RENTON, Wash. -- General manager John Schneider responded with a hint of snark when asked after the draft if the Seattle Seahawks are happy with their offensive line.
"I guess we're supposed to take a bunch [of lineman] all the time," he said. "Every day we're supposed to be signing one."
The question lingers after the Seahawks failed to add to what has consistently been a position of weakness for them until they finally chose Oklahoma tackle Jamarco Jones in the fifth round. It's part of the reason they didn't receive many favorable grades from those assessing how teams fared in the draft. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., for instance, gave Seattle a C-plus and noted the absence of an early-round addition to the offensive line, writing, "I could practically hear the Seattle fans in Dallas wondering why the Seahawks waited so long to address the O-line. They have a point."
So why didn't Seattle do more on the offensive line in the draft?
The short answer: Contrary to the widely held perception the Seahawks neglect their offensive line, they've already done quite a bit to build it up and like the group they've assembled.
Since 2014, Seattle has chosen Germain Ifedi (2016) in the first round, Justin Britt (2014) and Ethan Pocic (2017) in the second round and Rees Odhiambo (2016) in the third. All but Odhiambo are starters.
In fact, from 2010, when Schneider and coach Pete Carroll arrived, to 2017, no team drafted more offensive linemen than Seattle's 17. That's what Schneider was alluding to in his response.
On top of that, the Seahawks essentially used their third-rounder this year on a left tackle. That was one of the picks they gave the Houston Texans in their trade for former All-Pro Duane Brown last October (Seattle also gave up a 2019 second and got back a 2018 fifth).
So the projected starting five for 2018 includes three first-round picks (Brown, Ifedi and new right guard D.J. Fluker) and two second-rounders (Britt and Pocic). That's a good amount of talent for new line coach Mike Solari to work with.
Then again, the same thing could have been said about last year's group. The only change was adding Fluker to essentially replace another first-round pick, Luke Joeckel, and Seattle's 2017 offensive line was again a weak point. Russell Wilson faced pressure at the second-highest rate among all quarterbacks. He led the team in rushing with 586 yards, which shows how ineffective Seattle's offensive line was at opening up holes in the run game.
So why do the Seahawks think it'll be better in 2018?
Part of the reason, it seems, is that they're expecting Solari to make it better. It's not unrealistic. He's held in high regard throughout the NFL, and if he's a better coach than Cable, then it would stand to reason that he should be able to get more out of his players than Cable could.
They're also expecting two of the young players on that line to develop. With Pocic, it should be expected. He only entered the starting lineup midway through last year and has bulked up a bit this offseason after playing at too light of a weight as a rookie. Ifedi led the NFL with 16 accepted penalties last season and struggled to keep up with speedier edge rushers. But he's still a young player, and that was his first season at right tackle, so there's reason to think he can improve in Year 3, especially with a new coach.
Plus, the Seahawks will have a full season of Brown at left tackle, barring injury. Odhiambo was simply overmatched while starting there the first seven games before Brown was acquired.
Perhaps the Seahawks would have added to their offensive line earlier and/or more often in the draft if the right players fell to them. Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey, for instance, may have been tempting to take in the first round if he were still available and the Seahawks were unable to trade down. Maybe an offensive lineman would have been a consideration in the second round if Seattle had a pick there.
But what was apparent before the draft seemed to be confirmed after it -- the Seahawks like what they have up front even if few outside of Seattle feel the same way.
"We do feel better about those guys," Carroll said to the same question Schneider was asked. "We do have some returning sense and feel for one another and all of that. There's still newness this time around, but it's a little different than it has been. We expect some of the young guys to really be competitive, too, in the ranks of it all. We think we have a good group."