Considered to be one of the biggest needs for the Seahawks this offseason, the center position wound up practically unchanged. Despite Ethan Pocic's second-half struggles in 2020, the team brought the LSU alum back on a one-year, $2 million contract and tendered his backup, Kyle Fuller, as an exclusive rights free agent.
With Pocic currently sidelined due to a hamstring injury, the bulk of center snaps have been gifted to the fourth-year man Fuller and Brad Lundblade early on in camp. Pier-Olivier Lestage, one of the team's undrafted free agent signings this past May, is also on the mend after undergoing sports hernia surgery.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hasn't been shy in saying that Fuller and Pocic, in particular, are very much in a heated battle to snap footballs to quarterback Russell Wilson this fall. And, for now, Fuller may hold the early edge given his availability.
The decision to re-sign Pocic and forego the few centers on the free agent market, as well as a good crop of centers in this year's draft, was met with a great deal of skepticism from fans and pundits alike—especially after quarterback Russell Wilson publicly aired his frustrations about his pass protection. But the team, in theory, does have a way to potentially salvage the opportunity to add a more accomplished player to its interior offensive line.
Austin Reiter, a four-year starter for the Browns and predominantly the Chiefs, remains a free agent. Working in tandem with superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes the last three years, Reiter doesn't overwhelm with any one tool but is a balanced blocker who, most importantly, has run an outside zone scheme like the one new Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is expected to implement in 2021.
He's started 32 games over the past three seasons and boasts a career overall grade of 70.6 from Pro Football Focus. In his three years with the Chiefs, he was credited with just three sacks allowed.
Not being linked to Reiter or any other center was understandable once the Seahawks retained Pocic. But now that Pocic may be out for an extended period of time, it's easy to wonder why there hasn't be any connection made to Reiter. After all, the 29-year old has been making the rounds in late July, recently visiting the Texans and Bengals with a trip to the Giants' facility lined up, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
What it may simply boil down to is: the Seahawks are really high on Fuller's potential. This is especially evidenced by the fact they stood by him and maintained his roster spot after he received a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on substance abuse in 2020. For most players on the back-end of NFL rosters who fall into trouble, their leash is incredibly short. It's typically easy for teams to cut ties without hesitation.
It may be hard for some fans to wrap their heads around Seattle's commitment to Fuller after seeing him play a disastrous game against the Rams in Week 10 last year. But he was unexpectedly thrown into a starting role for a concussed Pocic against Aaron Donald and Los Angeles' dominant defensive line. For any center in the NFL, let alone someone making just his third career start in four years, that's a tall order.
With the severity of Pocic's hamstring injury still relatively unknown, it should be noted he was neither placed on the physically unable to perform list nor the non-football injury list. Therefore, he can still participate in team walkthroughs, though the Seahawks are going to be very careful with his recovery. Seahawk Maven's Corbin Smith reported that Pocic could return to the practice field in limited fashion early next week, though the situation remains very fluid.
Barring any unforeseen development, it's unlikely the Seahawks will turn their attention to Reiter. Whether Pocic recovers in time for the season and keeps his starting job or Fuller strips it from him, they're taking a pretty significant gamble that could significantly cap their potential on offense in 2021.