Posted by: Shaun Dolence
The Player: Jordan Gross
The Reason: Walter Jones, Seattle’s premier left tackle and arguably greatest player in franchise history, is getting older every year and although he remains a top tackle in the game, has seen a decline in his play. Sean Locklear, a starter at right tackle who contributed to Shaun Alexander’s MVP year, hasn’t been able to play up to the large contract he signed last year and has had a couple off the field incidents that have tarnished his character – a big no-no in a Ruskell-led organization. The entire offensive line, aforementioned players included, hasn’t been able to stay healthy or even come close to replicating their dominant performance in ’05.
Jordan Gross, a starter with the Carolina Panthers since they drafted him in 2003, enters free agency as the market’s most coveted player at offensive tackle. He boasts an impressive resume (first round pick, All-Rookie and All-Pro team selections, Pro Bowl selection), and has displayed the ability to play tackle on either the left OR right side. This is especially ideal, because while we ARE beginning to think about Big Walt’s replacement, no one is going to unseat him on the left side while he is still playing.
The Problem: Just like other players who I’ve optimistically added to my wish list, Gross will probably receive the franchise designation from the Panthers. Instead of letting him walk away without receiving compensation, they’re likely to lean in that direction. Keep an eye on the Julius Peppers situation, however; Peppers has voiced his desire to play elsewhere next season, but the Panthers may still tag him and try to lure another team into a trade. If they decide to designate Peppers as their franchise player, then Gross will become a free agent.
Ever since the Vikings lured Steve Hutchinson away from Seattle with the infamous (and lucrative) “poison pill” contract, teams have not been afraid to spend big bucks on offensive linemen – traditionally positions that did not command big contracts, with the exception of a franchise tackle here and there. Players such as guard Alan Faneca (five years, $40 million), tackle Flozell Adams (six years, $43 million), guard Derrick Dockery (seven years, $49 million), and tackle/guard Leonard Davis (seven years, $49.6 million) have all recently cashed in through free agency. Teams will be lining up for the services of Gross, who is not only a talented franchise tackle, but potentially the best available this off season.
Bottom Line: The Seahawks already have a lot of money invested in their two starting tackles, but Walter Jones is nearing retirement. Bringing in Gross may be costly, but he would be a capable heir to the left tackle spot when Jones calls it quits. Until then, he would most likely play right tackle, opening up the possibility of Locklear moving inside to a guard position. Not only would a move like this increase the overall talent and competition for starting spots on our offensive line, but it would also make April’s NFL draft a lot easier. Several mocks have the Seahawks selecting an offensive lineman in the early rounds; bringing in Gross would allow us to explore other options and draft the best player available, as opposed to need.
Other Options: Marvel Smith (Steelers), Stacy Andrews (Bengals), Mark Tauscher (Packers), Jon Runyan (Eagles), Tra Thomas (Eagles), Khalif Barnes (Jaguars), Willie Colon (Steelers), Vernon Carey (Dolphins)