BROCK AND SALK

What’s the Seahawks’ biggest remaining roster hole?

May 12, 2024, 7:58 AM

Seattle Seahawks Olu Oluwatimi center Arizona Cardinals 2023...

Seattle Seahawks center Olu Oluwatimi blocks against the Arizona Cardinals in 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Center was a position of great stability for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2000s and 2010s, with Robbie Tobeck, Chris Spencer, Max Unger and Justin Britt manning the spot for the bulk of those two decades.

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But ever since Seattle parted ways with Britt after the 2019 season, center has been a revolving door for the franchise. Over the past four seasons, the Seahawks have cycled through a handful of starters at the position, including Ethan Pocic, Kyle Fuller, Austin Blythe and Evan Brown. And after Brown departed in free agency this spring, Seattle will have yet another new full-time starter snapping the ball this fall.

The starting center job is expected to be a two-man battle between 2023 fifth-round pick Olu Oluwatimi and former UW Huskies center Nick Harris, who signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks in March after spending his first four NFL seasons as a backup on the Cleveland Browns. Oluwatimi and Harris both have limited NFL experience, having combined for just five starts and 10 total games with at least 25 offensive snaps.

During Friday’s edition of Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports, Mike Salk discussed a recent ESPN.com article by Aaron Schatz that looked at the biggest remaining roster hole for every NFL team. For the Seahawks, Schatz listed center.

“I would agree, yes,” Salk said. “The biggest question mark, hole, whatever word you want to put on it right now is who’s gonna be their starting center, or do they have a legitimate starting center.”

The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Oluwatimi made 49 starts at center during a standout college career at Virginia and Michigan. He capped it with an exceptional 2022 season at Michigan, where he won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in the country and the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the country.

Oluwatimi competed for Seattle’s starting center job during training camp last year, but was beat out by the veteran Brown. Oluwatimi made one start at center in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals – when Brown was out with an injury – and appeared in four total games at the position.

The 6-foot-1, 293-pound Harris was a fifth-round pick by Cleveland in 2020 after making 42 career starts at UW, where he played guard his first two seasons before moving to center for his final two seasons. During his four-year tenure with the Browns, Harris made three starts at center and one at guard. He recorded offensive snaps in 23 games over his three healthy seasons in Cleveland, not including the 2022 season that he missed with a knee injury.

Schatz wrote that “it’s going to be up to (Oluwatimi) to be ready to be an NFL starter in his second season.” Schatz mentioned Oluwatimi’s college accolades, but said that he fell to the fifth round because of “limited lateral range and worries about a Michigan scheme designed to help him succeed.”

Harris received an overall grade of 59.5 from Pro Football Focus last season, while Oluwatimi’s overall grade was 53.1. Harris had a better PFF run-block grade than Oluwatimi (58.7 to 50.1), whereas Oluwatimi had a better PFF pass-block grade (75.5 to 66.3).

“I think they’re kind of counting on (Oluwatimi) right now,” Salk said. “Nick Harris has shown for the most part in his NFL career that he’s a backup player. That’s not a shot. That’s just kind of what he’s been. Unless they think (Harris) has been criminally undervalued by the Browns … and is ready to come in here and start, they are to an extent right now counting on Olu to win that job and be their center after barely playing last year.

“I actually have high hopes for Oluwatimi,” he added. “… I would be interested in at least giving him the first shot at this job and seeing whether or not he can run with it and turn it into something.”

Listen to the full conversation from Friday’s Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Tune in to Brock and Salk weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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