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Seahawks decline to match offer sheet for RT Garry Gilliam

Seattle Seahawks tackle Garry Gilliam (79) blocks San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks tackle Garry Gilliam (79) blocks San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

The Seahawks have decided not to match an offer sheet right tackle Garry Gilliam signed Monday with the San Francisco 49ers, according to his agent, Mark Clouser.

That means Gilliam is off to the Bay Area with the Seahawks receiving nothing in compensation. Clouser said Gilliam was en route Tuesday morning to officially sign a contract with the 49ers (the 49ers officially announced the signing of Gilliam Tuesday afternoon).

Gilliam signed an offer sheet for a one-year deal worth $2.2 million with $1.4 million guaranteed on Monday.

Gilliam, a restricted free agent, was tendered at $1.797 million for the 2017 season last month by the Seahawks, though with none of the money guaranteed.

Making that tender gave Seattle five days to match the offer Gilliam received from the 49ers. But they apparently needed less than 12 hours to decide they wouldn’t bother.

Clouser said that wasn’t a surprise because the tender that Seattle had made already almost tripled the $604,000 Gilliam made in 2016.

Clouser said the Seahawks “treated Garry extremely well” but that the offer from the 49ers was simply too good to turn down.

Gilliam, 26, visited the 49ers last Wednesday, Clouser said, and initially turned down a three-year offer from the team on Thursday and then a two-year offer on Saturday.

Clouser said Gilliam did not want to sign away potential years in unrestricted free agency and wanted to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017. When the 49ers came back with a one-year offer with a significant raise on Monday the deal was done, Clouser said.

“It works out good for everybody,” he said.

So ends the Seahawks career of a player who initially was something of a fan favorite but found himself at a crossroads with the organization in 2016, and ultimately now out of it.

Gilliam made Seattle’s roster as an undrafted free agent in 2014 out of Penn State, converting to the offensive line after playing largely tight end in college. A backup most of his first year, he caught a touchdown pass on a fake field goal to spark a comeback win over Green Bay in the NFC championship game.

He won the right tackle job in 2015 when the Seahawks decided to move Justin Britt to guard and started all 16 games and both in the playoffs.

That performance compelled the team to basically declare him the left tackle of the future last spring when Russell Okung departed via free agency.

But after missing much of the off-season program to have a cyst removed from his knee, Gilliam struggled in the pre-season and was moved back to right tackle. He was then benched late in the season when Bradley Sowell returned from injury and was inserted at right tackle with offensive line coach Tom Cable publicly questioning Gilliam’s physicality.

Gilliam admitted later he wondered then if his Seahawks career was over.

But when Sowell struggled, Gilliam returned to the starting lineup for the final two regular season games as well as both playoff games.

Gilliam was tendered by Seattle prior to the start of the free agent signing period.

Since then, Seattle has signed free agents Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi and announced that last year’s first-round pick, Germain Ifedi was likely to move to right tackle with Aboushi likely getting his first shot at right guard.

That meant Gilliam and Ifedi would likely battle for the RT spot and put Gilliam in danger of not even making the roster – since none of his $1.797 million is guaranteed he would have been a tempting salary cap casualty cut if the team needed to clear some space as the season neared, especially if he had not earned a starting job.

So what now at right tackle?

Now that Ifedi has been moved to right tackle, the Seahawks may not feel as if they need to have another starting-caliber player there – as possibly evidenced in the quick decision to let Gilliam go.

The Seahawks could still add a veteran – Sowell remains available as does longtime Denver standout left tackle Ryan Clady and former Seahawk Breno Giacomini, most recently with the Jets. Giacomini, though, was waived as injured after having back surgery and will be 32 next September.

The Seahawks could also look to add a tackle in the draft, though this is not considered an overly good year for offensive linemen. It might be a mistake to assume this means Seattle will for sure go for an OL in the first round now given that the Seahawks also have other needs in areas in which this draft is stronger at the top.

Also worth remembering is the presence of Robert Myers, who was on the practice squad all last season.

Myers, a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2015 out of Tennessee State, was on the roster of the Ravens, Colts and Broncos in 2015 and with the Broncos in camp in 2016 before being waived and then signed to Seattle’s practice squad on Sept. 25. He was then placed on the practice squad-Injured Reserve list in December and became a free agent after the season.

While listed as a guard in some places, the Seahawks had him listed as a tackle on their roster at the end of the season and it is thought the team considers him a viable contender to make the roster as a right tackle.

Rees Odhiambo, a third-round pick last season, also has some tackle experience, but it’s thought the team wants to keep him on the left side, and for now at left guard.

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