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Clayton: First domino falls in Seahawks’ search for OL additions

The Seahawks' offensive line could look a lot different in 2021. (Getty)

Seahawks starting left guard Mike Iupati announced his retirement Monday after 11 seasons in the NFL.

Related: Seahawks’ Mike Iupati to retire after 11 NFL seasons

No one should be surprised. Injuries hampered him in his two seasons with the Seahawks. He missed seven of 32 regular season games.

He spent all 11 years of his career in the NFC West, making three Pro Bowls for the San Francisco 49ers and one with the Arizona Cardinals. He said that his body had just had enough in a Spokesman-Review article announcing his retirement.

His announcement opens things up for one of the most important decisions general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have faced with the Seahawks. They have two big holes in the middle of the offensive line, and they have to decide if Jordan Simmons or Phil Haynes are good enough at left guard and whether they should re-sign center Ethan Pocic or find another starting center.

Free agency will offer more at center than guard. Corey Linsley of Green Bay is considered the best center on the free-agent market and might command $10 million a year if not more. But Alex Mack, Ted Karras, Austin Blythe, Joe Looney and David Andrews are all also available, and that doesn’t include the centers who could get cut.

Brandon Scherff is the best guard but the Washington Football Team will find a way to keep him. Joe Thuney of the New England Patriots is next, but there is a big dropoff off after that.

Related: Heaps’ free-agent OL ‘dream wish list’ for Seahawks

Offensive line is becoming a big story in the NFC West. Russell Wilson threw the Seahawks’ offensive line under the bus in his interviews after the Super Bowl and said the line needs to be better. The San Francisco 49ers need to find a way to re-sign left tackle Trent Williams and that might cost more than $20 million a year, no easy task with a salary cap that is tight and a free agent list that is long.

The Los Angeles Rams stunned everyone last week when head coach Sean McVay fired offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and hired Stanford run game coordinator Kevin Carberry. Kromer’s departure leaves McVay with only four of his original coaches from the 2017 staff. The Rams also have issues on the offensive line, and they might not be able to afford to re-sign Blythe. Because they are going to be more than $30 million over the cap after they complete the Matthew Stafford trade, they might have to cut right tackle Rob Havenstein.

With the Seahawks’ hiring of former Rams pass game coordinator Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator and former Rams assistant offensive line coach Andy Dickerson as the run game coordinator, you might wonder if the Seahawks would be tempted to go for Blythe or Rams backup center Brian Allen. Both know the offensive line scheme Waldron and Dickerson are bringing from the Rams, and they would be well coached by Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari.

Solari values size along the offensive line, and the Rams’ scheme also needs good athleticism from the blockers. If the Seahawks get better on the offensive line and the new offense under Waldron allows Russell Wilson to throw faster than the 2.97 seconds he held onto the ball on average on pass plays, Seattle’s quarterback should have his first sub-40 sack season since 2012. Over the last four years, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo, who played in systems with the Rams and 49ers similar to what Waldron is bringing to Seattle, had only one 30-plus sack season each.

It is true that Wilson needs to be hit less. Now that Iupati is gone, the work begins as far as figuring out the Seahawks’ offensive line.

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