Fans of the Seattle Seahawks still cringe when Steve Hutchinson is mentioned in any casual conversation. Hutchinson, of course, is the one that got away. His departure is the defining moment of the Tim Ruskell era in Seattle.
Since Hutchinson bolted for greener pastures in Minnesota, the Twelfth Man has yearned for a dominant, nasty player at the offensive guard position. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of players capable of filling Hutchinson’s shoes – Mike Wahle, Rob Sims, and a handful of other replacements just weren’t the same.
But now news is breaking that Logan Mankins, who plays guard for the New England Patriots, is seeking a trade.
The puddles of water outside aren’t from rain in June; they were created by the Twelfth Man collectively salivating from the news. Mankins is a mauler in the same mold as Hutchinson, capable of impressing even casual fans from the trenches of the offensive line.
Before we get carried away, however, we must understand the Seahawks have a new scheme and philosophy on the offensive side of the football.
Hutchinson was a great fit next to Walter Jones in Seattle’s power-blocking scheme during the years leading up to Super Bowl XL. For Seattle fans, an overwhelming, powerful offensive line means victories, division championships, and Super Bowl appearances.
But Mankins, despite drawing comparisons to Hutchinson, probably wouldn’t be a great fit in Seattle. He is a good offensive lineman, but the cost is too high and there are more realistic, capable alternatives for the zone-blocking scheme.
Since Steve Hutchinson signed a seven-year, $49 million contract in 2006, the value of premier offensive guards has skyrocketed. The New Orleans Saints just re-signed Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans to a seven-year, $56.7 million contract that makes him the highest-paid interior lineman in the National Football League.
Logan Mankins wants a contract that at least matches or exceeds that of Jahri Evans’. According to sources, a five-year deal from the New England Patriots, worth about $7 million per year, has been on the table for “a significant amount of time.”
In addition to rewarding Mankins with a lucrative contract, the Seahawks, or any other NFL team, would have to compensate the Patriots in a trade. The New England Patriots aren’t likely to accept anything less than market value for Mankins, and Adam Caplan of Scout.com says that a first-round pick is a “fair asking price.”
Do you really want the Seattle Seahawks to give up a first-round draft pick for Logan Mankins? Do you think breaking the bank for a powerful guard is the best option for Seattle’s zone-blocking scheme?
Don’t get me wrong; Logan Mankins is talented and versatile. While I believe he could develop into a good lineman in the zone-blocking scheme, there are better, more sensible options for the Seattle Seahawks.
Ben Hamilton, for example, was signed to a one-year deal in April. He isn’t the overwhelming presence that Mankins is, but Hamilton is a veteran of the zone-blocking scheme and is a better-than-serviceable option at left guard. Hamilton gives Seattle the best value for a player at his position.
In addition, Hamilton is expected to act as a mentor for new players on the offensive line. Allowing rookie offensive tackle Russell Okung to play alongside a veteran like Hamilton is something the coaching staff believes will pay dividends:
"“You can’t throw him out there without someone to guide them,” [Alex] Gibbs said. “We needed a player that had done that, and knew the system that I knew, to help him make the transfer. That’s what Ben [Hamilton] is for.“Ben will line up inside of him and guide him through this whole process. So he’s Coach one, I’m Coach two. That’s why he’s here.”"
Guards in Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking scheme must be athletic, versatile, and intelligent. Height and length doesn’t mean much; leverage is everything. Maulers aren’t necessary, as Gibbs prefers athletic players who can move and get out to make blocks. Intelligence is more valuable than strength in the zone-blocking scheme.
In addition, calls made on the offensive line are made from the inside out in Gibbs’ scheme. Centers call guards, guards tell tackles what to do, tackles tell tight ends what to do, and so on. Having a veteran presence at left guard will be invaluable to Russell Okung’s development.
Acquiring Logan Mankins would be a luxury, but a premier player of his caliber is not necessary. This is especially true when considering the compensation required (both trade and player contract). Ben Hamilton is a valuable, veteran presence on the offensive line, and acquiring an additional starting guard would possibly slow the development of Max Unger.
In short, Mankins would be nice. But replacing Steve Hutchinson (with another Steve Hutchinson) should not be the goal any longer.