Seattle Seahawks Offseason – Discount Shopping Won’t Buy Russell Wilson More Time

Nov 24, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Duane Brown (76) blocks Philadelphia Eagles free safety Rodney McLeod (23) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle’s offensive line over the last couple years has been, to put it mildly, downright offensive. Russell Wilson has been under siege for his entire career, being sacked a total of 391 times over the course of his 8 years in the league for an average of 49 sacks a season. That is more than anyone else in that time period. While part of what makes Wilson so special is his scrambling ability, it definitely contributes to those large totals. But not all of it. No, what makes those numbers so high is the dumpster fire offensive lines that Seattle has decided to stick in front of Wilson. In 2019, Pro Football Focus rated Seattle’s offensive line as the 6th worst in the league, particularly noting the fact that Seattle’s pressure rate allowed in 2.5 seconds or less was 26.7%. On more than a fourth of Wilson’s throws, he was facing instant pressure from the word hike. 

Could this year be different? Let’s start with the good news. The Seahawks decided to expel three starters from last season’s line, Justin Britt, DJ Fluker and Germain Ifedi. While Ifedi finally put the question of whether he was a bust to rest (spoiler: yes, he was), both Fluker and Britt were two of Seattle’s better players along the line over the last couple seasons. But that could be a good thing if the replacement players Seattle brought in play at a higher level. The probability of that is… well… we’ll get to that as we go through the preview. We’re going to go through, position by position, the starter candidates and project the outlook for the unit as a whole.

Tackles on Roster:Guards on Roster:Centers on Roster:
Duane BrownMike IupatiJoey Hunt
Brandon ShellEthan PocicJordan Roos
Cedric OgbuehiJamarco JonesBJ Finney
Tommy ChampionPhil Haynes 
Chad WheelerJordan Simmons 
 Damien Lewis 
 Chance Warmack 
 Kyle Fuller 
 Kahlil Mckenzie 

Left Tackle:

By far the easiest spot on this list, left tackle is the only position where the Seahawks have an above average starter. The move in 2018 to acquire Duane Brown is one of the least talked about deals that Seattle GM John Schneider has made in the last five years, but it is one of his best. While Brown hasn’t quite been the all-pro he was in Houston, he was still the 22nd ranked tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus. No other lineman on the Seattle roster ranked in the top half of their respective position group for the Seahawks last season, making the fact that Duane Brown is above average a spectacle for the unit as a whole. His age has sapped his athleticism a bit, making him a less effective run blocker, but in the passing game he was only credited for giving up one sack and committing two penalties all season. For a unit that’s been constantly putting Seattle in bad spots for the entire Pete Carroll era, Duane Brown has been a lone bright spot.

And let’s hope Brown is able to keep healthy as well, because the battle to back him up is… yikes… we’ll just say yikes. The most notable name is Cedric Ogbuehi, once drafted in the first-round to be the Cincinnati Bengal’s long-term answer at left-tackle. Long story short, he wasn’t. After two failed seasons as a starter in Cincy, Ogbuehi landed in Jacksonville. It was thought he could harness his athletic gifts and get his career back on track as an NFL-caliber tackle, only he wasn’t playing tackle for the Jaguars. He was used as more of a blocking tight end only playing 14% of total snaps on offense. If Brown was to get hurt, the drop off in quality would be steep.

The men who stand to compete with Ogbuehi for the back-up job are… who? Chad Wheeler did not take a snap in 2019 but did start 14 games with the New York Giants in 2018. He was graded as the 4th worst tackle in football that year. I think we found the reason why he didn’t take a snap in 2019. 

The other option on roster is Tommy Champion, an undrafted free agent from Mississippi State. While not a regular starter for the Bulldogs, his experience in the SEC could give him a chance to make the Seattle roster as a practice squad player. He was also arrested (twice) for traffic violations in 2019, which means you can add a possible character concern to his profile.

Please stay healthy Duane Brown.

Left Guard:

The only other position besides left tackle that returns a starter from 2019, left guard is a bit different in that the job will be open for competition this upcoming season. Seattle returns Mike Iupati on a minimum contract after he his “yeah, that’s fine” job in the role last season. He graded as the 49th best guard in the NFL and average in both run and pass blocking. He wasn’t an issue, which at this point is a good thing when talking about anyone from the offensive line. Iupati also has serious bona fides in his past, with an appearance on the all-pro team as well as multiple pro bowls. While his age (33) means he is well past his prime, his experience means he’ll be a welcome sight if one of the younger players on roster can’t show enough to take the role from him.

Another difference between left guard and left tackle is that the depth isn’t so uninspiring. Seattle has actually put draft capital in this position, drafting 4th round pick Phil Haynes last year and 5th rounder Jamarco Jones two seasons ago. We’ll tackle Haynes first as he generated some buzz during his rookie season training camp before missing significant time with a sports hernia. While not taking any snaps during the regular season, he was tossed to the wolves as an injury replacement during Seattle’s divisional round match-up versus the Green Bay Packers. And he acquitted himself well, playing 45 snaps on route to a Seattle comeback attempt that nearly saw them through to the NFC Championship game. In coach Carroll’s own words, “Phil did a good job. What we’ve seen in Phil is that he’s really strong and he plays real square. He did it in that game.” Given his experience with the first-team offense in training camp and his strong performance in the playoffs, I could see Haynes pushing Iupati for a starting role.

