Joeckel played left tackle during his first three seasons in the NFL but moved to left guard last season, where he started four games before tearing the ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus in his left knee.
The Seahawks are expected to try Joeckel at both spots, but during an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob, Groz and Tom" show, offensive line coach Tom Cable said Joeckel played as well as any guard in the NFL during his limited stint there last season.
"For us, getting a guy like Luke, as I said to him when we got him, everybody thinks you failed. He’s a No. 2 pick. ‘Oh, he’s a bust,'" Cable said. "This guy played left guard last year, and I don’t know if there was a better guy playing left guard in football last year. But people don’t talk about that because in October he tore his ACL. And now he’s a free agent. Jacksonville must be done with him. They don’t want to pick up the option and blah, blah, blah. It’s like, ‘I’ll take him.’
"If you turn the film on of any guard in football at that spot, he was as good as any of them. And so, why wouldn’t you want that on your team? And I can probably make him better than he’s been. I’m confident. That’s not an arrogant thing. It’s just the way we teach and the way we develop."
Joeckel is still recovering from the injuries that ended his 2016 season and is not expected to participate fully during OTAs and minicamp.
Overall, the Seahawks have $15.59 million of cap space committed to the offensive line, the lowest number in the league. And Joeckel makes up more than half of that. His contract doesn't provide the team with much upside. If Joeckel plays well and stays healthy, he'll be free to test free agency next offseason, or the Seahawks will have to pay an even higher rate to keep him.
If he struggles, it will look like another missed evaluation. Last offseason, the team's highest-priced free agent was offensive lineman J'Marcus Webb, and he was cut during the season. Since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, the Seahawks have drafted 16 offensive linemen, more than any other team in the league.
The Seahawks looked to spend this offseason and aggressively pursued T.J. Lang, but he ended up signing with the Detroit Lions. Still, Cable said his philosophy is to use cap space on other areas of the roster.
"The way the free agent market is nowadays, if you want to pay all those linemen, then you won’t have the quarterback, you won’t have the receiver, you won’t have our tight end," Cable said. "You wouldn’t have our linebackers. You wouldn’t have our corners. You wouldn’t have our D-linemen.
"And so, I’ve always said, and I’ve said this publicly before, when you build a team, pay those guys who hit the quarterback and cover people and score touchdowns. And we’ll manage the rest. And it’s worked. We all have a championship ring because of it."
In 2013, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, they had the NFL's highest-paid offensive line. But clearly the plan is to draft and develop. Cable's ability to get the most out of guys like Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Ethan Pocic will go a long way in determining the Seahawks' fate in 2017.