Now that the 2022 NFL season is over, it's time to look ahead to an offseason that will help shape the Seahawks' fortunes in 2023 and beyond. With free agency kicking off next month and the draft following in April, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands prior to the start of the new league year. So far we've covered, quarterback, safety, running back, cornerback, receiver, linebacker, tight end and defensive line/outside linebacker, and today we focus on the offensive line. Check back Monday when we wrap things up with a look at where things stand on special teams.
Few position groups changed more for the Seahawks from 2021 to 2022 than the offensive line. The Seahawks made a change at center via free agency, signing veteran Austin Blythe, who played under Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and offensive line coach Andy Dickerson when they were with the Rams. Then, the following month, the Seahawks continued the offensive line overhaul, drafting left tackle Charles Cross in the first round and right tackle Abraham Lucas in the third round. Given his stats as the No. 9 overall pick, it was assumed that Cross would likely open the season as a starter, but what was less certain was whether Lucas would also win a starting job, and whether or not the Seahawks would be comfortable starting a pair of rookies at tackle.
It turns out the answer to both questions was yes, as the Washington State product impressed from Day 1 and eventually won the starting job, setting the Seahawks up to become just the third team since the 1970 merger to open a season with rookies starting at both tackle spots. There were some bumps along the road, to be sure, but both Cross and Lucas played very well all season, helping the offense function at a high level while protecting Geno Smith on his way to a Pro-Bowl season. Even more impressive is that they did that while not getting a lot of extra help in terms of double teams with guards and tight ends helping them.
The starting guard duo of Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis remained intact from 2021, though Phil Haynes saw significant playing time as well, splitting time with Jackson at right guard and also filling in at left guard for Lewis for one game.
"I thought it was a good group," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said when asked about the line's performance in 2022. "Austin Blythe was a real factor for us. He really helped give us the continuity up front. He's really, really smart and a terrific leader and play caller up there. He really helped us solidify. In the rotation of guards, D-Lew (Damien Lewis) did a nice job overall during the course of the season. I think it fit together well. I think the tight ends played better as the season went on up front and there's a lot of promise for us. Colby Parkinson had a really good season to add with the O-line, along with Diss (Will Dissly) and Noah (Fant). There are some real positives there connecting those elements."
On the rookie tackles starting 33 games between them—Lucas missed one due to injury—Carroll said, "It's hard to imagine, because this hasn't happened, that this occurred. Both guys come out of it healthy and feeling good. They can have great offseasons to bank on the experience that they've had. They won't all grow the same, they won't all take the same out of this experience, but we are going to try and maximize this as much as possible to help them really be a whole jump ahead of where they were."
Question to answer this offseason: Will Blythe be back, and are there any changes to the starting lineup in 2023?
While it appears the Seahawks are set at tackle for years to come, they do have questions to answer on the line, most notably at center with Blythe set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Carroll and his assistant coaches praised Blythe for his play and especially his leadership all season long, so it stands to reason the Seahawks will try to bring him back if the two sides can work out a deal, but as is always the case, there are business decisions to make for both parties.
With Haynes signing a contract extension this week prior to hitting free agency, that also opens up the question of whether or not he will win a starting role in 2023 after splitting time with starter Gabe Jackson last year. The Seahawks have some young depth pieces they like such as tackle Stone Forsythe and guard/tackle Jake Curhan, but as always they'll look to the draft and free agency to bolster that position group in one way or another.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2023: The future looks bright with Cross and Lucas.
When it comes to building an NFL roster, there are certain position groups that tend to be harder to fill than others, either because of a scarcity of talent at that position, or because of the importance of that position. Tackle is one of those spots, and teams often invest big money or significant draft capital in finding quality tackles. Based off of what we saw in 2022, it seems clear the Seahawks nailed their draft picks of Cross and Lucas, which means they not only are getting quality play out of both tackle spots, a big deal for any offense, but they're also getting it at a relatively bargain rate while those two are on their rookie contracts. From a roster-building standpoint, young, inexpensive talent at tackle is a great place to start, as is, in the case of the Seahawks, having young talent at cornerback, another premium position.
The Seahawks still have to sort out the rest of their line and make a decision at center, but when it comes to putting together an offensive line, knowing you're in good shape at tackle, especially when both tackles are on rookie deals, is a great place for any team to be in heading into an offseason.
Seahawks guard Phil Haynes signed a contract extension with the team at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on February 21, 2023. Read more.