A couple weeks ago, it seemed like the Seattle Seahawks would have the opportunity to acquire a veteran left tackle.
But the final chips of the left tackle market fell into place over the weekend. Ferguson announced that he was retiring, and the Jets pounced on Clady. They didn't have to give up much, either, sending a fifth-round pick to the Broncos and receiving a seventh-round selection plus Clady in return.
So why didn't the Seahawks get involved and make this deal?
At this point, it's clear the team had no interest in paying money for a left tackle this offseason. Clady restructured his deal and signed a one-year, $6 million contract with $3 million guaranteed, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Clady has only played in 18 games over the past three seasons, but it's a low-risk move for the Jets. If things don't work out in 2016, they're not on the hook for any money in future years.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Seahawks have $8.75 million committed to their entire offensive line in 2016. That's by far the lowest number of any team in the NFL. No other team is at less than $15.3 million. And this offseason seems like evidence that the lack of spending up front is by design.
It's not just Clady. Okung signed a one-year, $5 million deal with no guaranteed money. Kelvin Beachum signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars for one year at $4.5 million. Donald Penn signed a two-year, $11.9 million deal with the Oakland Raiders.
Left tackles around the league had a tough time cashing in this offseason. Yet instead of signing someone, the Seahawks sat out and seem content to give Garry Gilliam a long look.
Earlier this offseason, we examined why the Seahawks are choosing to operate this way. And really, there seem to be three reasons.
First, the run game has operated at a high level despite a rotating case of linemen. Second, despite the issues against the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs, the pass protection improved dramatically in the second half of last season. And third, general manager John Schneider has pointed out on multiple occasions demand outweighs supply with offensive linemen. Because of that, they are going to avoid paying for what they deem to be mediocre talent.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Seahawks have just under $6 million in cap space available for 2016. That number will go up assuming Marshawn Lynch files his retirement papers. But there could be additional moves to make (backup QB, backup RB, nose tackle, signing draft picks).
On one hand, the Seahawks' philosophy makes sense. They have a quarterback in Russell Wilson who can make up for pass protection issues and also helps the run game go. Last year, the Seahawks had the second most efficient offense in the league despite what most analysts would label a mediocre (at best) offensive line. Because they have spent so little up front, they've been able to use that money in other areas, including a defense that has led the NFL in fewest points allowed for four straight seasons.
On the other hand, the team's window of opportunity to win another Super Bowl is wide open, and it could have added a starting-caliber left tackle without committing a lot of money long-term.
For now, the plan will be to let Gilliam and Bradley Sowell compete for the starting job. The Seahawks could obviously address the position in the draft as well.
But Schneider and Pete Carroll seem intent on building a roster that doesn't require a heavy financial investment in the offensive line, and they apparently have seen enough from Gilliam to believe that he can effectively make the switch from right tackle to left.
The performance of the offense in the fall will reflect whether they've been wise with their decision-making this offseason or whether they'll end up having regrets.