gilliam will be in the mix this offseason to keep his starting job at right tackle, which he held in 2015 and then lost briefly last year.

More specifically: Gilliam will have in hand a one-year offer from Seattle worth a non-guaranteed $1.797 million. He can negotiate with any other team once free agency begins on Thursday. If he signs an offer sheet with another team, the Seahawks would have five days to match it. If they did, they’d get Gilliam on the terms he negotiated with the other team. If they didn’t match the offer sheet, they’d lose him and wouldn’t receive anything in return.

When a team places the lowest tender on an RFA and then loses him, it’s entitled to compensation from the signing team in the form of a draft pick in the round the player was drafted, which is why it’s also called the original-round tender. But because Gilliam was undrafted, the Seahawks wouldn’t be in line for any draft-pick compensation if he were to sign an offer sheet that they declined to match.

As noted in this post from January, bringing Gilliam back makes sense despite his struggles last season. Coach Pete Carroll said at the scouting combine last week that he anticipates Gilliam being back, though he didn’t elaborate.

The Seahawks could have non-tendered him and then signed him as an unrestricted free agent for less than the low tender amount, which would have been a risk because he would have been free to sign with any other team in that case. Seattle did that last year with running back Christine Michael, for instance.

That the Seahawks tendered Gilliam as an RFA shows they want him to be in the mix next season. That they did so at the lowest tender level indicates that they aren’t necessarily banking on him being their starter to the point that they’re willing to offer him more initially to assure they keep him. Seattle could have essentially done that by assigning him a second-round tender, which would have been worth $2.746 million and would have forced any team that wanted to sign him away to be willing to part with a second-round pick, a prohibitive cost.

Gilliam, 26, made the minimum salary of $600,000 last season. He was in line to take over for Russell Okung at left tackle, but that plan hit a snag when Gilliam missed a significant chunk of offseason work while recovering from surgery to have a cyst removed from his knee. He moved back to right tackle, starting the first 11 games of the season there before being benched in favor of Bradley Sowell. Gilliam resumed the starting job in Week 16, and, according to coaches, played with more of the physicality they were hoping to see.

The $1.797 million salary would be the highest of any Seahawks offensive lineman. But again, that money isn’t guaranteed nor would it assure Gilliam of being Seattle’s starter at right tackle. The team is expected to add competition in free agency and/or the draft.