According to Eric Williams, Seattle has signed WR Brandon Stokley, OT Breno Giacomini, and OT Allen Barbre. To make room on the roster, the team cut RB Quinton Ganther, OT/G Mansfield Wrotto, and OG Mike Gibson.
First, let’s look at the linemen. To be perfectly blunt, I don’t expect the swapping of Wrotto and Gibson for Giacomini and Barbre to change anything other than the names on the players’ jerseys we see hanging out on the sidelines. Gibson briefly held the starting LG job before losing it to Ben Hamilton, and with Chester Pitts finally getting healthy enough to start challenging Hamilton for playing time, Gibson became expendable. Wrotto was an adequate LT this preseason with help from some creative protection adjustments by Bates, but he’s been with the team for 3+ years now and has never shown that he’s capable of being anything other than a semi-okay injury replacement.
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Barbre and Giacomini are both ex-Packers, which would likely be why they were on Schneider’s radar. Giacomini is a practice squad guy — according to Rotoworld, he struggled this preseason, especially in pass protection. Despite that performance, his size and potential (6’7″, 311 lbs, and only 25 years old) were enough to tempt the Vikings into making a bid to sign him, which prompted the Packers to raise his practice squad salary in order to keep him. He’s a better fit for a power-blocking scheme than the zone-blocking one run by Seattle, but he could prove to be a decent backup road grader in the same mold as Stacy Andrews.
Allen Barbre was a failure at right tackle for the Packers last season and was nursing a back injury when Green Bay cut him via an injury settlement in early September. Like Giacomini, he’s a better in run blocking than pass protection, but unlike his former Packers teammate, Barbre is remarkably athletic for his size (6’4″, 305 lbs), which makes him an attractive pickup for a zone-blocking team.
In short, both Giacomini and Barbre are promising physical specimens who have struggled when given a chance to play, so I wouldn’t expect either to stick around long if they don’t show some improvement in a hurry. Chalk both signings up as just the latest round of Schneider and Carroll’s perpetual tryout carousel.
Which brings us to the main attractions, Quinton Ganther and Brandon Stokley. I have to admit, I like Ganther and the way he plays, but his injury, combined with the devaluation of the fullback position by Bates and the dependable (re: serviceable and injury-free) play of Michael Robinson on both offense and special teams, made Ganther expendable. Which raises another question: if Ganther’s injury earned him a pink slip, why sign Stokley, a player in his mid-30s with a long history of missing games due to injury?
Well for one, Ganther was never described by Peyton Manning as “the greatest slot receiver in NFL history.” Stokley was. When he isn’t nursing an injury on the sidelines, Stokley has pretty much been the Platonic ideal of what a slot receiver should be: sure-handed, dependable on third downs, and able to get open when the QB needs him the most.
Better yet, the guy’s football IQ is through the roof. For example, here’s a play many of you probably remember from early last season. Down by one against the Bengals with only twenty-eight seconds left in the fourth quarter, Stokley catches a pass off a deflection and takes it 80+ yards for a game-winning score. Stokley’s tip drill awareness on the play is pretty good, as is the burst of speed he shows in outrunning Cincinnati’s defensive backs to the endzone, but what I really want call your attention to is what he does at the end of the run. Rather than run straight in for the score, Stokley runs parallel to the goal line, burning an extra five seconds off the clock to give the Bengals as little time as possible to mount a miracle comeback of their own. That kind of smart, heads-up situational awareness is what makes Stokley more than just another broken-down aging wideout.
But more important for the Seahawks, though, is Stokley’s ability to coach up younger players. When the Broncos drafted Eddie Royal in ’08, he was given one piece of advice: watch Stokley and do everything the way he does it. Even after Royal leapfrogged him on the depth chart, Stokley went out of his way to give the rookie tips and pointers. And really, that’s where I would suspect Stokley will make his biggest impact with the Seahawks: not so much on the field, perhaps, but in the lessons he can impart to promising younger guys like Golden Tate and Deon Butler. ‘Cause if he can help them improve even half as much as he helped Royal, Seattle’s receiving corps will be set for a long time to come. Surely he can manage to stay healthy enough to do that much.