The Seahawks have signed WR Phil Bates, RB Derrick Coleman, DB Chandler Fenner, TE Cooper Helfet, LB Kyle Knox, CB Ron Parker, LB Korey Toomer, DT Myles Wade, WR Bryan Walters & WR Stephen Williams to futures contracts, expanding their offseason roster as they head into the offseason.
In previous seasons, the offseason roster limit was 80, but the NFL upped that to 90 last season, and those 90 players will include all active, inactive, practice squad, exempt and reserve list players, plus unsigned draft choices and franchise-tagged free agents. I haven't seen whether or not the limit goes down to 80 again this season so for now I'll just assume it's going to stay at 90, as it was last year.
In addition to Seattle's end-of-season 53-man roster, the Seahawks had Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Steven Hauschka, Jason Jones, Charly Martin, Cameron Morrah, Ben Obomanu, Walter Thurmond, James Carpenter and Korey Toomer on one of three injured reserve lists (the IR, the Practice Squad/injured., and the Reserve/Non-football Illness lists).
The 10 futures contracts that were announced make up what is essentially the offseason 'practice squad.' The ten players include the eight Practice Squad members as of the last day of the season, plus former Seahawks fifth round pick in 2012, OLB Korey Toomer and new-guy WR Stephen Williams. By my count, that puts the roster at 72 right now, and as the offseason goes on, I'd expect Seattle to release players they don't have plans for next season and bring in any free agents they have interest in. Churn, churn, churn, as per usual.
As the offseason goes on, the Seahawks will also host OTAs and Mini-Camps, including a Rookie Camp, where large numbers of undrafted free-agent players and Seattle's new draft picks will compete for spots with the team in Training Camp. Last summer, John Schneider and company essentially constructed a 53-man roster made up of free agent veterans, UDFAs, and draft picks, and ran a week-long session made to resemble an in-season week of practice.
As for the group of ten:
WR Phil Bates
Here's what Rob Rang said about Phil, on with Ian Furness and Jason Puckett, SportsRadioKJR, back during the preseason:
"At least for mini-camps, the undrafted free agent [that has the best chance to be this year's 'Doug Baldwin' story] was undoubtedly Phil Bates, the wide receiver from Ohio. 6'1, 220 pounds, he played quarterback most of the time while with the Bobcats, and you know, he wasn't very successful as a quarterback -- he was more of a read option quarterback -- he's athletic, has a big arm, but sometimes wasn't very accurate. He moved over to wide receiver -- he wasn't very productive, I think he only had one touchdown and maybe a few dozen catches on the season -- but at the same time, I gotta tell you: When I watched him in mini-camp, I thought -- 'This is a grown-ass man."
"[Bates] is an impressive looking physical specimen, who, really, if the Seahawks had invested a middle-round draft pick in him, I would have been pleased as punch, based on what I saw at mini-camp. As an undrafted free agent playing at the wide receive position, it's easy to make a good, quick first impression, but what was most impressive, I thought, about him, was that he was truly working on his routes, he showed the natural burst out of his breaks that you're looking for. Obviously, he's still going to be, very much, a work in progress as a route-runner, but I never saw him drop a pass, I never saw him shirk from the physicality of running over the middle, I did see him go up and make some big time catches, so there was a lot of reasons to be pretty excited about him."
"Again, [he's] 6'1, 220, as he's listed by the Seahawks, and he's carrying all of that. Now, most receivers in this day-in-age are running at the 185 pound range, so you know, to see a guy who's 220 and still has some motor to him, you know, was impressive."
Ah Phil. I like Phil. The Seahawks kept, for the most part, five receivers on their roster this season and that's likely to remain about the same next year, I'd guess. Maybe. Perhaps not, but either way, if you're a fifth, or even sixth string wide receiver on an NFL roster, it's absolutely imperative that you can contribute on special teams, and this is a big reason that Ben Obomanu stuck around for so long -- he's dependable and skilled on return units. With Bates, this is somewhere that he could really find an edge -- he's big, physical, and explosive, -- 'a grown-ass man' at 6'1, 220, who ran a 4.49 40 and broad jumped 10'8", so he's got the speed to go with it. If he can prove himself on special teams, his size/speed ratio could really set him apart from the Obos and Butlers and Kearse's of the world. Get him into returning kicks, perhaps.
