It's Official: The Seattle Seahawks' Chris Spencer is a first-round bust

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIAugust 25, 2009

Seattle Seahawks rookie center Chris Spencer  sets for play  against the Dallas Cowboys  in a pre-season game August  22, 2005 in Seattle.  The Cowboys defeated the Seahawks 18 - 10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, it’s time to officially label Seattle center Chris Spencer a bust. The former first-round pick just can’t stay healthy, and it’s time for the Seahawks to move on with Steve Vallos and, eventually, Max Unger.

Spencer is expected to be out at least a month with a torn quadriceps, but the Seahawks should simply cut their losses and put him on injured reserve to avoid having to cut a player who otherwise would have made the team. That way the Seahawks can find another lineman to help the depth of a unit that currently has only six healthy experienced players: LT Sean Locklear, LG Rob Sims, Vallos, Unger, RT Ray Willis, and OG Mansfield Wrotto.

Spencer’s time should be up. Drafted 26th overall in 2005, he spent his first season watching Robbie Tobeck. He was starting by the next year after Tobeck was forced out by an abdominal injury. However, Spencer had a tough time learning the mental side of his position.

In 2007, Spencer started every game but was bothered by a shoulder injury and then dislocated his thumb. He had surgery for both problems after that season.

Then he missed most of training camp last year with a back problem that later landed him on IR after 11 games.

Seattle coaches were committed to him as their center this season, which is the last of his rookie contract. Coach Jim Mora said Spencer will miss at least the first two games. By the time he returns, Vallos should be well established at center, and Spencer would not be needed. What is needed is depth at tackle—now.

Walter Jones, recovering from knee surgery, is expected to miss the first game, but he could be out even longer than that.

Sean Locklear struggled at left tackle against Denver, giving up two sacks and drawing a false-start penalty. The team won’t give up on him because he is viewed as the future left tackleand the Hawks don’t have many options.

But they definitely need some depth help. Tackle options could include former first-rounders Levi Jones (a free agent) and George Foster (just cut by Cleveland), as well as former Green Bay tackle Mark Tauscher.

Jones and Tauscher are both reportedly recovered from knee problems and looking for starting positions. With plenty of teams looking for help on the line, they could be too pricey for the Seahawks, who have about $3 million in salary-cap space.

So the Hawks will have to keep their eyes open for other cuts who might fit. They switched a couple of backups Tuesday, cutting Grey Ruegamer and signing Brian De La Puente, a young guard/center from Kansas City.

If Walter Jones can come back quickly and effectively, it would be a huge boost. Locklear would move back to the right side. Although, if Unger and Willis are playing well, Locklear could find himself without a spot. Of course, that would be a nice problem to have at that point.

For now, the Seahawks have to hope that Locklear gets better, that Sims plays much better than he did in 2007, that Vallos continues to improve, that Unger gets up to speed right away, and that Willis stays healthy.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?


Other notes

  • Deon Butler will not return kicks Saturday, Mora told KJR. Justin Forsett will take over those duties for at least this game, and Mora made it clear that Josh Wilson will do the honors once the season starts. Mora said he is impressed by Butler’s receiving skills and wants Butler to focus on playing his position.
  • Mora also said the new rule limiting the blocking wedge on kickoffs to two men instead of the previous four has affected the Seahawks’ return game. He wants to see his team create better returns. Butler had averaged just 15.6 yards on five kickoff returns against San Diego and Denver.
  • Apparently, Mora is a big fan of Nick Reed, too. The seventh-round defensive end has been a relentless terror in the first two games. He has 2.5 sacks, an interception and a blocked punt, and opposing teams have had to double-team him. Mora wants to see him against Kansas City’s first-team offense Saturday. But it sounds like Mora already has made up his mind about Reed, telling KJR: “I think he’ll be wearing a Seahawk uniform.”