Tough Decisions Await for Seahawks Along Offensive Line
Entering another critical offseason, the Seahawks will be facing some very tough decisions involving their offensive line once free agency officially begins on March 18.
Currently, starting right tackle Germain Ifedi, starting left guard Mike Iupati, and key reserve George Fant are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents and will have a chance to test the open market.
In addition, the Seahawks will also have to make decisions on backups Joey Hunt, Jordan Simmons, and Jordan Roos, who are all set to become restricted free agents once the new league year begins.
Despite having three offensive linemen ready to test the free agent waters, coach Pete Carroll expressed his desire to keep the same group of players in the trenches on offense together next season.
“I hope we can keep our guys connected - I don’t want to see a big change there. We have made good progress, we have really good young guys, a couple guys got banged up this year that you haven’t seen a whole lot,” Carroll explained during his end of the season press conference on Monday. “Jordan Simmons, [Demetrius] Knox, those guys coming back, the competition will really be good. I think the whole group could be a really solid group coming back. I would like to see the guys who have been playing for us to stay with us.”
While possible, it will likely be very difficult for Seattle to resign all six of their impending free agent offensive linemen this offseason, particularly Ifedi. The 25-year old offers four years of NFL starting experience and in a market that has been favorable to offensive linemen in recent seasons, he will undoubtedly be seeking a significant raise from his 2019 salary of just over $2.6 million.
Though they'd like to keep him, from Seattle's perspective, matching an offer north of $10 million per year wouldn't be desirable. The former first-round selection out of Texas A&M has battled penalty issues throughout his career and led all Seahawks' linemen in penalties through each of the previous three seasons. He finished tied for the third-most penalties earned (13) in the entire NFL in 2019, according to nflpenalites.com.
If Ifedi were to depart this offseason, the Seahawks could re-sign Fant and guarantee him a starting role next season by moving him over into the starting right tackle position. Based on Fant’s impressive athleticism, this type of move from his natural position of left tackle over to the right side likely wouldn’t be too overwhelming for the fourth-year pro and he did start one game at the position in 2018.
Since Fant will be seeking a starting gig this offseason, that type of offer from Seattle could convince the Western Kentucky product to return to the Pacific Northwest, but he should still receive convincing offers from other teams due to his age and potential.
As for Iupati, the four-time Pro Bowler had a very respectable opening season with the Seahawks in 2019. Aside from missing both of Seattle's playoff games due to a neck injury, the veteran lineman was able to stay healthy throughout the majority of the regular season and started in 15 of their 16 regular season games.
However, the 10th-year guard will be entering his age-33 campaign next season and the team may want to go younger at the position moving forward. With rookie Phil Haynes impressing in a divisional round loss to the Packers, the now-second year guard is expected to compete for a starting role next season and Simmons could be back in the fold to battle for playing time as well.
Time will tell how things shake out once free agency arrives, but the Seahawks have time to negotiate with all three players over the next few months. Based on Carroll's quotes from Monday, there's still a possibility, albeit a limited one, that each player could return for 2020.