MIKE LEFKO

Seahawks’ free agency points to clear direction with 1st-round pick

Mar 21, 2024, 10:47 AM

Seattle Seahawks offensive line NFL Draft...

A view at the line of scrimmage during a Seattle Seahawks-49ers game on Dec. 15, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks reshaped their roster this month with a flurry of activity that started with the releases of Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, and Will Dissly and continued through the early stages of free agency. The mainstays are gone, especially on defense, but the idea behind those moves is evident: gain more salary cap flexibility and reinvest that money up front.

Bumpus: The Seahawks’ starting center in 2024 is on the roster

That has led to a lot of short-term signings – one or two-year deals – for every external piece the Seahawks have added since the new league year began early this month. These guys might simply be placeholders at some positions or potential multi-year starters, but all of that remains unknown until the season begins. However, what we can infer is the position group that the Seahawks feel like they can only significantly upgrade through the draft.

This is not going to be a groundbreaking revelation, but let’s outline it with the knowledge of the positions of external players the Seahawks have brought in this offseason: safety, tight end, linebacker, tackle, center, quarterback, linebacker, guard and defensive tackle.

We’re not going to sit here in March and say that the starters are set – just look at the rookies that have contributed over the last two seasons – but for now there is starting-caliber talent and depth at essentially every position group, save for one. Two of the biggest areas of need heading into free agency, linebacker and safety, have been filled. George Fant is a nice depth piece at tackle and insurance for the uncertainty of Abe Lucas’s knee.

Trading for a quarterback should end the discussion about whether the Seahawks are going to draft a quarterback – heavy emphasis on “should” because this is the offseason – and it wouldn’t be fun if we weren’t throwing around every conceivable scenario about the most important position in the NFL. Assuming that isn’t happening, there is one position group that has been severely unaddressed: the interior of the offensive line, specifically at guard.

Damien Lewis’s massive deal with the Panthers leaves the Seahawks down at least one starter at guard, and potentially at both spots if they believe Anthony Bradford needs more time to develop. What Seahawks general manager/president of football operations John Schneider said last week during his weekly show with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob was particularly revealing about how the Seahawks view the position.

“It’s just the nature of the position, it takes a special breed to play that spot,” Schneider said. “Guys get over-drafted at that position, and in my opinion they get overpaid.”

Salaries escalate at every position, but it’s hard to argue that point when Damien Lewis will take home $16 million this season, more money than all but two Seahawks will make this year according to Spotrac. This is a spot that has to be upgraded in the draft, and luckily this is the year to do it for a Seahawks team that doesn’t have the benefit of a top-10 pick after successfully utilizing those spots over the last two years.

Potential Seattle Seahawks options at No. 16

There is a wealth of skill position talent in the draft this season, which makes it appealing to dream big for the Seahawks. Visions of quarterbacks or Brock Browers might dance in your head, but a myriad of teams that have needs at those skill positions will help push elite offensive line talent down toward the range where the Seahawks are drafting in the first round.

Pull up any of your 20-plus preferred mock drafts and see where the first interior offensive lineman is projected to be picked. John Schneider did say that guards tend to be “over-drafted,” but that wouldn’t be the case if the best or second-best interior linemen in the entire draft aren’t selected until all the way back at #16.

Do I know how to properly evaluate an interior offensive lineman? Absolutely not. Luckily, there are plenty of people who do know how to do that, and after consulting our compilation this week of recent mock drafts, there are a couple of common names that keep popping up.

Troy Fautanu, OT, UW Huskies
Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon Ducks

Plenty has been written about Fautanu sliding over to play guard and the lure of easing into a new Seahawks system run by Ryan Grubb, his former offensive coordinator at Washington, is too appealing to pass up.

Related: With Lewis gone, Bumpus expects Seahawks to draft UW lineman

Center also feels like a big need, and if Powers-Johnson is the consolation prize, that would be a terrific backup plan. Nick Harris, who the Seahawks signed last week, has only made four starts at the position, while Olu Oluwatimi started in just one game. After constant year-to-year shuffling at that position, it is tantalizing to envision what a long-term stalwart would mean for this offense. Jason Kelce became an almost reverent figure after 13 seasons in Philadelphia, and Creed Humphrey is well on his way in Kansas City to making every other GM regret passing on him.

It almost felt like a surprise when the Seahawks made the “expected” pick of Charles Cross in the first round two years ago, but it identified a huge area of need, allowing the Seahawks to immediately slot in a cornerstone at a position that is one of the most vital in the league. Find a great lineman and you can reshape an offense for years to come.

More on the Seahawks

NFL competition committee proposes notable rules changes
Could Jamal Adams return to Seahawks? Huard thinks so — as LB
Salk: The NFL’s big QB problem that Seahawks must learn from
Rich Eisen: QB Sam Howell takes pressure off Seahawks in NFL Draft
Huard: ‘Clues’ show Seattle Seahawks are building more for 2025

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