I've been talking about the Seahawks tight end position the last couple of days so I figured I would cap that off with a look at the talent we have on our roster and some possible free agents to pursue.
In my Armchair GM series, I gave you a look at the Seahawks' roster I would assemble for training camp. In it, I included all of the tight ends currently under contract, John Carlson, Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy, Jameson Konz, and Dominique Byrd. I added a veteran free agent tight end in Daniel Graham to get a shot in training camp to make the team.
Though the Hawks are deep and talented as it is at tight end, I added Graham for a few reasons: first, he's a veteran that played for Tom Cable in college and knows his coaching style and could convey his expectations to his fellow tight ends. In the same way that Robert Gallery would be beneficial, he'd be a battle-tested veteran to anchor a very young and inexperienced line. I can see the Hawks sticking with a lot of two and three tight end sets in 2011 so you need depth at the position. I don't know if I need to remind you the of the debacle in Chicago on the offensive side once Carlson and Morrah were injured. They were left with a little corner of their playbook because they literally ran out of tight ends in a gameplan that called for a lot of sets featuring Carlson and Morrah in both passing and running situations.
The Hawks kept four on their active roster last season and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see five at any given time during the season, possibly poaching a wide receiver spot or two out of our coaches' confidence in our tight ends' abilities to play on the wing as well (specifically Carlson and Morrah). Furthermore, if the Hawks go with the use of an H-back over a true fullback again in 2011, it frees up an additional roster spot there for possibly Konz or Byrd. I will be interested in this player group during camp for sure.
Here's what we got:
John Carlson, Cameron Morrah, and Anthony McCoy are almost certain to make the Seahawks 53 man roster. Jameson Konz is on the bubble as a developmental project and Dominique Byrd was signed to a futures contract but will face stiff competition to make the team.
Konz is a very intriguing player in his athleticism and versatility as an H-back type player. I touched on this a few weeks ago and I'm personally holding out hope to see him make the team and get some snaps in 2011. Byrd is a 6'3, 255 pound former 3rd round pick by the Rams and played at USC under Pete Carroll. From the reports that I can find he had attitude/work ethic/getting arrested problems that didn't help him stay on with the Rams and he spent most of the year last season on the Cardinals' practice squad. If he can get focused and play well in camp he's got a pretty good shot at making the team due to his versatility and talent at the tight end position. He's also a pretty good candidate for the H-back role because of his size and tenacity - if the Hawks choose to eschew a true fullback this season, Byrd is actually kind of an interesting prospect for snaps there.
The tight end free agent class is pretty weak this season and if the Seahawks do test the waters there I'd say Daniel Graham or Daniel Fells would be the two most probable targets. I spoke on Graham above and Fells is a guy that I took notice of last season as he caught passes from Sam Bradford and just mowed over all the Seahawk defenders trying to tackle him. I remember distinctly the thought that 'I wish the Hawks had a fullback like that' but then I realized he's actually a tight end. No matter really, the Hawks have been on the hunt for an H-back and fells is 6'4 272 with the ability to make some pretty impressive catches so I think he could function there quite well. The Rams don't appear to be too enamored with him after drafting Lance Kendricks in this year's draft so he could be making a change of scenery.
Because we know that JS and PC are enamored with 20-22 UDFAs there's bound to be a TE or two in there that will be invited to camp. As I said in a previous post, Andre Smith, of Virginia Tech, is 6'5, 270. He's another physically impressive blocking tight end that can also release and catch short to intermediate routes with soft hands. Would be good in two tight end sets and could be a matchup headache. He's durable and could contribute on special teams.
Schuylar Oordt, out of Northern Iowa, would be sort of like a Jameson Konz pickup. He's a physical specimen - ran a 4.58 at 6'6, 260 and is a deep threat seam route H-Back/Tight End that can track the ball in flight and make the over the shoulder catch with soft hands. He's very raw in his blocking but could have upside if that were coached up and improved upon. His physical attributes are suited to a versatile role and the Hawks have shown they love guys that can move around. He has potential to swing back to fullback like we saw with John Carlson last season, line up in-line as a tight end, or slide out to the slot or in motion to run a vertical route. He's a high-character guy, a hard worker.
At 6'5, 272, Weslye Saunders is a huge tight end. With his immense size and surprising athleticism, he's physically capable on the line of holding up defensive ends but also can release downfield and catch a pass or two, making him a bit of a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He has shown a remarkable ability to catch the ball in traffic and is a really solid short to intermediate route target for a quarterback. His size gives him limitations going deep but he's versatile, can block and catch, and has a mean streak and a bit of an attitude. Sounds a bit like a Tom Cable guy. He sat out all of 2010 because he accepted gifts and his questionable character concerns have left him undrafted - meaning they are VERY questionable. Originally a 1st or 2nd round prospect until getting dismissed from South Carolina, he's similar in stature and style to Anthony McCoy so I could see him being on Seattle's radar as depth or in use as an H-back.
Allen Reisner, out of Iowa, looks a little bit more like a fullback than a tight end but is in the H-Back mold of player that can line up as a tight end, in the slot or in motion to the wing, or in the backfield. He's 6'2, 250 and possesses soft hands and an ability to find the open spot in the zone. Once he catches the ball he's a good YAC runner, always going forward and showing good spacial awareness. He's got less upside as an athlete but is a hard worker and a good blocker out of the backfield.
Retain Carlson, McCoy, and Morrah for sure. I'd look at signing Daniel Fells for use as a possible H-back if you're not going to go with a dedicated fullback. The more I think about the Daniel Graham signing possibility the less I think it will (or should) happen. The Hawks are trying to get younger and they're most likely not going to sacrifice the roster spot of a younger player to bring in a stop-gap veteran. Fells, at 26, is probably a better option in free agency in my opinion and could be a long-term solution for the Hawks as an H-back/fullback.
The UDFA that I'm most intrigued by is obviously Westlye Saunders - once thought of as a possible 1st or 2nd round pick but fell because of character concerns. His talent is there, and you'd lose nothing to give him a shot to make the team. Considering we've signed Dominique Byrd to a futures contract after his rocky history character-wise, (allegedly hit a guy in the face with a glass at a club and was arrested for assault; separate DUI arrest), I wouldn't put it past Pete Carroll to give Saunders a chance to prove he's ready to work at a career in football. The potential payoff could be huge. Also, before you start saying "I don't want another Jerremy Stevens here", keep in mind Stevens was a first round pick and Saunders would come essentially free.
Out of that group, see if one or possibly two of them stick and you've got a pretty damn good tight end group. Viola.