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For years, Duane Brown wanted what all veteran players want in the little-is-guaranteed NFL.
He will turn 37 years old before next season. The veteran left tackle realizes he may need to accept just a one-year deal to remain on the Seahawks’ offensive line for 2022.
“I’m not opposed to it,” the four-time Pro Bowl and 2012 All-Pro selection said last week at the end of his 14th season in the league, the last 4 1/2 with Seattle.
Brown’s contract ended with the home-bound Seahawks’ season-ending win at playoff-bound Arizona Jan. 9. He carried Seattle’s third-highest salary-cap charge in 2021, $9.85 million. Only Russell Wilson ($32 million) and Bobby Wagner ($17.15 million) were higher.
Brown remains the Seahawks’ best offensive lineman. He’s been wanting a new contract since the spring into summer, when he skipped practices in the offseason and training camp. Instead the Seahawks gave Brown more guaranteed money for 2021 to get him to play all 17 games this past season, which the tackle called “a compromise.”
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were reluctant then to give Brown the additional years beyond his 37th birthday Brown wanted to remain with Seattle.
Brown could be headed to free agency when the new league year begins in mid-March. But he doesn’t want to. He said again last week he wants to retire with the Seahawks.
And he doesn’t intend to retire this year.
Yet he’s been in the cold business of the NFL long enough to know his best chance to remain with Seattle is by going year to year at this point in his career.
“I’ve got to weigh my options and see what’s out there for me,” Brown said. “But I’m not opposed to (a one-year deal). I’m realistic in knowing what I am, and what factors the teams have in how to go about their business of it.
“We’ll see. We’ll see what’s on the table.
“So, I’m not opposed to it.”
Thing is, the Seahawks don’t have a heir ready to replace Brown at perhaps the most important spot on the iffy offensive line: backside protector for the right-handed Wilson to block some of the NFL’s best athletes: fast, strong edge pass rushers.
Seattle drafted Stone Forsythe in the sixth round last spring with the idea he could eventually take Brown’s place at left tackle. But Seahawks coaches didn’t think Forsythe was ready enough to replace Brown in the second half of Seattle’s 17-0 loss at Green Bay Nov. 14. They put veteran backup Jamarco Jones, not Forsythe, in when Brown strained his hip in the third quarter that night.
Forsythe’s only offensive snaps of his rookie season came because he was the only available lineman left in the Dec. 5 game against San Francisco. With starting left guard Damien Lewis and Jones out injured, fill-in guard Kyle Fuller got hurt during the game. Then so did right tackle Brandon Shell. Forsythe played the first 14 snaps of his career at right tackle for Shell.
Jones’ contract ended with the Seahawks’ season finale at Arizona. Deciding to not pay Brown for 2022 and to go with Forsythe as the untested left tackle wouldn’t exactly be what Wilson had in mind when he complained publicly and loudly last offseason “I’m frustrated with getting hit too much.”
It’s clear Wilson wants Brown back in 2022.
“Obviously, Duane Brown is one of the best in the game,” Wilson said Jan. 6.
Carroll, line coach Mike Solari and the Seahawks’ athletic trainers have put considerable time into managing Brown’s practice time the last two seasons to enable him to play through pain and some injuries to start all the team’s 33 regular-season game and one playoff game the last two seasons.
Carroll said that thought came to his mind as he talked to Brown while he was in walk-through mode during one of the Seahawks’ last practices of this just-completed season.
“I had the thought about how we have worked together with his input, the trainers, the strength and conditioning coaches, everybody working together to give him the right kind of runway so that he can be at his best,” Carroll said. “ It was really the conversation in the offseason, coming to camp, too, was to make sure that we maximize his opportunities to be available.”
Brown has said multiple times how much he’s appreciated that time off and individual treatment to keep at left tackle on game days.
Carroll said Brown improved upon his Pro Bowl and All-Pro past in 2021. The coach believes Brown has more years of playing in him.
But Carroll stopped short of committing to Brown being with the Seahawks in 2022.
As Brown himself said, “we’ll see what’s on the table.”
One year, at a cost perhaps below that $9.85 million cap charge he had to end his contract in 2021, could be on the table.
“He has done a fantastic job. He’s had a nice year in many ways,” Carroll said. “He has done some really good things to get better at stuff technique-wise and schematically that we are excited about.
“There is no reason that he can’t keep playing if he wants to do it, which I think he does. I think that he has more playing in him. I wouldn’t put any years on it. He can keep going.”