On February 14, 2008, a
happy offensive guard flew out of Seattle to join his wife for a Valentine's
Day dinner, having just agreed to terms with his third NFL team -- the Seattle Seahawks. And for former Green Bay and Carolina guard Mike Wahle, a contract
with the Seahawks was just about the first thing on his mind after he was released
by the Panthers earlier this week because of salary cap concerns. The 30-year-old
veteran was on a plane to the Emerald city within 24 hours of his release, and
after conversations and negotiations, it would appear that for the first time
since Super Bowl XL, the Seahawks have a left side that can once again be taken
The loss of Steve Hutchinson
after the 2005 season was a death blow to the offense. Various stopgaps, such
as the injury-prone Floyd Womack and youngster Rob Sims, floated in and out
next to Walter Jones while Seattle's offense, particularly its running game,
could not get anything going. Wahle, who was drafted in the second round of
the 1998 supplemental draft by Green Bay in 1998 -- the last year of Mike Holmgren's
time there -- knows fellow '98 Green Bay draftee Matt Hasselbeck very well.
However, Wahle knows that the main component of this offense in need of repair
is the running game.
The Seahawks finished first
in rushing touchdowns and third in rushing yards in 2005, as Shaun Alexander
set the NFL single season touchdown record. But Hutchinson's departure, as well
as age and injury concerns on the line and in the backfield, turned that once-proud
attack into a shell of its former self. Seattle ranked 14th and 27th in rushing
yards and touchdowns in 2006, and 20th and 22nd in 2007. In both seasons, the
dropoff was severe, leading the team to go completely pass-wacky in the second
half of the 2007 season just to get to the playoffs.
"I know that's what
they were looking for up here -- to get that running game going," Wahle
told Sirius NFL Radio from Sea-Tac Airport on Thursday afternoon during the
phone call in which he broke the news of his signing. "Obviously, as I
said before, Matt's in the prime of his career. He's playing great football,
and we have some great things going on in the passing game. The running game
needs to be bolstered a little bit, and I'm certainly going to help do that."
Carolina Panthers' Mike Minter,
right, is blocked by Mike Wahle, left, in practice during the NFL football
team's training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007.
Hasselbeck helped recruit
Wahle, and the guard was impressed by the team and the organization he saw.
"He's a phenomenal football player -- he's turned into one of the best
quarterbacks in the NFL," Wahle said of Hasselbeck. "From that standpoint,
that's a huge grab for me. When you look around the league right now, the teams
that are the best have the best quarterbacks, and I feel that I'm in a situation
now where we have one of the best. Being able to block for a guy like that is
going to be really exciting.
"I'm just thrilled
to be part of such a great organization as the Seahawks. This works out really
well in a multitude of ways. They're perennial contenders -- they've won their
division (four straight times). Their quarterback is an All-Pro guy -- I know
him from Green Bay. He's in his prime right now. My old man's from up here --
he went to Bellevue High School, right outside of Seattle. This is going to
be a great experience for my family."
Familiarity with Holmgren
and his offense, as well as Wahle's respect for new offensive line coach Mike
Solari, played major roles in his decision. "Seattle was at the very top
of a very short list of teams I wanted to go in and play for. I couldn't have
scripted it any better. When you come up here and talk to these guys -- the
administration, coaching staff and some of the players -- it really made all
the difference in the world. Being familiar with the offensive line (scheme)
is obviously a big help. Obviously, there will be some changes -- Mike Solari
is coming in to coach the offensive line. I'm excited about working with him.
We're going to make some good things happen this year."
After the 6-6, 304-pound
Wahle spent seven seasons in Green Bay, the Carolina Panthers signed him to
a five-year, $27 million contract in 2005. Wahle missed three games in 2006
with a shoulder injury, but started all 16 games for Carolina in 2007. The Panthers
released him, along with veteran linebacker Dan Morgan, in order to free up
approximately $6 million in salary cap space for a team that needs a great deal
of rebuilding. This allowed them to re-sign left tackle Travelle Wharton and
strong safety Chris Harris. More cuts are most likely coming, because the Panthers
will probably have to slap the franchise tag on Jordan Gross, their superlative
"The team had started
pushing money away a couple of years ago, and we thought it might come to a
head this year with the salary cap,: Wahle said. "With the directions that
both sides wanted to head in, I thought this was advantageous for everyone.
I talked to John Fox and wished him the best. I know they just signed Travelle
-- I talked to him and he's really excited. I think the future's bright for
It was a disappointing season
for the Panthers -- they finished 7-9 in the horrid NFC South, and started three
different quarterbacks after an early-season injury to Jake Delhomme. The offensive
line was one of the team's few bright spots. "You never want to use injuries
as an excuse, but I think that is a reality at some point. We did have a lot
of injuries, especially losing our quarterback a few games into the season.
You’re never prepared do deal with that loss," Wahle recalled. "We
were putting a new offense, there were a lot of things going on, and having
that quarterback as a source of stability was a big deal. I don't think we reacted
well in different difficult situations, and you're going to see a lot of changes
there. That's a big part of the reason."
But today was about the
present and future -- his prospects with the Seahawks, and a very bright view.
Wahle said that he had interest from other teams, but "the Seahawks were
on the top of the list. Other teams called, but it was a situation where I've
been in the league for ten years, I've had some good contracts, and my main
focus right now is to get on a team with a great organization, a chance to win
immediately, and a history of winning. I thought Seattle met that criteria,
and coming in and talking to these people made that even more apparent.
I had a great talk with
Coach Solari -- a couple of great talks, actually. He comes off as one heck
of a teacher, and I'm excited to work with him. I've obviously talked to Walter
Jones before, though I didn’t get a chance to talk to him this time around.
I did talk to some other guys, and the general consensus is that any opportunity
to get better, the team is all for it. I think a lot of the guys were excited
about me coming in, and not just the things I can bring on the field, but we
have some young guys here. I've been around the block a couple of times, and
I'm eager to share information."
The Seahawks are more than
willing to share their line with this veteran, who seems unconcerned about the
inevitable Hutchinson comparisons. "Well, Steve's a special player -- he's
on his way to the Hall of Fame. He's one of the best, if not the best, (guards)
in the league. I'm not looking to fill any shoes -- I’m my own man, always
have been. I can be successful in this offense, and I can be very successful
with this football team. I do bring a lot to the table. The things they ask
you to do here, as far as the (pulling and) movement stuff, the weak side runs,
I feel like I can make things go. Trying to replace me in Green Bay has been
difficult for that team, I don’t think it's a thing where you're trying
to compare one to the other."
One year after failing to
grab the best guard in free agency, the Seahawks discovered a real round-tripper
who has found his new home.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief
of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a contributing author
to Pro Football Prospectus 2007, and he writes NFL previews for the New York
Sun. Feel free to contact him here.