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O’Neil: Seahawks will look for offensive linemen in free agency, but don’t expect them to spend big

Russell Okung is open to returning to the Seahawks after spending last season in Denver. (AP)
LISTEN: Can the Seahawks buy an offensive-line upgrade?

Interested but not desperate.

Searching, not chasing.

That describes the Seahawks’ attitude and approach to adding an offensive lineman or three in free agency. They’re not just open to adding some veterans, they’re actively seeking them out. But if you’re waiting for this team to carry fists full of cash into free agency to buy its way out of a crisis up front, prepare to be disappointed.

Veterans like Packers guard T.J. Lang, Titans center Brian Schwenke and even former Seahawk Russell Okung are thought to be interesting possibilities in Seattle, but only at the right price.

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That will be especially important when it comes to Okung, whom Seattle let walk a year ago. And while Okung is open to the possibility of a return, if the market for left tackles is more lucrative – and he expects it will be – then a return to Seattle is not going to be in the cards. Don’t expect the Seahawks to double back so they can double down on a player they let leave a year ago.

Let the wailing commence about Seattle’s refusal to invest more money in its offensive line.

Ricky Wagner – a free-agent tackle from Baltimore – is expected to sign with Detroit for more than $9 million annually when players can begin signing on Thursday. That’s more than Seattle spent on its entire crew of offensive lineman last season.

And while it’s not inaccurate to say that Seattle has opted for a cheaper route along the line, it’s not entirely accurate, either.

The Seahawks have invested in their offensive line. They have invested draft picks. Of the 19 players Seattle has drafted in the first three rounds under general manager John Schneider, six have played offensive line. The trend is even more obvious in the first round, where three of Seattle’s five first-round picks under Schneider have played offensive line.

And while Schneider admitted the Seahawks got too young up front last season, that was more a diagnosis of what happened in 2016 than a prediction for 2017. The Seahawks don’t feel they need to spend their way to a solution.

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That’s not because Seattle is reluctant to spend money in free agency. The Seahawks were one of the more aggressive teams in the league during Schneider’s first four years in Seattle. They signed three quarterbacks from other teams in that time, a top-flight receiver in Sidney Rice and a couple of future Pro Bowl pass rushers in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

Seattle also signed a couple of veteran offensive linemen in that time, none of whom really worked out as neither Ben Hamilton nor Robert Gallery were able to finish their first – and in both cases only – seasons as Seahawks. Seattle saw a much better return on Paul McQuistan, acquired with very little fanfare in early 2011.

That didn’t work out so well with Bradley Sowell last year, and Seattle’s highest-paid lineman last season – J’Marcus Webb – provided virtually no return on the $2.45 million the Seahawks spent on him.

A year later, the Seahawks will try to spend their money better, but not necessarily spend bigger.