2011 Free Agents: Interior Linemen

I’m back again to look at free agents, this time focusing on interior linemen.  As with every position, we have to remember that we’re looking for scheme-correct players who will be able to buy in to Pete Carroll’s “Always Compete” mantra.  We all remember how long LenDale White lasted with the Hawks.  He had played for Carroll at USC, so he should have known what he was getting into, but he seemed to think that he didn’t (or shouldn’t) have to compete for a roster spot.  Carroll showed White just how wrong he was by showing him the door after just a brief stay in Seattle.

The Seahawks will want athletic guards and centers who understand how to diagnose and pick up blitzes.  The zone-blocking scheme used by Seattle is only run by a few other teams around the league, namely the Redskins, Raiders, Texans, Packers, and Colts.  The father of the system, Alex Gibbs, preferred lighter lineme because they are faster at pulling and getting to the second level as blockers.  The linemen also must be able to cut block, which calls for a lineman to lunge at the upper leg of a defender, thereby knocking them out of the play for a few crucial seconds while they pick themselves up off the turf.  As I mentioned in my last article, the new offensive line coach Tom Cable is more willing to work with larger linemen than Gibbs, which makes things easier for John Schneider because it widens considerably the range of o-line talent he can target.

One problem I ran into while writing this article is that it’s difficult to find quality, useful commentary about interior linemen, but I hope you’ll bear with me even if I wasn’t able to obtain as much information for you as I’d like.

To continue reading, please click on “Read More” below.

G Logan Mankins (NE)

28 years old, 6’4″, 310 lbs

I mention Mankins only because there’s been so much chatter about the possibility of the Hawks acquiring him.  I doubt that will happen, folks.  The Patriots put their franchise tag on Mankins on February 14th, so the chances of the Seahawks signing him have diminished to almost nothing.  Most of Seahawk Nation also needs to realize that Mankins may be ideal for the unconventional man-blocking scheme the Patriots use, but he is not a prototypical zone-blocking guard.  I’m not saying that he couldn’t succeed anyway with the Hawks, but I do think we should focus less on him and more on other more available players who are much better fits scheme-wise.

G Robert Gallery (OAK)

30 years old, 6’7″, 325 lbs

Gallery was considered to be the best Raiders’ offensive lineman.  He excels in run blocking, but occasionally struggles in pass protection.  As a tackle he gave up way too many sacks, which is why Cable moved him to guard.  Gallery is taller than most guards, but that doesn’t seem to affect his leverage.  He’s also older than most of us would like to see in a free agent pickup. 

I have mixed feelings on Gallery; I don’t think he’s going to be the next Steve Hutchinson for us, but I do believe he’d go a long way toward improving Seattle’s line play.  Al Davis and the Raiders have let it be known that Gallery priced himself out of Oakland, so we can also be pretty sure that signing him would be expensive.  Do we really want to break the bank to sign a guy who’s already 30, especially when he already proved to be a bust once (at left tackle before switching positions to guard)?  As with every player I’ve profiled in these articles, everything depends on whether they can be had for the right price, and Gallery’s price is not right at all for the Seahawks, especially considering all the other holes on the roster that need to be filled.

C Samson Satele (OAK)

26 years old, 6’3″, 300 lbs

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet our new center.  Satele started his career with the Dolphins before being traded to the Raiders, where Cable took him in with open arms.  At 26 he’s already started in 59 games, so he has experience to go along with his decent size for the position.  While with the Raiders he was demoted from the starting lineup once, but he earned his job back after just one game.

For the last two years, the Raiders have had a very physical offensive line.  I think we can all remember the injuries the Raiders inflicted on the Seahawks’ d-line, and Satele was no small part of their success.  I remember watching that game and being frustrated at how well the Raiders controlled the line of scrimmage in that game.  Satele could — and should — be a target for us during free agency.  However, that will depend heavily on the relationship he and his former o-line coach Cable have.  I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors that Seattle won’t be bringing back Chris Spencer next season, and I’d love to have Satele on board as his replacement.

