The Seattle Seahawks have several significant players set to hit free agency this offseason, and many of those players won’t be retained due to cap reasons and the Seahawks overwhelming depth and nearly every position. There are many reasons why the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and are the best team in the NFL, but maybe the most important reason is their depth. Simply put, they have the best 53-man roster in the NFL from top-to-bottom, and it shows when analyzing each position in depth.
One player set to hit free agency and unlikely to return is starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, who has improved with each successive season to the point where he was no longer a clear liability on the offensive line last season. He missed several games due to injury, but he fared out OK when healthy after once being a horrible pass blocker on the right side of the Seahawks offensive line.
Because Giacomini is set to hit unrestricted free agency once the 11th of March hits, many people have assumed that the Seattle Seahawks will have a need for an offensive tackle, but that simply isn’t the case in my view. In fact, I think the Seahawks will be better off without Giacomini starting at right tackle and don’t need to sign or draft anyone else due to a pair of youngsters capable of playing the position. As weird as it sounds, the regular season injury to Giacomini was one of the best things to happen to the Seahawks offensive line last season, because it allowed them to take a closer look at both Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie.
I view Bailey as more of a backup tackle than a starter, but he did a solid job when asked to play the tackle position this past season and is decent insurance there. He’s about on the level of Giacomini as a blocker, but guard seems to be a more natural fit for Bailey. It’s the other young OL, though, who catches my eye at tackle, as Michael Bowie spent time at both guard and tackle this past season but was clearly better at tackle. In fact, it was honestly a bit disappointing to see the Seahawks go back to the veteran Giacomini, even though the young gun Bowie proved to be the better option during his time as the starter,
Aside from a pair of poor games against the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals (it wasn’t fair for the seventh-round pick out of Northeastern State to have to go up against the best defensive player in the game in J.J. Watt in just his first NFL start, but that’s what happened to him in Week 4), Bowie was very good at offensive tackle for the Seahawks. He played at right tackle for just about the entire season, and he was solid overall. Those two games against the Cardinals and Texans weren’t his best games at all, but the Cards front seven is tough and far bigger names at OT have been destroyed in worse ways by the unstoppable Watt.
Bowie spent time at guard as well, but I wasn’t a big fan of his play at guard. Even though his strong run blocking and frame would seem to translate better at guard, he didn’t seem like a natural fit at the position and looked better on tape at tackle. There are more important things to look at than frame, and Bowie generally looked like a solid starting right tackle as both a pass blocker and run blocker. In fact, the Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade among all offensive linemen on the Seahawks, and that’s plenty encouraging.
There are legitimate concerns with Bowie, though, because the sample-size that we have on him isn’t big, and there’s a chance that he isn’t good enough as a pass blocker to be a starting tackle. While he has the tools and is agile, he sometimes isn’t quick enough to mirror pass rushers. So when he does get beat, he gets beat for sacks.
Even so, the Seahawks have him locked up through 2016, and they need to at least try him out as a starter. With star left tackle Russell Okung locked in through 2015 and consistently a dominant player, the Seahawks are locked in at one starting spot. But, then again, Okung is injury-prone and depth is an issue. It would be wise for the Seahawks to sign another offensive tackle to provide some insurance against Bowie regressing in year two at right tackle or Okung getting injured, but the desire for an experienced, somewhat reliable swing tackle as a backup doesn’t constitute a true “need” for an OT, especially since Alvin Bailey showed that he is capable enough to be a quality backup tackle (I think he should be starting at guard going forward, especially since J.R. Sweezy and Pat McQuistan are incompetent starters).
Tom Cable is one of the NFL’s premier offensive line coaches, and it’s been great watching what he’s done with Bowie, who has always had talent. He flashed some big-time potential at training camp, and he came into the regular season as a project player. After a strong career at Oklahoma State, Bowie was kicked off the team, but the potential he showed there has manifested itself quicker than expected. It’s too soon to call Bowie “the solution”, but it’s not too soon to say that his solid play at tackle combined with his solid tools make him deserving of the starting gig next year. PFF gave Bowie a significantly higher grade than Giacomini, and that’s enough to make me think that he could be a quality starter for the Seahawks next season. He has some work to do as a pass rusher, but most rookie tackles (look at touted guys Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel) usually struggle a lot more as rookies. After watching him from Weeks 5-10, I think Bowie has enough upside and showed enough to make me think that the Seahawks don’t need to spend a high pick or sign a tackle. The Seahawks do a great job of identifying late-round talent, and I wonder if Bowie is the next solid starter on their roster to have come from the depths of the NFL Draft.
For an excellent film breakdown on Michael Bowie that accentuates some of the points made in this piece, please refer to Keith Myers’s post from October on the Bleacher Report.