Will Walter Jones return next season? “That’s the goal. I think the last time I talked I said I was going to do everything possible to get back, and I’m still on that road of trying to get back. Hopefully, I still can.”
If Jones’ quote in Seattle’s locker room earlier this week was truthful, he plans to return to the field next season. Of course, this is assuming he recovers from a serious knee injury and doesn’t encounter any setbacks along the way.
As a fan of the Seahawks, I completely understand we’ve been spoiled with a Hall of Fame left tackle over the past decade or so. Prior to last season, I had forgotten what it was like to see pressure coming on the quarterback’s blind side. And as far as I’m concerned, Walter Jones can be a Seahawks for as long as he wants – he deserves to retire at his own discretion and wear his Seattle jersey all the way to Canton.
But we really need to address our needs on the offensive line without Walter Jones. As great as he is, he’ll turn 36 later this month and is recovering from major knee surgery.
Entering the 2009 season, the Seahawks planned to have aging stars Walter Jones and Mike Wahle on then left side of their offensive line. Wahle was released after a deteriorating shoulder led to a failed physical, and Jones was never able to recover from a knee injury suffered the previous year. Neither player played a single down for the Seahawks this season.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. It is time to move on.
Does that mean the Seahawks should cut ties with Jones? Absolutely not. But the franchise needs to develop depth and talent at the position, assuming the worst-case scenario with Jones.
If Jones can recover and start at left tackle next season, I’ll be extremely pleased and won’t second guess the decision at all. But Seattle shouldn’t plan on that, and must address the position through free agency or the draft. It is obvious that Sean Locklear and others aren’t going to fill the left tackle void, especially if they’re all injured during the season.
Seattle doesn’t necessarily need to spend an early draft choice on a premier rookie tackle (although Russell Okung and company will be tempting) or break the bank in free agency, but the team must acquire depth and avoid hinging success in the trenches on the knee of Walter Jones.
Even if Jones claims he’s feeling better and could probably still compete at a high level, Seattle can’t trust his diagnosis. Durability will be an issue with any offensive lineman over 35 who has an injury history.
Think about an elderly person behind the wheel of a motor vehicle: everyone knows that driving abilities sharply decline later in life, but an individual will be stubborn. The individual will selfishly protest having their license revoked, unwilling to accept their dwindling capabilities on the road. Even if it could potentially put other drivers at risk, the egocentric individual will assume the world revolves around them.
In other words, Walter Jones might not be willing to accept that his amazing NFL career may be coming to an end.
As the greatest player in franchise history, Walter Jones has every right to be selfish and stubborn about his own abilities. The Seahawks cannot, however, continue to plan him as their starting left tackle. Not without adjusting the depth and talent of an anemic offensive line that was regularly overmatched during the most recent season.
I wish for nothing more than to see Walter out on the field again, but I’m not willing to endure another losing season because the Seahawks don’t have an answer for his sudden departure.