Now, while it was Haynes that was providing injury replacement in the divisional round, it was Jamarco Jones who was providing the vast majority of back-up minutes at guard during the regular season. This included three starts, one of them being Seattle’s wild card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Both Iupati and Fluker missed chunks of time during 2019, as well as reserve guards Ethan Pocic and Jordan Simmons. While the analytics didn’t love him – Pro Football Focus ranked him 72nd out of 82 qualifying guards – both Pete Carroll and the film were higher on him. While he didn’t possess the size of Fluker, who he filled in the most for on the right side, things never seemed to fall apart when he was in the game. While he gave up a couple sacks, he only committed one penalty. He was also playing out of position, as he played left tackle during his time at Ohio State. Continued development at guard during the offseason could lead to improvement or if Seattle decided to switch him back to his natural tackle designation. He could also figure into the battle in one of those spots, especially right tackle.

I chose to highlight both Jones and Haynes because they represent cheap, homegrown players that have the most upside. The other names on the list are lacking in certain areas. For Seahawks fans, Pocic would be the most recognizable. A second-round pick in 2017, he was supposed to come in and compete both at guard and center right away. But he represented previous O-line coach Tom Cable’s biggest flaw, the inability to elevate draft picks to become consistent contributors. In three years, Pocic has barely seen the field and has been less than impressive when he has. 

While Seattle fans will recognize Pocic, national fans would take note of Chance Warmack. He was so dominant out of Alabama that he was one of the few guards ever taken in the top 10 of the NFL draft. His career since then could only be described as star-crossed, as he struggled in the league before injuries derailed his career. He spent 2019 out of league because of this and signed a minimum to see if he can get his career back on track in Seattle. Other names include Simmons, Kyle Fuller and Kahlil Mckenzie. all who could find themselves in the mix if they put together a solid offseason.


The center is arguably the most important position on the offensive line. They are the only one on offense outside of the quarterback to touch the ball on every snap. They also help the quarterback read what the defense is doing, as well as communicate protections to the rest of the offensive line. They are the straw that stirs the proverbial drink. And for the first time in three years, Seattle does not have an incumbent starter at the position.

After Justin Britt went down injured after week 8, longtime back-up Joey Hunt took the reigns as Seattle’s point man on the O-line. After being on the roster for three years, he finally had his opportunity to shine. His performance was… mixed. What went well for him was his years of familiarity with the offensive playbook, as Seattle was able to stay organized and the line did not fall apart when Hunt was inserted as the starter. He also had a noticeable rapport with Russell Wilson, which further reduced the possibility of pre-snap penalties. 

While the mental side of the game seemed to not faze Hunt in his first significant game action, the physicality of the game seemed to overwhelm him at times. The biggest knock on him coming out of college was his size, as his playing weight was under 300 lbs. There were multiple times throughout the course of the season where he just absolutely got thrown around like a ragdoll against some of the larger and more skilled defensive tackles he lined up against. A week 14 matchup against Aaron Donald particularly stands out, as the all-pro tackle was having his way against the smaller Hunt all night. His size also contributed to his less than stellar run blocking grade, as he had difficulty moving larger players on his own. Unless he seriously hefts up, the possibility of him starting is worrying as he represents a weak spot smack dab in the middle of the wall Seattle hopes to put up in front of Wilson.

The only competition that Seattle brought in to compete with Hunt is former Steeler backup BJ Finny. A spot starter during his time in Pittsburgh, he was regularly used as both a guard and center during his starts. In all my research, the only real advantage I could see to bringing him in is that he was cheap. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the fifth worst player who took snaps at the center position in 2019. The game film certainly backs this up, as he didn’t register as a proactive blocker on the field. He seemed to primarily operate in double teams and when he was forced to block on his own, he never was able to push the defense back. The positive was he was only credited for one sack and one penalty, so he at least doesn’t seem to be mistake prone. The only analysis I could find of him was when Mark Kaboly of the Athletic was brought onto the Man 2 Man podcast, where he basically confirmed this line of analysis. He called him solid, and his one fun fact about him was that he had such a sweaty rump that Ben Roethlisberger didn’t like taking snaps from him. So at least Russell Wilson has that to look forward to.

The other players that could feature in this battle on roster are Pocic, whose natural position in college was center, and Jordan Roos. We already discussed Pocic, and Roos doesn’t look like much of a candidate as his years on the Seahawks have mostly been spent on the practice squad. Even last year when Seattle had a litany of guard injuries, Roos was hardly on the active roster. The last wild card on roster for this competition would be Phil Haynes, who took some snaps at center as a rookie. While he projects as a better player at guard, things could get dire enough in the preseason that he could compete for the center spot as well. One last possibility is Justin Britt, as he is still a free agent after being cut earlier in the offseason. A return on a cheap deal could make sense for both sides should the current players fail to elevate their play.