I like to daydream about the potential these 'futures' guys could bring and for the most part all of that projecting is pointless because a vast majority of them never see the field, but after seeing Bates in person during training camp last season, hearing what Rang had to say, and then noting something PFW wrote during training camp as to what they were "hearing," ("After hitting a home run with the signing of undrafted free agent WR Doug Baldwin last season, we hear the Seahawks have had a hard time keeping their eyes off of Phil Bates, another undrafted free agent out of Ohio."), I couldn't help but get a little excited for Bates to make the team and contribute early. Then Bates got like five minutes of total playing time in the preseason and was unceremoniously released in the first round of roster cuts.
Bates re-emerged mid season or so on the practice squad and has stuck around there since, so based on his raw physical tools and the fact that he changed positions, it's entirely possible that the Seahawks were just hiding him away for later and hoping to season him with the skills a receiver needs - route running, nuances, little picadillos. That's the glass-half-full way to look at it. I tend to see him as a KR/WR/RB Joker type of player in the mold of a poor-man's Randall Cobb or something - a guy that you can use for a variety of functions. We'll see -- for me, he'll be one guy to watch during the offseason.
Read more about Bates here.
WR Bryan Walters
Walters was a 2010 UDFA out of Cornell that signed with the Chargers after going undrafted. He also spent time with the Vikings before signing with Seattle. He's 6-0, 190 and is that all-purpose KR/WR type, speedy and shifty. If you're wondering why the Seahawks might like him, I would guess it's because, (from a press release when he signed with San Diego), "Walters was second in the Ivy League in punt return yards (174) and average per return (6.7) and led the Ancient Eight in kickoff return yards (777)", and was a "three-time Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week in 2009." ... "Walters graduated with Ivy League records for career punt (972) and kick return (2,790) yards, and finished behind only Harvard's Clifton Dawson on the conference's all-purpose yardage list (5,795 yards)."
Walters is a local product, hailing from Bothell/Juanita, and one little tidbit that probably no one except the Seahawks' coaching staff/front office remembers, he returned a kick 103 yards against the Seahawks in preseason 2011.
Seriously, does anyone else remember this?
WR Stephen Williams
Williams is a 6'5, 210 pound receiver out of Toledo that caught on with the Cardinals as a UDFA in 2010 but was cut after suffering an achilles injury. According to Eric Williams, "Williams finished his college career as Toledo's all-time leader with 229 receptions and 3,102 career receiving yards, breaking records held by Lance Moore (2001-04), who's currently with the New Orleans Saints."
Williams has been a preseason phenom for the Cardinals both in 2011 and 2012 (Ricardo Lockette level of fascination from the media/fans, I gather), but then had trouble seeing the field during the regular season, sitting behind Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Stevie Breaston (in 2011), Andre Roberts, and now Michael Floyd (2012).
He's a fast, big-bodied deep threat or big-slot type, kind of in the mold of Lavasier Tuinei (remember him?). He'll be a name to watch this offseason, obviously.
RB Derrick Coleman
Coleman is a 5'11, 230 fullback that ran the 40 at his pro day prior to the 2012 Draft in an impressive 4.5 seconds (same time as Robert Turbin). His ten-yard split of 1.64 is impressive and his 36.5" vert and 10.05" broad jump shows some explosiveness.
Coleman had to overcome hearing problems during his time at UCLA, and often would turn off his hearing aid altogether during games and just read lips. If Coleman is anything for the Seahawks, it's as an understudy to Michael Robinson as a pass-catching and athletic fullback and probably more importantly, as a core special teamer. As a PFW scouting report points out, Coleman "was second-team All-Pacific-12 as a special-teams performer as a senior and took home team awards for outstanding special-teams play (twice) and all-around excellence according to coaches." Pete Carroll loves him some special teamers.
As a potential lead blocker and pass catcher at the fullback position, it helps that Coleman is chiseled at 230 pounds, could probably add 10 or 15 pounds with a pro weight room and dietary plan, and has 10 1/8" hands an 80.5" wingspan. Big hands and long arms helps in both the blocking and catching department.
