The return Thursday of C Ethan Pocic suggests that the Seahawks are finished with the chore of fixing the offensive line, the object of controversy in the saga of Russell Wilson’s winter of living dangerously. And they may be done with the early phase of free agency that has burned through their $17 million in cash under the salary cap.
A free agent after four years in Seattle, Pocic agreed to take his job back for one year and $3 million, according to the NFL Network. He was the Seahawks’ second-round pick in 2017 out of LSU and struggled at guard before finding his place in 2020 as the successor to Justin Britt.
Pro Football Focus ranked Pocic seventh among 11 centers (201st overall) in the market, the 11th being Britt, who returned this week from missing 2020 to sign with Houston for one year at $3.2 million.
Here’s what PFF said about Pocic:
After three years playing mostly guard, Pocic returned to center in 2020, his college position. Playing a career-high 993 snaps, Pocic finished as the No. 27 center in the league with a 59.8 overall grade. On the optimistic side, Pocic ranked above average in pass-block grade on true pass sets, so we could see improvement in his overall pass-blocking grade moving forward. On the other hand, he ranked below average in the run game, whether it was earning positives or avoiding negatives, so Pocic’s upside appears to be an average pass blocker with below average work as a run blocker.
Pocic, 25, likely will be helped by playing next to Gabe Jackson, the guard acquired this week in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders. A major upgrade from oft-injured Mike Iupati, who retired after the season, Jackson, 30 in July, is expected to fill the left-side vacancy after Damien Lewis was a rookie-season success at right guard.
Since LT Duane Brown and RT Brandon Shell are scheduled to return for the final years of their contracts, along with a likely new starter at tight end in free-agent signee Gerald Everett from the Rams, the front is probably set — barring an addition from the draft that is down to three picks for now.
After 47 sacks, third-most in 2020, gave him 394 for his career, already 20th on the all-time list in just nine seasons, Wilson went public in a February media tour with a scolding of his blockers. He said, “I’m frustrated (about) getting hit too much. I’m frustrated with that part of it . . . we need better pass protection.”
Although the public part violated coach Pete Carroll’s rule about always protecting the team, the idea of Wilson creating resentment among his linemen is probably overblown. Quarterbacks almost always have standing to call out teammates, and only Brown has the stature to challenge Wilson. One conversation between them figures to settle things, especially if Brown wants to bring up the fact that Wilson’s 2.97 seconds before pass release was the fourth-longest in the NFL in 2020.
Regarding the cap, the re-signings of Seattle free agents Pocic, DT Poona Ford and special teams ace Nick Bellore, the additions of Jackson, Everett and CB Ahkello Witherspoon, and the losses in free agency of the Griffin twins, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Phillip Dorsett and WR David Moore, who Thursday signed a two-year deal with Carolina ($4.75 million, $1.25 million guaranteed) almost certainly leaves Seattle over the cap for now.
They can create cap room by extending the contracts of one or more players, but that may await the time when they improve the pay for veterans Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, young vets who are entering their their final contract years.
So while you’re standing by your Twitter account waiting for the next development, you can ponder this inscrutable tweet Thursday from Mr. Unlimited:
#BVD ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7 NIV
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) March 18, 2021
The only near-equivalence I can find in my in readings of First Carrollians is this passage:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no Aaron Donald; for Gabe and Ethan are with me.