Analysis: Who Will Replace Justin Britt as Seahawks Starting Center?
As part of a major offensive line overhaul, the Seahawks will open a new season with a different starter at center for the first time since 2016.
Coming off a torn ACL and carrying a cap hit north of $11 million, Seattle jettisoned long-time starter Justin Britt shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft. In addition, the team also moved on from D.J. Fluker and allowed former starting right tackle Germain Ifedi and swing tackle George Fant to walk in free agency.
A second-round pick out of Missouri in 2014, Britt started 86 games in six seasons with the Seahawks. After opening his career at right tackle and spending a year at guard, he started 54 games at center over the next four seasons and leaves big shoes for B.J. Finney, Joey Hunt, and Ethan Pocic to try to fill.
With three vacancies to fill up front, who has the upper hand to replace Britt as the Seahawks new starter at the pivot position?
The Case for B.J. Finney
Though he's never been a full-time starter in four NFL seasons with the Steelers, Finney has played well when given the opportunity. He started 13 games during that span, including performing well in four games replacing Maurkice Pouncey last year. Per Pro Football Focus's advanced stats, Finney has only surrendered a pair of sacks in pass protection on over 1,000 offensive snaps since entering the league. He's not a road grader and won't maul opponents in the run game like Britt did, but he could be an upgrade keeping Russell Wilson clean.
The Case for Joey Hunt
Despite being undersized, Hunt's grit, toughness, and high football IQ have allowed the former sixth-round pick to last four-plus years in the NFL. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks coaching staff hold the utmost respect for him, especially considering he battled through a fractured fibula to start both of the team's playoff games last January. After starting the final 10 games in place of an injured Britt a year ago, his familiarity with Seattle's offense as well as the staff's unwavering trust in him gives Hunt a solid chance to remain in the starting lineup next year.
The Case for Ethan Pocic
Injuries have held Pocic back after a promising rookie season three years ago. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, his best chance at turning his career around may come at his natural position. Before being selected in the second round by the Seahawks in 2017, he was an Associated Press Third-Team All-American playing center for LSU. Thanks to the presence of Britt, he hasn't logged any regular season snaps there. But if he can stay healthy, this will be a prime chance for him to show what he can do at his best position.
While Pocic will be given a legitimate chance to compete and has the talent to surprise, this really feels like a two-horse race between Finney and Hunt that could go down to the wire before the season opener.
Since he started a bunch of games last season, Hunt may get the first crack to secure the starting job. Coach Mike Solari trusts him to handle line calls and calling out blitzes, which will be especially important with so many new faces in the starting lineup. While he had his struggles at times last year, the offense kept humming in the second half and he's earned a chance to keep the job.
But the Seahawks didn't give Finney a two-year, $8 million contract to stand on the sidelines. Though he will never be mistaken as an imposing run blocker, he weighs nearly 30 pounds more than Hunt and will be able to hold up better physically in the trenches. If Seattle intends to open up the offense a bit, his superior pass protection skills will also give him the major advantage needed to win this competition.