Seattle Seahawks

Fourth Seahawks loss in free agency, J.R. Sweezy to Arizona, increases need to keep D.J. Fluker

The Seahawks reportedly are losing starting left guard J.R. Sweezy to NFC West-rival Arizona in free agency. He is the fourth exiting veteran in the 2019 NFL free agency period. Seattle has yet to agree to terms with an incoming free agent.
The Seahawks reportedly are losing starting left guard J.R. Sweezy to NFC West-rival Arizona in free agency. He is the fourth exiting veteran in the 2019 NFL free agency period. Seattle has yet to agree to terms with an incoming free agent. AP

It’s now four Seahawks out the door in free agency.

Starting left guard J.R. Sweezy is leaving to sign a two-year contract with NFC West-rival Arizona. That’s according to a report Tuesday by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Sweezy joins nickel cornerback Justin Coleman (to Detroit), running back Mike Davis (to Chicago) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (to Minnesota) in leaving Seattle and agreeing to contracts elsewhere.

Tuesday was the second day of the NFL’s negotiating period with imminent unrestricted free agents. The market officially opens Wednesday at 1 p.m. That’s when these signings will be announced.

Sweezy was Seattle’s starter at right guard for Super Bowls 48 and 49 in 2013-14 seasons. He then signed with Tampa Bay for what became two lost, injury-filled seasons. He returned to the Seahawks last offseason on a one-year contract, battled through a summer ankle injury and became a physical force on a remade line that led the NFL’s top-ranked running game in 2018.

Sweezy said last season the Seahawks’ switch to a more physical, man-on-man, drive-blocking under new line coach Mike Solari fit his preferred style.

But as usual in free agency, money won out. The Cardinals obviously offered more than Seattle was willing to spend to keep him.

The Seahawks’ first priority this week remains to re-sign D.J. Fluker. Sweezy’s partner as a starting guard last season perfectly fit Seattle’s new line system in attitude, style of play, mammoth size and locker-room presence. He was an absolute bargain this time last year at less than $2 million for one season.

Fluker may be worth almost three times that much for this year—and because of Seattle’s style no team may value him more than the Seahawks.

Coach Pete Carroll has stated, repeatedly, how much he wants Fluker to return.

Of course, he said that about Sweezy, too.

“I’m counting on him. Yeah, I’m counting on him,” Carroll said two weeks ago.

“He fit us just right. Attitude wise you couldn’t imagine a guy having more of an impact. His aggressiveness, his toughness his desire to keep getting better and pushing it and fighting through the hard things and the difficulties. He was banged up some during the year and then he was just a monster playing.

“I think he played better than he did the year before for Mike with the Giants. He was more consistent and more effective I think because we ran the balls much more, you could see his style come to life. He was a big part of it.”

Coach Pete Carroll on the Seahawks’ offseason, more at 2019 NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Sweezy’s departure for now puts Ethan Pocic back in play as a possible starting left guard for the Seahawks in 2019. The second-round draft choice in 2017 was a college center at LSU who can also play tackle. But he struggled mightily at guard early last season; the team’s lack of confidence in him led to Seattle claiming former Oakland Raider Jordan Simmons off waivers in September.

It was Simmons, not Pocic, who started three games at guard when Fluker was injured last season. And Simmons impressed, particularly against Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and the Rams’ star-filled defensive line in Week 10. The Seahawks ran for 273 yards that day in Los Angeles with Simmons at guard in his first career start.

Simmons sustained a season-ending knee injury in his third career start, for the injured-again Fluker at San Francisco in December.

Two weeks ago at the NFL combine Carroll said Simmons was doing “fine” in his recovery, and that he could be back in time for the start of training camp in late July.

“As a matter of fact, I saw Jordan a couple of days ago,” Carroll said Feb. 28. “He looks great, really positive, upbeat.”

If he proves to be back from the injury, he could be the starter replacing Sweezy.

Meanwhile, Fluker sounds resolute in his future—be it in Seattle, or anywhere.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.