RENTON, Wash. (AP) Being an offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks this season was a tough proposition.
No players drew more ire and more criticism from analysts and fans than the ones responsible for protecting quarterback Russell Wilson. Much of the criticism was justified. The main reason Seattle ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing and allowed Wilson to be sacked 41 times was issues by a young, inexperienced group up front.
But all those hoping the Seahawks would start over and spend big to bring in a completely new offensive line next season were given a dose of reality by Pete Carroll this week.
It's not going to happen.
''We're going to work really hard this offseason to make sure that we make that spot really competitive again. We're not going to rest on anything or set back, we think we've got it now. We'll continue to work,'' Carroll said. ''There's opportunities, of course, in the draft and free agency and all of that, that we're open to. We'll never turn away from any of those chances. But if nothing happened these guys are coming back, and they're going to get after it.''
That's not necessarily what Seattle fans wanted to hear: The Seahawks are attempting to reconstruct a position group using young players rather than spending resources.
It's a risky proposition if you miss on the right players, but can be a huge success if done correctly and allows for money to be spent elsewhere.
''We're not going to go out and spend a ton of money in free agency, on one guy to try to save the day. That's not how we function at all,'' Carroll said. ''We bring the young guys up, developing them and make them a part of this program. Then as they go and they earn their opportunities, then we'll reward them as we can. I hope that it's really clear that that's the way we've done this with a really clear intent.''
Because of their youth, the Seahawks had the lowest-paid offensive line in the NFL, spending just over $6 million on its inexperienced unit. Seattle ended up starting a converted basketball player at left tackle, a rookie at right guard, a second-year player with one previous game at left guard and a center on his third position in three years.
Seattle's offensive line was bound to struggle. In Carroll's eyes, that also means he sees the potential in their future as a united group.
''I think we have a chance now that this is maybe one of the two or three years, of the seven or eight, that we have a chance to come back with kind of the same group and have a chance to build,'' Carroll said. ''We're going to try to, but we're going to challenge the heck out of those guys, too.''
The anchor for that group will be center Justin Britt. After playing right tackle and left guard his first two seasons, Britt found a home at center. He was a Pro Bowl alternate and the most consistent of Seattle's linemen.
Britt will be one of the certainties for next season along with rookie Germain Ifedi, whom Carroll intends on keeping at right guard despite his experience as a tackle in college. Left tackle George Fant was a basketball player less than two years ago and left guard Mark Glowinski had one start prior to this season.
''The good thing about being a young group is we will be together a long time,'' Britt said. ''So the longer we're together the better we will get together.''
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