They were already at Plan B at the most important position on the offensive line.
So who or what is Plan C for the Seahawks, at that most important place along their most troublesome position group, for Sunday’s game at New Orleans (2-4)?
That is what the NFC West leaders (4-1-1) spent Tuesday trying to decide. Left tackle Bradley Sowell sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee during Sunday night’s 6-6 tie at Arizona.
Sorry, trading for Joe Staley or Joe Thomas — or any other veteran Joe that would cost big bucks and high draft picks — wasn’t likely under as deep a consideration as you would like.
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“You got somebody that wants to give you a left tackle? Those guys don’t exist, dude,” Carroll told host Bob Stelton of Seattle’s 710-AM radio.
Well they don’t exist at anything less than a steep price, in the case of San Francisco’s Staley or Cleveland’s Thomas. They have prices the Seahawks have been unwilling to pay since Carroll and general manager John Schneider began running the team in January 2010.
Both Staley and Thomas are rumored to be available for trade. That’s a connecting of dots between ages, big contracts with multiple years left on them, losing teams — and the league’s trading deadline coming up. It’s Nov. 1.
The Browns are believed to have come close to trading Thomas, their third overall draft choice in 2007, last year. His salary cap charge to a team that trades for him would be $4.39 million. That’s what’s remaining on his contract for this season, nine more weeks prorated on his $8.3 million base salary. He has two more years after this one left on his deal, at $8.8 million each in 2017 and ’18. But none of that base pay is guaranteed. His team has no dead money against its cap for those years — it could renegotiate or cut that contract in any year with no residual effect on its salary cap.
For what it’s worth, Cleveland coach Hue Jackson was pointed about it Monday.
“We. Are. Not. Going. To. Trade. Joe. Thomas,” the Browns coach told the media in Northeast Ohio.
Staley, 32, was San Francisco’s 28th overall pick in that same draft Thomas went to Cleveland. His contract is trickier than Thomas’, and Pro Football Talk reported Sunday that the 49ers want a first-round pick for Staley.
He is signed with the 49ers through 2019. His remaining salary for this season is $2.86 million, but because of bonus, his salary-cap hit is more than $11 million for next year and $7.7 million in 2018 and ’19. His base salary jumps to $8.25 million in 2017. His “dead money,” the money his team would carry against its cap if he is released in a given year, is currently $6.6 million next year, $4.4 million for 2018 and $2.2 million for ’19.
On Monday, 49ers coach Chip Kelly told Bay Area media when asked about the potential of San Francisco trading Staley: “That’s news to me. Nobody’s had any discussions with me about Joe being traded. We need Joe here.”
Again, for what that’s worth.
All of Staley’s money — and Thomas’, for that matter — is more than the Seahawks have been willing to spend to acquire an offensive lineman under Carroll and Schneider. In fact, they’ve splurged about everywhere but on the O-line.
They decided to build the Seahawks by paying big bucks to their 20-something defensive core — Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright — plus quarterback Russell Wilson and top wide receiver Doug Baldwin. They’ve chosen to skimp and get by with minimum and rookie contracts for starters on the offensive line.
That’s how they’ve maintained their foundation players through second deals since 2012 while staying under each year’s salary cap.
What is rich on Seattle’s offensive line? J’Marcus Webb is Seattle’s highest-paid blocker. The Seahawks are paying him $1.25 million guaranteed to be their backup guard and tackle this season. He got a two-year contract this spring with $2.45 million guaranteed.
A fraction of Staley and Thomas.
Yes, the offensive line needs a massive upgrade. The Seahawks have played two full games plus the first 59 minutes and 28 seconds of the opener against Miami without scoring a touchdown. They gained just 130 yards and scored but one field goal in four quarters Sunday before overtime at Arizona. Seattle is 27th in the league in its base rushing offense, at just 82.7 yards per game.
And yes, Russell Wilson is playing on a sprained left knee and sprained right ankle from being sacked in September. He isn’t running at his normal speed, which is hurting both the running game and his usual, improvisational wonders in passing. Wilson’s injuries have so far left him unable to mask the O-line’s deficiencies as he had in previous seasons.
Sowell wasn’t even Seattle’s preseason plan at left tackle: Garry Gilliam was supposed to start there before the team moved him back to right tackle in August. Does Sowell being out multiple weeks at least make Schneider change his M.O. and trade for a new blindside protector for Wilson midseason?
Not if the GM sticks to how he built this two-time Super Bowl team and perennial contender.
The only trades the Seahawks have made under Schneider and Carroll to acquire a veteran with the status at their position of Staley and Thomas have been for guys who carry and catch the ball. They made the deal in their overhaul first year of 2010 to get Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo. That was, of course, wondrous. Lynch became a Hall of Fame-caliber foundation upon which Seattle bludgeoned foes and won Super Bowl 49 three seasons ago.
The other such trade? Well, we all remember Percy Harvin.
