Could Seahawks keep this O-line intact?

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Could the Seattle Seahawks offensive line be revamped again heading into next season?

The Seattle Seahawks offensive line was the most aptly named position group in the NFL for much of this season…… offensive. Through the first 7 games they allowed 31 sacks. Their utter inability to protect Russell Wilson completely handcuffed the passing game, leading directly to key losses against the Bengals and Panthers when the offense couldn’t generate that one more drive they needed to ice away both games.

Criticism was rampant, and fell directly on the shoulders of John Schneider, Pete Carroll and Tom Cable. And rightly so. They took a chance on running an inexperienced group of blockers out there, hoping like hell Cable could coach them up well enough (and quickly enough) to salvage a season that everyone expected to once again lead to Super Bowl contention. It looked like a total failure as Justin Britt looked over matched at LG, Russell Okung looked 10 years beyond his listed age of 28, and Drew Nowak was…. just horrible. The season looked lost… wasted even. Analysts were in universal agreement about what to do in the next off season. DRAFT AND SIGN AS MANY OFFENSIVE LINEMEN AS THEY CAN GET THEIR HANDS ON!!!

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Well we all know how dramatically that’s all changed. Starting with the Dallas game in week #8, we’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the line’s performance. In fact, it’s probably indisputable at this point that their performance is the single biggest reason the Seahawks have won six of their last seven game. Only 8 sacks allowed in the last six games, and the consistent pass protection and nearly perfect pockets they’re providing have contributed directly to Russell Wilson’s career-changing (and history making) run of success. Four straight games with a passer rating of above 137, without an interception, while tossing 16 TD’s. Unreal.

The key move was jettisoning Nowak and replacing him with Patrick Lewis at center. But massive improvement by Britt and converted TE Gary Gilliam at RT deserve as much credit. Even Okung has been playing some of his best football in the last two years. It’s all coming together….. the right guys gelling at the right time.

October 22, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Seattle Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy (64) blocks San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Tank Carradine (95) during the first quarter at Levi

So now what?

We hear it all the time, the key to building a good offensive line is continuity. Keeping a group together (all the more difficult in this age of free agency and salary restraints) can pay big dividends up front. Are the Seahawks more likely to now look to extend RG J.R. Sweezy and Okung (both free agents at season’s end)? Does this free up the team’s early draft picks and allow them to be more open to Best Player Available now, regardless of position? Could they now focus more on targeting a bell cow RB high in the draft to pair with Thomas Rawls in a post-Beastmode Seahawk world?

Maybe, but it’s also just as likely that the team makes significant changes with long-term stability and overall roster construction in mind.

Free agent-to-be Okung is a solid (if not star quality) LT on the right side of 30. Those guys are hard to find, and he’ll surely start his negotiations at Trent Williams numbers. Williams has made two more Pro Bowls and was drafted two spots ahead of Okung in the 2010 draft, but neither has made an All Pro team. Williams just signed a 5 year, $68 million extension with the Redskins with $41.2 guaranteed. That’s an average annual value of $13.6 MILLION!  Do you think Okung is worth that? Well here’s the thing, someone might. I don’t like the idea of tying up that kind of cap space on a non-elite LT. Letting Okung walk frees up $7.3 million in cap space. That can be used in a LOT of different ways.

Such as? Well for one suggestion, turn the page…..

Next: What the 2016 O Line might look like