Right Guard:

Most of the guards on roster I have already discussed under the left guard section, mostly due to the fact it looks like Seattle has opened up the right side for their 3rd round selection, Damien Lewis. Lewis, unlike most of the other names we’ve already discussed, is an absolute monster. A true road grater and pass protector, he destroyed opposing defensive lines while helping the LSU Tigers to the national title. With quality opponents in the SEC, he was mining up against the most highly touted defensive line prospects in the country on a regular basis. In the SEC title game versus Georgia, he helped quarterback Joe Burrow keep clean the entire game and regularly pushed back one of the most talented defensive lines in the country. 

Coming into the draft Lewis was seen as a positive pass protector and a dominant run blocker. Though how he transitions to the NFL game will be his true test in whether he wins the job or not. He must be able to get a grasp on Seattle’s playbook, gain a level of understanding to the point that he will be able to adjust to audibles on the field and be able to match the jump in overall skill level the NFL requires. A good comparison on intangibles would be Germain Ifedi. An absolute physical specimen that struggled to pick up the nuances of the game. Lewis will be forced to attempt the same type of leap while also having new and unfamiliar faces on either side of him. If everything goes right, he could be the best player on Seattle’s line. If not, his spot could just be another question mark in a position group full of them.

His competition will be the same players we discussed above, particularly Jones. Pete Carroll is a maniac when it comes to competition in training camp. So, if Lewis looks a step slow at all in any facet of the game, you could start hearing any of the other names discussed previously as a candidate for this spot. When a team decides to leave so many spots open, there is bound to be chaos at some point. Seattle hopes Lewis will be good enough that that chaos won’t engulf the right guard position, but in an offseason that will be shortened and messy due to the pandemic anyways, all bets are off.

Right Tackle:

Like three out of the four roster other spots on this list, Seattle should have someone new taking the reins on the right-side of the line after starter Germain Ifedi took a one-year minimum deal with Chicago and back-up tackle George Fant signed a 3 year, $30 million dollar contract with the New York Jets (NFL free agency is a WILD place). Also like the other positions on the line outside of left tackle, Seattle rummaged through the discount bin to find a replacement. Jon Schneider signed former-Jet Brandon Shell to become what looks like the starter. He’ll comfortably fit in with the rest of the group, as he is someone Pro Football Focus has never graded in the top half of eligible tackles. In 2019 he allowed seven sacks to Jet quarterbacks in only 11 starts, which was a worse than Ifedi’s six in 16 starts. While Shell holds a significant edge in penalties (5 to a staggering 13 committed by Ifedi), he physically isn’t the same type of physical specimen that Ifedi was. In watching his film, I noticed that in his good games he wasn’t a noticeable player. In his bad games he was just plain bad. He seemed to operate as a product of how the line was performing around him. Add him to this projected list of starters across the O- line and he may look even worse than he did in New York.

His biggest competition will be coming from Jones (if Seattle moves him back to his college position of tackle) or Ogbuehi. This has all the makings of a gaping hole on the right edge of Seattle’s line.


Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh. That’s my conclusion. The offensive line has been a weak link for Seattle even back when it had credible starters intermixed with cast-offs or failed draft picks. Barring an easy transition for Damien Lewis, no age-related decline from Duane Brown or significant progress from either Jamarco Jones or Phil Haynes, Seattle will once again be in contention for one of the worst lines in the league. No position group signifies the Seattle front office’s failure to draft than the offensive line, as there are now no returning starters this season that was a Seattle draft pick. But who knows? Maybe BJ Finney and Brandon Shell have another level to go up. Maybe Seattle will finally have nailed some draft picks and starters will emerge from players already on roster. Or maybe Russell Wilson will be sacrificed to Aaron Donald and Joey Bosa as they tear through this patchwork offensive line like tissue paper, once again. This group could once again be the fatal flow that stops Seattle from reaching the heights that it aspires to *sigh*.

Opening Day Roster:

Left Tackle: Duane Brown

Left Guard: Mike Iupati

Center: BJ Finney

Right Guard: Damien Lewis

Right Tackle: Brandon Shell

Depth: Jamarco Jones, Joey Hunt, Cedric Ogbuehi, Phil Haynes

Practice Squad: Kahlil Mckenzie

Cut: Tommy Champion, Chad Wheeler, Chance Warmack, Jordan Simmons, Kyle Fuller, Jordan Roos

About Evan Peper 58 Articles
Seattle born and raised. I wear my fandom on my sleeve, as I bleed Seahawks blue and green and am Sounders’ Til I Die. To fill the basketball-shaped hole in my heart from when the Sonics were taken away from the city of Seattle, I have adopted the Portland Trail Blazers and rep Rip City. I aim to bring an analytical view on the sports world and hope to impart a deeper understanding of the game to my readers.