Schneider may never forget the first-round pick he gave to Minnesota and the huge dollars he gave to the wide receiver. Harvin’s injuries and fighting with teammates were not nearly worth it. Seattle traded Harvin in the middle of the 2014 season for a bag of kicking tees.
So it’s more likely the Seahawks choose their in-house options. That, and wait for Wilson’s knee and ankle to hopefully heal to the point he can run the read option and escape pass rushers again. And they’ll wait for lead running back Thomas Rawls to return from a cracked fibula. The team expects that to be for the Nov. 7 home game against Buffalo.
On Monday, Carroll listed his options at left tackle while Sowell is out. One is a college basketball player. Undrafted rookie George Fant finished the game against the Cardinals.
“We’ve been counting on young George to jump up one of these times … and he did an admirable job for his first time ever,” Carroll said. “We’ll see how it goes. And we’ve got some choices.
“J’Marcus has moved around, played around. Of course, Garry has played over there. We have some things that we can work with. We’ll let you know that later on.”
Webb started 32 consecutive games at left tackle for Chicago in 2011 and ’12, his second and third NFL seasons.
How well did that go? He hasn’t played there since, and he is on his fourth team in five years.
Quarterback Russell Wilson posted on his Twitter account Tuesday night that he and wife Ciara are expecting a baby. “The Greatest Blessing of All. Forever Grateful. #BabyWilsonOnTheWay” Wilson wrote. Wilson posted a photo on his Instagram account of he and his wife holding her tummy.
The Seahawks put rookie draft choice and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson on injured reserve. He needs knee surgery. They signed free-agent defensive end Malliciah Goodman to take Jefferson’s place on the active roster. Goodman, 26, was Atlanta’s fourth-round draft pick in 2013 from Clemson. The 6-foot-4, 276-pound Goodman has played in 34 NFL games, 11 starts, all with the Falcons. … The Seahawks released running back Zac Brooks from the practice squad. Brooks was the team’s seventh-round pick in May.
SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2-4)
10 a.m. Sunday, Superdome, New Orleans
Against the Seahawks: This is the 13th regular-season meeting. Each team has won six times. The Saints have lost the two postseason matchups, the “Beast Quake” game in Seattle Jan. 8, 2010, and Jan. 11, 2013, at CenturyLink Field. That’s the last time the Saints made the playoffs. This is the first time New Orleans has hosted the Seahawks since Nov. 21, 2010. That’s also the last time Saints beat Seattle, 34-19. Drew Brees threw two interceptions but for 382 yards and four touchdowns to beat Matt Hasselbeck’s 32-for-44, 366-yard passing day.
Line: Seahawks by 2 1/2
What to know: The Saints still throw it around the yard as well as anyone in football, and still can’t stop anyone from scoring. … New Orleans is No. 1 in the NFL in passing offense (339 yards per game) and scoring (29 points per game). The Saints are last in the league in points allowed (32.5 per game), 29th in total defense (404 yards per game) and 30th in pass defense (287 yards per game) … Drew Brees turns 38 in January but is playing like he’s 28 again. He has 2,100 passing yards through six games, second in the league to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Brees is on pace for 5,603 over an entire regular season. The NFL record is 5,477, by Peyton Manning in 2013. Brees leads the league with 17 touchdown passes, against five interceptions, and is completing 68.5 percent of his throws (third in the league). Brees’ 273 passes are most in the NFC. … His offensive line, anchored by former Seahawks All Pro center Max Unger, has allowed just nine sacks in 282 drop backs. That the fewest sacks allowed in the NFC. … Former Washington Huskies lineman Senio Kelemete is a backup guard and center. … Brees’ leading receiver has been rookie Michael Thomas. He had 10 catches for 130 yards in the Saints’ 27-21 loss last weekend at Kansas City. His 36 catches for 437 yards has him on pace to break team records for receptions (88, Reggie Bush in 2006) and yards receiving (1,038, by Marques Colston in ’06). … Brandin Cooks leads the team with four touchdown catches. He averages 15.2 yards per catch. … Only Jacksonville runs less than New Orleans. The Saints, with lead back Mark Ingram, average just 22 rushes per game. … Opponents have thrown 223 times and the Saints have just two interceptions, the NFC’s fewest. … New Orleans’ nine sacks are tied for second-fewest in the league. … Former Seahawks defensive end Darryl Tapp, in his 11th season since he debuted with Seattle, has a fumble recovery and half a sack in six games. … The Saints’ defense is giving up 117 yards rushing per game, 23rd in the NFL. … The Saints have won just twice in six games. But in the weak NFC South, that’s contention. They are just 1 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta (4-3).
Quotable: “It’ll be fun, man. Me and Jimmy we had some violent practices against each other. We are both really competitive. I remember my rookie year we used to go at it. He’s a good friend of mine, and I’m excited. … I wish nothing but success for him — except against us.” — Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, a good friend of Jimmy Graham’s from their time as teammates with New Orleans, on the Seahawks’ tight end.