And the team that lost Hutchinson to the Vikings in the infamous “poison pill” caper after balking at setting the new market value might very well be on the verge of making another guard part of the club.
In Buffalo, former Redskins guard Derrick Dockery, a 6’6”, 345-pound mauler who played in every one of his games in four years as a Redskin, signed his Hutchinson Special, which included $18 million guaranteed and $23 million possible in the first three years of the deal. Dockery will anchor a Bills line that improved with his signing and the acquisition of former Oakland tackle Langston Walker – good moves for a line that ranked 26th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards statistic, and 30th in Adjusted Sack Rate.
On the same day, former Bengals guard Eric Steinbach hit it on the interstate and moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Steinbach, the 6’6”, 295-pound guard who was a crucial cog in Cincinnati’s great line, may swing out to right tackle in Cleveland. He has played tackle and center before. And he actually trumped Hutch’s and Dockery’s deals – Steinbach’s official numbers top out at $49.5 million (ah, gamesmanship!), though “only” $17 million is guaranteed and he’ll get the same $23 million over the first three years that Dockery will.
After a disastrous 2005 with more injuries than any unit should ever have to face, Cleveland’s offensive line will look to rebound with Steinbach. LeCharles Bentley, the former New Orleans center who signed a huge deal in Cleveland last year, was lost for the 2006 season after tearing his left patella tendon in his first real drill with the team. It was recently reported that Bentley requires further knee surgery, and his career is now in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are courting perhaps the best and most intriguing free agent guard of all, one short year after losing the game’s best at the position – according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dielman arrived in Seattle on Friday via private jet, had dinner with several players, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and left tackle Walter Jones, and his visit will continue on Saturday with a tour of the team’s Kirkland facility and lunch with head coach Mike Holmgren. Scout.com learned on Friday that the team doesn’t intend to let him leave without a signed contract, and are bringing a “whatever it takes” approach (apparently, it takes seven years and $49 million!) to the process.
Makes sense, really - when the Vikings performed their end-around to pluck Hutchinson from the Emerald City, the hole left in Seattle’s line was enormous – that line plummeted from a ranking of sixth in Adjusted Line Yards in 2005 to 30th in 2006, and a late-season ranking of 32nd. In Adjusted Sack Rate, from ninth to 28th.
The Seahawks made it back to the playoffs after their Super Bowl XL appearance, but they did so without any of the offensive dominance that the Chargers were enjoying in the regular season, on their way to a 14-2 record in 2006 and the best offensive line in the NFL. As Seahawks.NET recently detailed in this article, Dielman, an undrafted free agent out of Illinois, had a lot to do with that.
What is it about the 6’4”. 310-pound, four-year veteran that made him the deciding factor in San Diego’s line excellence, and why do many experts see him as the best guard available in this free agent class? We asked Denis Savage, Publisher of SDBoltReport.com, Scout.com’s Chargers website, to give us the benefit of his observance.
"Dielman is a guy that everyone should want on their team,” Savage said. “He has a rare combination of power and explosiveness, and the coveted nasty demeanor that should be in every offensive lineman's repertoire.
“Not only is he well respected by his teammates, he delivers on the football field. There are many, myself included, who feel he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. He is adept at run blocking, is fundamentally sound, and generates tremendous push. He is also a quality pass protector, using his hands effectively to trap inside rushers.
“The Chargers ran left behind Dielman and rookie lineman Marcus McNeill more than any other place along the line. The famed "Power 50" that the Chargers used sent LaDainian Tomlinson on the back leg of Dielman and produced the record-breaking touchdown. It would be a play that got many a call and proved its effectiveness time and time again.
“San Diego, like Seattle last season, is in for a shock when they realize how much he meant to the front five. Perhaps next season it will be San Diego that is scrambling to obtain one of the top left guards in the game to reinvent the offense and bring it back to prominence.”
For the Seahawks, and for the year 2007, the story is only beginning, and Dielman isn’t in the fold just yet. We’ll soon see how that shakes out, and whether the Seahawks are ready to continue this amazing trend of guard expense.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and a contributor to FoxSports.com. Feel free to contact him here.