In one swell foop Thursday, the Seahawks reset their offensive line for 2019 — bringing back D.J. Fluker and swapping in Mike Iupati for J.R. Sweezy (basically a trade with Arizona).
The Hawks now have four former first-round picks and one second-rounder as their line starters. You can hardly get better draft pedigree than that.
They also will return four starters to the line that led the league’s top rushing attack in 2018. They just have to hope Fluker and Iupati can stay healthy for Mike Solari — or at least combine with Jordan Simmons to put together 32 man-games at the guard spots in 2019.
Then John Schneider needs to work up a plan for beyond next season.
Seattle has only one lineman, Duane Brown, signed through 2021, and he will be 36 that season. Fluker and Justin Britt are signed through 2020, and the Hawks have several options at right tackle in 2020 as well. But what about left guard? And then what will the line look like in 2021?
Schneider would be smart to add an interior lineman in this draft, either a guard such as Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom or Oklahoma’s Dru Samia or a center such as N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury. Lindstrom and Samia both played right guard in college but surely could move to the left side, backing up the injury-prone Iupati in 2019 and then starting in 2020. Bradbury could play at left guard until Britt leaves (whether that is 2020 or 2021) and then slide over.
As for right guard, Fluker and Simmons should have it covered for the next two seasons. Simmons will be an RFA after 2020 and, if he has proven he can stay healthy, could step into the starting spot in 2021 if Fluker is not retained again. Simmons figures to be the swing guard in 2019, stepping in when either of the former first-rounders is injured (and you know at least one of them will be).
Schneider will have to make a decision at right tackle next year. He could have three options: Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Jamarco Jones.
Schneider could pick up Ifedi’s 2020 option, but he probably wouldn’t want to pay the $10 million or so that would cost (even though Seattle has a lot of cap room in 2020). He also could try to re-sign Ifedi, but that certainly would depend on play and price.
The GM also could choose to let Ifedi go in free agency and either sign Fant to a longer deal or promote Jones, if he merited it. We don’t know much about Jones because he was injured for all of 2018, but early reports indicated he might have a future as a starter. If Jones is good enough to start there, the team would have him on his rookie deal for two more years.
Ideally, Schneider would keep two of the three so Seattle had depth. Elijah Nkansah also could factor; he saw action for one play — making a key block on a touchdown run vs. the Chiefs — as a rookie last year. Or the Hawks could draft a guy over the next two years; they will need to set up Brown’s eventual successor anyway.
For now, with four starters returning, the Hawks are in pretty good shape — assuming the injury-prone guards stay healthy. But Schneider needs to come up with a plan for 2020 and beyond.