G/C Jason Spitz (GB)

28 years old, 6’3″, 300 lbs

Let’s start with the bad news. Spitz has had some injury problems (he was put on IR in 2009 with a lower back injury).  He was also part of a porous o-line in 2008 that gave up 34 sacks.  On the plus side, he is a fairly flexible player who is able to play every position on the interior line, but I’m not sold on the Hawks making a push for Spitz.  I know we need depth, which he could provide, but I would rather not have him as a starter.

Another thing that needs to be considered here is the Schneider-Green Bay connection.  We’ve claimed more than a few offensive linemen off the Packers’ practice squad already, so we shouldn’t discount Schneider’s ability to call up Green Bay’s front office and get some honest, candid player assessments from his contacts there.  If Seattle does bring in Spitz, I’ll trust his judgement, but if he doesn’t we can safely assume it’ll be because he knows something about Spitz that we don’t.  On another note, take a look at this guy’s picture — is that a face we want on the team?  He’d scare my kids!

G Daryn Colledge (GB)

29 years old, 6’4″, 304 lbs

Colledge was a second round pick (47th overall) for Green Bay in 2006.  He had a pretty up and down year in 2010.  The Packers have struggled to run the ball with any semblance of consistency, and Colledge’s play has something to do with that.  He isn’t able to push defenders around when he run blocks, but he is pretty good in pass protection.  The Packers did put an original round tender on him, but they already have so many other potential candidates to replace him at left guard that they aren’t expected to try very hard to re-sign him.  So again, we’re back to trusting Schneider’s buddies in Green Bay to give him accurate info on Colledge’s quality.

G Kyle DeVan (IND)

26 years old, 6’2″, 306 lbs

DeVan has bounced around the league for the last few years.  He started his pro career with the Boise Burn of the Arena Football 2 league.  After that, he spent time with the Redskins and Jets before ending up with the Colts where he’s been the starting right guard since 2006.  Jeff Saturday once called DeVan “the heart and soul of the Colts,” which I take to mean that he’s got a lot of intangibles like heart and leadership qualities.  He was a state wrestling champ back in California, so we know he’s athletic and used to refining his technique (that’s a prerequisite for success in wrestling), and he’s considered intelligent for an offensive lineman.  Add to that his quick feet, and you have a good fit for the Seahawks’ zone-blocking scheme.  DeVan seems to realize how blessed he is to play in the NFL, which should translate into a guy who will work his backside off to stay in the league.  Did I mention he also has Super Bowl experience with the Colts?

G/C Mike Pollak (IND)

26 years old, 6’4″, 300 lbs

Pollak has started 33 of his 43 games for the Colts.  He was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft (59th overall), and rumor has it that he was the best center available in that draft.  Like DeVan, Pollak has Super Bowl experience, and he was drafted to be Jeff Saturday’s eventual replacement.  From some of the chatter I’ve read about this guy, it sounds like the Colts were hoping that Pollak could start at right guard and/or provide depth at all three positions on the interior line.  He’s intelligent and able to read blitzes well.  Besides, how can you not like the idea of getting a lineman who’s had experience playing with Peyton Manning and his crazy playcall antics?  I would be very happy to see Pollak join the Hawks, even if it was just to provide depth.  He’s young, but he already has good NFL experience from which he can draw.

G Kasey Studdard (HOU)

26 years old, 6’3″, 308 lbs

Studdard was drafted in the sixth round (183rd overall).  He played in only 4 games last year and didn’t start in any of them.  I view him mainly as a depth guy, but that’s mainly based on the stats I’ve been able to find on him.  Studdard has some NFL lineage (his father Dave Studdard played for the Broncos) and is apparently known as a “fun-loving brawler.”  I really don’t think he would be the savior of our o-line, but we could always use more linemen to compete in training camp.  I say bring him in on a minimum contract and let him show Carroll and Cable what he can do.

