I have certainly spent some time in the last month or so praising the efforts of Seahawks guard Luke Joeckel. Especially when doing Q and As with other blogs , when inevitably asked about the line, I explain that Duane Brown is a good left tackle, Justin Britt is a good center, and between them, Joeckel has proven to be a pretty good guard.
On Sunday, facing the NFC West’s premier defensive player who isn’t a Seahawk, Joeckel was not a good guard.
Per ProFootballFocus, Joeckel allowed two sacks, two additional hits, and three hurries on Russell Wilson. Conversely, PFF only credited Britt with one hurry allowed. All told, Wilson was sacked seven times. Still, Joeckel’s job is to help contain defenses that have players like Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers on the interior. Historically, Seattle has struggled against teams that have a premier defensive tackle, such as Kawann Short, Donald, Gerald McCoy, and Geno Atkins. Now, it may be that the Seahawks won’t get an elite guard within Wilson’s career, and they could even survive that, but that doesn’t mean they have to pay $8 million a year for one who won’t.
Seattle signed Joeckel to a one-year deal to try him out and I think they’ve discovered that he’s good, but he’s not “extension good.” Joeckel may have done enough this season to prove to another team that he’s worth a deal on par with the five-year, $50 million contract signed by Joel Bitonio with the Cleveland Browns this season, or at least the three-year, $28.5 million given to T.J. Lang by the Detroit Lions, a guard the Seahawks went hard after.
Is it really worth spending $9-$10 million per season on a player who gets beaten that badly by a defense Seattle will need to face twice next year? Or against DeForest Buckner and the San Francisco 49ers? Or the Arizona Cardinals? And if you think that Joeckel’s really “discounted” himself because of midseason knee surgery (his second significant injury in as many seasons), I’m not so sure. Russell Okung needed just one season with the Denver Broncos to turn that into a record deal with the LA Chargers. Others, like Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff, also got surprisingly secure deals.
It may be difficult for the Seahawks to once again start over at guard, and they might just stay with internal options like Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, and whatever happens when George Fant is healthy again, but after weeks of wondering how they’d re-sign Joeckel, I’m not so sure it matters anymore. Sunday was the big test, and I think it’s more clear now that the money could be spent on something more important, even if it’s just a different starting guard.