The Seahawks did what’s become the expected to begin the 2016 NFL draft: They traded their first-round pick.
Then they did the unexpected: They actually stayed in the first round after all, for the first time in four years.
And they filled their most obvious need right away, for a change.
The Seahawks were basking Thursday night in the fact that with Germain Ifedi of Texas A&M they got a “(butt) kicker” for a new tackle on an offensive line that desperately needs one. Or three.
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Seattle traded down from No. 26 to No. 31 and still met their biggest need head on. And we mean big.
Ifedi is 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches tall and 324 pounds. He has wingspan of more than seven feet; it’s 85 inches “or so,” according to Seahawks general manager John Schneider. So, heck, he can cover seemingly about half the line of scrimmage with his arms.
“He’s BIG!” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
“He’s an (butt)-kicker,” Schneider said — except the GM didn’t say “butt.”
The Seahawks project Ifedi as a right tackle, “a cornerstone tackle” eventually, veteran line coach Tom Cable said. Cable said the attributes he liked most while working out Ifedi were his toughness, his ability to correct mistakes on the fly during a game and the fact he went from guard to left tackle to guard and back to right tackle while at Texas A&M.
The Seahawks favor versatile linemen who can play and think in multiple settings.
Cable made it clear that he intends for Ifedi to play this coming season. That’s even though the Seahawks signed veteran J’Marcus Webb in free agency in March to a free-agent deal guaranteeing him $2.75 million the next two years.
Seattle lost former Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung to Denver in free agency in March. They lost guard J.R. Sweezy to Tampa Bay in free agency, too.
The Seahawks’ entire starting offensive line from the Super Bowl they won in January 2014 is gone after beginning last season by allowing a whopping 31 sacks in seven games.
“He was drafted in the first round for a reason,” Cable said of Ifedi.
Ifedi was shown on ESPN beaming after league commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name to end the first round. He jumped up and down and hugged a dozen family members, his agent, friends and high school teammates at his family’s home in Houston.
His agent’s particularly ecstatic reaction and hopping up and down made Ifedi laugh. Everything about the Seahawks’ call did.
He said when he got the call he heard, “This is John ...” and then nothing else, Seattle’s general manager said. That was because he and his family and friends were already roaring and screaming and hugging.
“It could have been John Anybody,” Ifedi said, chuckling.
It was as genuine a reaction of joy you’ll see in an NFL draft often scripted with green-room waits by top prospects.
Not Ifedi. His living-room mosh pit made the newest Seahawk the happiest.
And if Ifedi plays like Seattle — and apparently few others, judging by national criticism of the pick — thinks he can, quarterback Russell Wilson will be thrilled, too.
“That was 10, 12 years of hard work coming to roost,” said Ifedi. “You get that call, you don’t know who it is. It could be a bill collector.”
No, he shouldn’t need to worry about one of those calling him now.
The maximum Ifedi will get in his four-year rookie deal is $8,265,109, including a signing bonus of no more than $4,210,988, former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com reported.
That’s per the league’s collective bargaining agreement — now essentially slotting rookie salary per where they are chosen in the first round. This will be the first rookie contract Seattle’s had with a fifth-year option since their last first-round pick, 2012 with Irvin. The team didn’t use that fifth-year option on Irvin for 2016, so he left for Oakland in free agency.
“I feel blessed,” said Ifedi, a fourth-year junior who has his degree in construction management. “This team is the perfect fit for me.”
For the four consecutive year, Schneider and Carroll traded their first-round pick. But this time the Seahawks stayed in the opening round. They moved down in the deal with quarterback-needy Denver, and gained a third-round pick from the Broncos at 94th overall. The Broncos used Seattle’s original pick to draft Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch to replace retired Peyton Manning as soon as this season.
Seattle gaining a pick — to get to 10 for this draft — while losing only five spots and staying in the first round? That’s value Schneider and Carroll live for.
“We get another pick in the meat part of this draft,” Carroll said of Friday, when Seattle will have four choices: in the second round (56th overall), plus three in the third round (90, 94 and 97).
The middle third-round pick from Denver they got is the 28th choice Schneider and Carroll have acquired in seven drafts leading Seattle. Carroll said the Seahawks were fielding “four or five” offers to trade their No. 26 selection Thursday, but they had connected before the draft began with Denver general manager John Elway on possibly trading that pick to the Broncos.
NFC West-rival Arizona. at No. 29. then took the top-five talent many had pegged for the Seahawks at their previous No. 26 spot: Robert Nkemdiche, defensive tackle, Mississippi. That instantly makes the Cardinals better — and they are the division’s defending champions already.
Ifedi was basking in making his first trip to Washington to begin a life about which he’s been dreaming since he was a kid in Texas.
“I’m looking forward to getting started,” he said. “I’ve worked so hard for this. I wanted it for so long. And now I have it.
“You have a blessed night.”