Garry Gilliam is about to find out how much the Seahawks do -- or do not -- have him in their plans for this year.
Seattle’s starting right tackle the last two seasons signed an offer sheet with division rival San Francisco on a one-year contract, as my old Sacramento Bee pal Matt Barrows reported Monday after the 49ers confirmed it.
The Seahawks have five days to match the offer for their restricted free agent.
At this reported price -- $2.2 million, with $1.4 million guaranteed -- it would a big surprise if the Seahawks match:
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Seattle deciding to match would indicate the Seahawks have been blowing smoke about moving 2016 rookie right guard Germain Ifedi to his college position of right tackle, as general manager John Schneider said last month at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.
I don’t sense any smoke blowin’ in this case.
Ifedi and former Jacksonville No. 2-overall pick Luke Joeckel on the left appear for now to be Seattle’s starting tackles, entering next week’s draft in which the Seahawks pick at number 26 in the first round. The Seahawks signed Joeckel last month to a one-year, prove-it contract worth $7 million guaranteed, far too much money for him not to start. He can also play left guard, which he did in five games for the Jaguars last season before he had season-ending knee surgery in October.
Last month Seattle gave Gilliam, its undrafted free agent in 2014 and former tight end at Penn State, the lowest tender offer for a restricted free agent: a non-guaranteed $1,797,000. That lowest price comes with no draft-pick compensation should another team sign him. So if the Seahawks indeed don’t match San Francisco’s offer, Gilliam becomes a 49er and Seattle gets nothing in return -- except his potential $1,797,000 cost off its salary cap for this year.
No matter whom he ends up playing for in 2017, Gilliam stands to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2018.
This time last year the Seahawks were planning on him replacing departed free agent Russell Okung as their new left tackle. Then Gilliam missed much of the team’s minicamp and organized team activities recovering from surgery in May to remove a cyst from his knee. After that, coaches said they decided not to try to make up for lost time and kept Gilliam at right tackle. He lost that starting spot in December, when line coach Tom Cable said Gilliam wasn’t being physical enough. He regained his job a couple weeks later when Bradley Sowell was worse.
Gilliam is one of my favorite players to interview on the Seahawks.
And not because he will be remembered in Seattle for catching the stunning touchdown pass from punter/holder Jon Ryan in the third quarter of the NFC championship game against Green Bay in January 2015 to spark the Seahawks’ miraculous comeback to win and play in Super Bowl 49.
His mother, Thelma “Vene” Shifflett, raised Garry and his special needs older brother, Victor, by herself in the crime-filled Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital city. To give Garry a future she didn’t think she could provide as a single mother in such a long-odds place, Shifflett sent Garry away from the Hill when he was seven years old. Away and alone, 25 miles from home, to Milton Hershey School.
The 105-year-old establishment is free for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from families of low income and long odds. It is named after the man who set aside a trust for its creation, the American chocolatier for whom the city where the school is located (Hershey, Pennsylvania) is named.
Gilliam lived year-round at Milton Hershey School from second grade through his high school graduation. He lived in groups of three or four similarly aged children cared for by a hosting, married house-couple, doing household chores at or before dawn, before classes and sports practices.
Through endowments, each student who successfully makes it through 12th grade at Milton Hershey gets a college scholarship. Gilliam is the first in his family to attend college.
After he was there some time, his mother moved closer to the school so Garry could see her on weekends. Other than that, the 26-year old’s been on his own since second grade.
“It was definitely a strange place and strange people at seven years old,” Gilliam once told me, chuckling.
Gilliam is only the second person to make it through both Milton Hershey and college to play in the NFL. Joe Senser graduated from Milton Hershey in 1974 and played tight end for the Minnesota Vikings.
In the years since he became a surprise Seahawk, Gilliam has returned to Milton Hershey. He’s talked to its students. He’s visited his former coaches and mentors and attended a Friday night football game of his former high school team. They absoultely love him there.
Now that scared 7-year-old boy alone and far from home is a few days away from possibly getting guaranteed $1.4 million.
But from the 49ers, not the Seahawks.