Over the course of the offseason, the Seahawks have underwent a substantial transformation along the offensive line, as former starters Germain Ifedi, D.J. Fluker, and Justin Britt will all be wearing a different uniform in 2020.
With those three players as well as valuable reserve George Fant no longer on the team, Seattle could have as many as four new starters in the trenches come September, including replacing Ifedi, Fluker, and Britt on the right side. Veteran Mike Iupati was re-signed to a one-year deal, but with Phil Haynes and Jamarco Jones returning, there isn't a guarantee he will retain his starting gig at left guard either.
Set to compete in a compelling positional battle featuring a blend of experience, youth, and differing skill sets, who holds the upper hand to win Seattle's left guard role?
The Case for Mike Iupati
Though he turned 33 in May and has battled a variety of injuries during his 10-year NFL career, Iupati managed to stay healthy for most of the 2019 season, starting 15 games for the first time since 2016. Still a mauling run blocker at the point of attack, the 6-foot-5, 331-pound veteran continued to play at a high level last season, opening up holes for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. While his pass protection flaws have been magnified as he's aged, particularly when it comes to drawing holding penalties, coach Mike Solari holds the utmost trust in Iupati and if there's any doubt about the readiness of younger guards on the team, they will start him again without hesitation.
The Case for Jamarco Jones
Prior to the 2019 season, Jones had never played a single snap at guard in a game at any prior level of football. However, when Fluker suffered a hamstring injury against the Rams in Week 5, he stepped into the lineup and performed well, earning starts at right guard each of the next two weeks. At under 300 pounds, he isn't the typical body type Solari prefers in the interior and struggles to move defenders off the ball as a run blocker. But if Seattle intends to throw the ball a bit more next season, his background as a left tackle may make him the best pass protecting option at left guard.
The Case for Phil Haynes
Last spring, Haynes impressed veteran tackle Duane Brown and the coaching staff with how quickly he picked things up during OTAs and minicamp. Unfortunately, he underwent hernia surgery before training camp and opened his rookie season on the PUP list, preventing the fourth-round pick from seeing any regular season snaps. When Jones exited with a concussion in the Divisional Round at Green Bay, he was thrown into the lineup and played quite well considering the circumstances. Healthy once again, he offers the size and physicality Solari prefers and could be ready to jump into the lineup in year two.
The decision to re-sign Iupati was a bit of a curious one, as Seattle handed him $1 million guaranteed on his $2.5 million contract. For that reason alone, it's unlikely he isn't on the roster when the season opens in September and his experience in Solari's system certainly will be an advantage.
But the Seahawks have a prime opportunity to get younger in the interior offensive line by teaming either Haynes or Jones with rookie Damien Lewis, the front runner to replace Fluker at right guard. The thought of pairing Haynes and Lewis together in particular has to be appealing to Solari. Both players fit the mold of bruising, physical, 320-plus pound road graders and would be under club control through 2022, giving Seattle a young, promising tandem to build around for several seasons.
With Jones still likely being looked at as a possible heir apparent for Brown and being a backup option at either tackle spot, this will likely be a race between the wily, respected veteran in Iupati and the unproven Haynes. Choosing the best of both worlds, the Seahawks will roll with Haynes, who checks off all the physical boxes while offering far more upside in the short and long-term future.