NFL front offices are conservative. They’re concerned with five-year plans and long-term salary-cap management and building through the draft. This is prudent. This is safe. This leads to job security (we’re not bad, we’re just rebuilding). This is boring. Seattle general manager John Schneider will never be accused of being boring. After Monday, his business card probably reads, “SCREW IT.”
The Seahawks traded a 2018 fifth-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick, and (disgruntled) cornerback Jeremy Lane to the Houston Texans for left tackle Duane Brown. It’s another aggressive move from an aggressive general manager trying to plug the holes on Seattle’s roster. Schneider looked at a meek, mediocre NFC, and pushed his team’s chips into the middle of the table.
The Seahawks have made big moves for big players before, acquiring the likes of Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin with mixed results. The difference this season is that they’re building from the inside out, acquiring an offensive and defensive lineman to address the heart of Seattle’s roster rather than targeting sexy skill players. On the first day of September, Schneider acquired defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson from the New York Jets to bolster a defense that already played like it lived on Fury Road. Now the Seahawks have added Brown, a three-time Pro Bowler and former first-team All-Pro, to provide a pillar of support to an offensive line in ruin.
Brown was holding out in Texas for a new contract until last week. Just a few days after his return, the Texans found themselves engulfed in crisis after it was revealed on Friday that owner Bob McNair reportedly compared players to prisoners in a meeting earlier this month, sparking sharp words from Brown and protests from his teammates prior to their game against Seattle on Sunday.
That Seahawks-Texans clash wound up being the game of the season, with Seattle edging out Houston and Deshaun Watson, 41-38. Russell Wilson threw for 452 passing yards and four touchdowns—a nice glimpse at what Seattle’s offense is capable of when its QB isn’t forced to scramble for his life on every play. The Seahawks rank 19th in pass protection. Right tackle Germain Ifedi ranks 50th among all tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, while left tackle Rees Odhiambo ranks 73rd out of 74 qualifying tackles. Wilson has been pressured on 42.6 percent of his dropbacks, the second-highest rate in the league. (In fact, the only player with a higher pressure rate is Watson, who hadn’t had Brown blocking for him until last week against the Seahawks.)
Brown is Wilson’s new safety blanket. He allowed just one sack in 428 pass plays last season, one of four tackles in the league who gave up a lone sack on over 350 plays, according to Pro Football Focus. His three-plus-month holdout might raise concerns over his physical fitness, but Seattle just had the best scouting trip imaginable. The Seahawks probably liked what they saw: Brown allowed no hits and just two pressures on 37 dropbacks against Seattle’s excellent defensive line, giving the Seahawks firsthand knowledge of what he can bring to the team. Brown won’t make the Seahawks’ line into a top-10 unit, but his presence turns left tackle—perhaps Seattle’s greatest weakness on offense—into a strength. Seattle, which is 5-2, paid a high price for a 32-year-old offensive lineman, but a 2019 second-round pick isn’t likely to contribute within the Legion of Boom’s title window. Seattle is Super Bowl or bust. And they’re never boring.