This year, they didn’t wait.
It took the Seahawks an hour into free agency to meet their stated goal of importing more experience onto their offensive line.
And they aren’t done.
While Seattle agreed to a one-year contract with tackle and former No. 2-overall draft choice Luke Joeckel on Thursday, Green Bay Packers free-agent blocker T.J. Lang was believed to be on his way to Seattle to visit with the Seahawks.
Lang has been the Packers’ starting right guard for the past four seasons. Potentially more pertinent to Seattle’s interest, he played left tackle and right tackle in his rookie season of 2009, plus parts of 2011 and 2012.
He could meet with general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks as soon as Friday as a “top priority” for the team in free agency, the Huffington Post reported.
Schneider and Lang have met before.
Schneider was the Packers’ director of football operations when they selected Lang in the fourth round of the 2009 draft. Schneider was part of Green Bay’s decision-making team that made Lang a tackle upon entering the league.
Schneider left about nine months later to become a first-time general manager with Seattle.
The Seahawks feel set with the interior three on their offensive line, which was the NFL’s lowest-paid and one of its youngest last season. Justin Britt excelled in his first season as a center. Germain Ifedi, the team’s first-round pick last season, is entrenched at right guard (though he was a right tackle in college at Texas A&M). Mark Glowinski, a 2015 pick, impressed coaches in his first full season at left guard.
But the Seahawks know they must improve at tackle. They want to fix a weakness that left quarterback Russell Wilson vulnerable to two major injuries in the first three games of 2016. With Wilson hurting, the offense and the team sputtered throughout last season, which ended in the divisional round of the playoffs for the second straight January.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report — on a typically frantic opening day of the NFL’s annual free-agent derby — that the Seahawks had agreed to a one-year contract with Joeckel. The deal is reportedly for $8 million. That’s more than the Seahawks paid the five players that finished last season starting on their O-line — combined.
The Seahawks did not confirm Joeckel’s agreement, which was reported about an hour before left tackle Russell Okung agreed to a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. ESPN and USA Today reported that Okung got four years for $54 million, with $25 million guaranteed.
So much for an Okung-Seattle reunion. The Seahawks were, as of Thursday morning, going to talk to him about possibly returning to the team that drafted him in the first round in 2010. But there was no way they were going to pay Okung anywhere near $25 million guaranteed. Or even half that.
The one-year deal for Joeckel shows that it is a stop-gap move to get more experience on the O-line. At least more experienced than having an undrafted rookie college basketball player, George Fant, as Seattle’s starting left tackle in 2016.
Joeckel became a free agent this winter when Jacksonville declined his $11.9 million contract option for 2017. He started 35 games for the Jaguars at left tackle before moving to left guard last season. His Jaguars tenure ended on injured reserve after five games of 2016. He had surgery in October to repair the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament and the meniscus in his left knee.
That explains why the 25-year-old, only a couple of years removed from being considered a foundation left tackle, commanded only a one-year deal. And the $8 million shows how expensive the market got immediately on Thursday for offensive tackles. Joeckel will have the 2017 season in Seattle to prove he’s healthy and productive again, worthy of a multiyear deal.
The Seahawks entered Thursday with $24.9 million in salary cap space for 2017. They aren’t working just to add veteran blockers. They are reportedly preparing to host running backs Jamaal Charles, Latavius Murray and Eddie Lacy for free-agent visits.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Thursday that the Seahawks and Charles, a former 1,500-yard rusher for the Kansas City Chiefs, have “mutual interest.” Pro Football Talk and NBC Sports reported that Charles’ visit to Seattle will happen next week, after the first wave of free-agent signings. That fits the Seahawks’ recent M.O.
Charles, 29, could fit Seattle’s budget. He has played in eight games total over the last two seasons. He’s had pain in both knees over the last year. He tore his ACL in October 2015, then had another surgery on the same, right knee this past November.
At his healthiest, Charles is versatile and potentially a good fit for the Seahawks. He caught 110 passes, with 12 touchdown receptions, over the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the Chiefs in their renowned screen-passing game.
If he accepts perhaps in the range of $2 million to $3 million per year to join a backfield with recently injured Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, Charles and Seattle could become a match.
The same financial issue is at play with the other two veteran backs whom Seattle is hosting.
The 27-year-old Murray has rushed for 1,854 yards, with 18 rushing touchdowns, as Oakland’s starter in the last two seasons. He had 12 TD runs last season, fifth-most in the NFL, and would come with no apparent injury concerns.
Lacy, 26, would. He just played out his four-year, $3.3 million rookie contract with Green Bay — sort of played it out.
He was a Pro Bowl back with 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2013. He followed that with 1,139 yards rushing with nine scores and another Pro Bowl selection in 2014. After Lacy dipped to 758 yards and three TDs on the ground in 2015, Packers coach Mike McCarthy told Lacy he needed to lose weight. He’s listed at 234 pounds, but was thought to have gotten above 260 last year. The Packers put him on injured reserve in October with an ankle injury that needed surgery.
His representatives, Sports Trust Advisors, posted on Twitter that he will be visiting Seattle, Minnesota and Green Bay through this weekend.
The Seahawks are waiting for Prosise, their tantalizing rookie from 2016, and Rawls to stay healthy long enough to have a full season as the team’s young (combined NFL experience: three seasons) and inexpensive rushers. That leaves money for Seattle to buy the more urgently needed offensive linemen, plus defensive backs and defensive tackles.
But if the Seahawks become convinced that Charles or Lacy are healthy enough, or Murray proves cost-effective enough, the team could give one of them an opportunity — while still having money to buy some linemen and defenders.
GILLIAM ONLY RFA TO GET OFFER
As expected, the Seahawks made starting right tackle Garry Gilliam their only restricted free agent to get a tender offer, the lowest-level one worth nearly $1.8 million for 2017, according to the NFL’s official transactions for Thursday.
Seattle now has the right of first refusal for any other offer Gilliam may get.
The team did not extend tender offers to starting cornerback DeShawn Shead, who is recovering from a torn ACL and meniscus, reserve linebacker Brock Coyle, special-teams safety Steven Terrell or reserve cornerback Mohammed Seisay. All are now unrestricted free agents.
BENNETT DONATING ENDORSEMENT CASH
Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett wrote on his Instagram account that he is donating all of his endorsement money for 2017 to minority programs in education and the arts, and to women of color.
“I have decided to donate all of my endorsement money in 2017 to help rebuild minority communities through s.t.e.a.m programs (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), as well as initiatives that directly affect women of color in hopes that we can create more opportunities for our youth and build a brighter future,” Bennett wrote online. “In addition, 50% of the proceeds from my jersey sales this year will go to programs and initiatives to support inner-city garden project. ...”
Bennett began training camp last year by calling on athletes to become more involved in social change.
HAUSCHKA AGREES TO DEAL WITH BUFFALO
What was obvious a month ago, when the Seahawks signed Blair Walsh, is reportedly imminent: Steven Hauschka’s time as Seattle’s kicker is up.
Hauschka and the Buffalo Bills have agreed to a free-agent contract, according to ESPN.
John Ryan, the Seahawks punter and kick holder, had a characteristic goofy goodbye for his buddy.
“It’s been an honor to hold your balls for the last 6 years @StevenHauschka. Good luck in Buffalo unless you play us, then I hope you suck.” Ryan posted on his Twitter account.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle