During the heat of free agency, the Seahawks nearly retained their entire starting offensive line from last year’s playoff-bound squad, re-signing guard D.J. Fluker to a two-year deal.
However, shortly after free agency kicked off on March 13, Seattle did lose starting left guard J.R. Sweezy, who signed with Arizona. Functioning like an interdivision trade, the Seahawks quickly moved to replace him in the short term by signing ex-Cardinals starter Mike Iupati to a one-year deal.
Dealing with recurring durability issues, foot and calf injuries prevented Iupati from suiting up at all during the preseason. Though he was active last weekend as a reserve, former second-round pick Ethan Pocic resumed his role as the substitute at left guard and did an admirable job against the Bengals.
But unlike this time a year ago when Pocic lost his starting job to Sweezy due to injury, coach Pete Carroll ensured Iupati would return to the lineup once he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go. That was the idea back in March and remains the plan for Seattle moving forward.
“It’s Mike’s job.” Carroll said when asked if there’d be an open competition at left guard. “We feel Mike has earned that. He’ll jump back in.”
When healthy, the 6-foot-5, 331-pound Iupati could be viewed as an upgrade over Sweezy, especially in Seattle’s current offensive scheme. He starred for the 49ers earlier in his career under the tutelage of current Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari, playing in three Pro Bowls and earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2012.
However, Iupati hasn’t been able to stay on the field in recent seasons due to a variety of injuries. The 32-year old veteran played in all but three games during his first two seasons in Arizona, but missed 21 total games over the past two seasons and hasn’t been healthy for most of his brief tenure in Seattle so far.
After missing nearly all of training camp and only seeing one offensive snap in the season opener, Iupati is itching to get back in the lineup and contribute for a unit that surprisingly struggled on Sunday.
“Really anxious to get Mike back in there.” Carroll commented. “He’s dying to play and so we look forward to that.”
While Pocic should be disappointed in reverting back to the bench, Carroll has been thrilled with his growth as a player this offseason, indicating the Seahawks are “really confident in him playing” left guard if needed. He shined throughout exhibition play, rebounding well from a difficult second NFL season.
Given Iupati and Fluker’s lengthy injury histories as well as Justin Britt’s current knee injury, Pocic will need to stay ready to play at all times and there’s a good chance he’ll see extensive snaps at some point this season.