G Mike Brisiel (HOU)

27 years old, 6’5″, 298 lbs

Brisiel was an undrafted free agent in 2006.  He’s missed a few games over the past couple years due to injury (right knee and right calf), but he’s been a three-year starter for the Texans.  If his injury days are behind him, he could be a quality pickup for Seattle.

G Will Montgomery (WAS)

28 years old, 6’3″, 312 lbs

Montgomery has bounced around the league a little bit in his short career.  He started with the Panthers, then went to the Jets before landing with the Redskins in 2008.  The Skins run a zone-blocking scheme, so he’ll already have down the basics of what the Hawks want to accomplish.  He’s also only started 9 games in his career, so he’s a better candidate for depth than starter.

C Chris Spencer (SEA)

28 years old, 6’3″, 309 lbs

I’ve already mentioned that the rumor is that the Hawks will not be bringing Spencer back, but for the sake of this article I’d like to look at whether or not he should be re-signed.  I’ve read a few reports from NFL scouts who thought that Spencer and Sean Locklear, at least toward the end of the season, were two of the more consistent linemen the Hawks had last year.  However, I think those assessments don’t prove that Spencer and Locklear are good so much as they point out just how deficient the rest of the o-line was.  There was no consistency on the line at all, and every position looked like a fire drill with all the different players moving in and out of those spots (with the exception of center and right tackle, which were manned by Spencer and Locklear all year).  However, Spencer also had Alex Gibbs satisfied with the way he played center for the Hawks, which speaks highly in his favor.  I also like that he was able to play much of 2009 with a broken hand, which speaks to his toughness.

Spencer is a known factor.  We know he isn’t amazing, but he isn’t the worst center in the league, either.  The team should be able to upgrade the position, but if they can’t then Spencer should be re-signed until a better option becomes available.  I know a lot of people are not going to like that idea, but there’s a limit to how many amazing players we can bring in during one offseason.  I’m neutral on this move; I’m not sure I like Spencer so much as I’m not sure we’ll be able to sign a better option.  Unger is in line to take over the center position for Spencer, but judging by what I’ve seen from him I’d rather have Spencer.  Unger has made too many mistakes for my liking the last few years.

Other Notable Free Agents (thanks once again to Football’s Future for the list):

Davin Joseph (TB)
Alan Faneca (ARZ)
Deuce Lutui (ARZ)
Lyle Sendlein (ARZ)
Chris Chester (BAL)
Marshal Yanda (BAL)
Olin Kreutz (CHI)
Evan Mathis (CIN)
Kyle Cook (CIN)
Nate Livings (CIN)
Kyle Kosier (DAL)
Rudy Niswanger (KC)
Casey Wiegmann (KC)
Richie Incognito (MIA)
Nate Garner (MIA)
Jonathan Goodwin (NO)
Kevin Boothe (NYG)
Reggie Wells (PHI)
Scott Mruczkowski (SD)
David Baas (SF)
Leroy Harris (TEN)
Ryan Kalil (CAR)
Carl Nicks (NO)
Justin Blalock (ATL)

I am so happy the Hawks don’t have a conventional blocking scheme because that means there isn’t going to be a huge demand for players who fit their zone-blocking scheme.  The less competition there is for a player’s services, the cheaper they are to sign, which in turns leaves more money available to sign players in other positions of need.  Of this group, I think Robert Gallery is the only one who may prove to be too expensive for the Hawks.  The rest should be more reasonably priced, which should make John Schneider drool like I do when I think about steak (mmm, steak). 

I’m also confident that Tom Cable is going to bring in players he knows and likes this offseason, so be on the lookout for ex-Raiders to fill our trenches.  I was surprised by how many Raiders o-linemen will be hitting free agency this year, and I expect the team to bring in Satele at the very least and fly him around Seattle in the seaplane, especially with the rumors of Spencer not coming back.  I realize that a lot of people like Unger as the future center for the Seahawks, but again I have to say I’m not a fan of him.  But no matter what happens, I’m expecting to see a ton of new faces on our o-line in 2011.  (I hope one of those faces doesn’t belong to Jason Spitz, though.  That would be just wrong.)