Garry Gilliam’s departure to San Francisco as a restricted free agent invites an updated look at where things stand along the Seahawks’ offensive line.
Gilliam started 29 games at right tackle for Seattle over the last two seasons and would have been a candidate for that job had he remained with the Seahawks in 2017. Seattle gave him the low RFA tender worth $1.797 million for one season and declined to match the 49ers’ one-year offer of $2.2 million and $1.4 million guaranteed. The Seahawks declined to match only one day into their five-day window to do so, which suggests it wasn’t that hard of a decision.
The Seahawks won’t receive compensation of any kind for losing Gilliam, not from San Francisco or in the form of a compensatory pick in 2018. Teams that don’t match offer sheets for RFAs who were given the low tender, also called the original-round tender, are entitled to a draft pick from the signing team in the round in which the player was drafted. But since Gilliam was undrafted in 2014, San Francisco doesn’t owe Seattle a pick.
So the only benefit of Gilliam’s departure is that it clears $1.797 of salary-cap space that Seattle was at least prepared to carry on its books in 2017. None of that money, however, was guaranteed, which means Gilliam would have been a candidate to to be cut sometime before the start of the season, especially if the Seahawks had determined that he wasn’t going to win the starting job at right tackle.
That Gilliam’s offer sheet with San Francisco included $1.4 million more in guarantees than his tender from Seattle was undoubtedly a major factor in his decision to sign with the 49ers.
That brings a bit of clarity to Seattle’s offensive-line picture. Particularly, it clears one potential obstacle to Germain Ifedi taking over at right tackle, a job he would have had to compete for if Gilliam were still in the mix. The Seahawks have indicated that Ifedi will likely move from right guard to right tackle, the position he last played in college and the one the Seahawks said they envisioned him at long-term when they drafted him in the first round in 2016.
As for right guard, general manager John Schneider has said that Seattle will first look at free-agent addition Oday Aboushi there. The Seahawks gave Aboushi, 25, a one-year deal that’s reportedly worth $975,000 and $200,000 guaranteed.
Ifedi at right tackle and Aboushi at right guard seem even more likely with Gilliam gone. However, John Clayton has raised the possibility of Seattle moving Mark Glowinski from left guard to right guard, his position in college.
The left side of Seattle’s offensive line is a bit unclear. The money the Seahawks gave Luke Joeckel in free agency – $7 million guaranteed and as much as $8 million for one season – suggests they expect him to start at either left tackle or left guard. As high as the Seahawks remain on George Fant, coach Pete Carroll has acknowledged that he could benefit from some time out of the starting lineup after taking over midway through last season as an undrafted rookie and struggling.
Schneider noted that Joeckel played well last season at left guard after spending his first three seasons at left tackle. He’s an option there, but it would seem more likely that Joeckel supplants Fant at left tackle than Glowinski at left guard.
Rees Odhiambo, a third-round pick in 2016, is a player to keep an eye on. The Seahawks have said they view him as a left-side player. He’s listed as a guard but played left tackle in college. He’ll get a chance to compete for one of those two spots on the left side.
Center is the only position along Seattle’s offensive line without any sort of question as to who will start. It’ll be Justin Britt, with 2016 sixth-round pick Joey Hunt in line to back him up again.
None of the other four positions are set in stone by any means, and the Seahawks could still add to their options at tackle in free agency or the draft. Bradley Sowell, who started nine games between left and right tackle last season, is unsigned as are other veterans like Ryan Clady and former Seahawks starter Breno Giacomini.
Losing Gilliam – or more accurately, letting him leave – won’t necessarily make the Seahawks more inclined to add a tackle early in the draft. This is considered an especially bad year for offensive linemen in the draft, which is believed to be one reason why veterans like Joeckel made out so well in free agency. And the fact that the Seahawks are again selecting late in the first round could mean even slimmer pickings for offensive linemen.