TE Cooper Helfet
You may remember Helfet from Seahawks' training camp during the summer of 2012. He's a joker TE with plus athleticism out of Duke, and actually caught two touchdown passes for the Hawks during the preseason (ONE, TWO). Helfet is 6'3, 240, ran the 40 in about 4.7 seconds, and fits the bill for the type of player Seattle has been churning at with UDFAs and free agents since this front office took over; Kellen Winslow being the most famous example. I get the impression that Helfet's more of a pass-catcher than a blocker, but can do both; as opposed to fellow UDFA TE Sean McGrath being more of a blocker than a catcher but can do both.
DB Chandler Fenner
Fenner is a CB/FS hybrid that played for small-school Holy Cross in college. The scouting reports on him are minimal, but SI.com's Tony Pauline offers the following eval:
"Well-sized, athletic corner who plays an aggressive brand of football. Gives effort defending the run, fast up the field on the blitz and displays solid awareness. Gets vertical in midair and adjusts to defend passes. Shows a burst of speed, fights to get through blocks and makes plays on the ball. Fenner is a physical defender who shows skill facing the action. He offers potential in a zone system but must stand out on special teams to have a career at the next level."
To me this screams slot cornerback/nickel cornerback, something that the Seahawks badly need to develop for their defense. "Shows skills facing the action" and "offers potential in a zone system" says to me that he's not fluid enough to turn and run with receivers on the outside but offers something as a safety/nickel corner where he can react to quarterbacks and come downhill in zone agressively.
LB Kyle Knox:
Going back to my scouting report on Knox when he originally signed with the team back in June after a good showing in the aforementioned Rookie Mini-Camp, Knox is 6'1, 230, ran the 40 in 4.72, had strong times in the 3-cone (6.95) and short shuttle (4.44) and showed explosiveness in the vert (36.5") and broad jump (10'11") at his Pro Day back in March.
I've made paralells to this Seahawks front office and that of the FO run by the late Al Davis, and how Seattle inherited/adopted some of the Al Davis philosophies - basically encapsulated with the idea of being 'bigger, faster, and stronger' than the other team. On defense, especially at linebacker, big hands and long arms, were a big deal to Davis, and this front office has shown a predilection for guys with measurables, as much as some peoples scoff at Davis' methods.
I remember a segment Michael Lombardi did on Path to the Draft last season where he was asked about Davis' draft philosophy. Responding to a comment on Davis' predilection for guys with big hands and long arms, Lombardi noted - "That was huge. He believed big hands were like weapons, especially for defensive players. Because, when you could push those hands into somebody, they were really like weapons. The long arms, the length, really helped, especially as we got into a one-gap scheme in the NFL - because the longer the length, the better the defender could close out the gap. He used to love the basketball teams of Syracuse - they played a 2-3 zone, that became a 3-3 zone because of the long arms. That's what he wanted - he wanted a long team, and he wanted a big-hand team."
So, with Knox, to go along with his short-area quickness, he also has the advantage of possessing very long arms (33", 79.5" wingspan) and very large hands (10 1'8"). His hand size and wingspan are almost identical to Bobby Wagner, for what that's worth. Little things like this are something the Seahawks have shown interest in, particularly towards the back-end of the roster when trying to find that competitive edge with every single player on the payroll.
Knox was a player that I identified last year during training camp as a sleeper for a possible roster spot, and though that obviously didn't pan out, he did stick around in this manner to compete with the Mike Morgans and Allen Bradfords, and the Heath Farwells of the world as a special teams type and backup at LB.
CB Ron Parker
Ron Parker is a ridiculously fast CB/S type that was picked up by the Seahawks out of small school Newberry after the 2011 Draft as a UDFA, and has bounced around a bit on the Seahawks active roster, with the Raiders, the Panthers, and now back here. He knows the Seahawks' program and they like him enough to have claimed him from both the Raiders and Panthers when he was released by those teams, respectively.
LB Korey Toomer
Toomer was the Seahawks' 5th round pick this season out of Idaho. He's a very fast, explosive SAM linebacker type but he lost out on a roster spot to start the year to incumbents in Malcolm Smith, Heath Farwell and Mike Morgan. Toomer passed through waivers though, and stuck with the team on the PS and PSIR, which I didn't even know was a thing. Toomer projects a little like a Mike Morgan -- fast, physical, explosive, but raw. It'll be interesting to see him compete with Morgan this summer.
DT Myles Wade
I want to say that Wade was one player that we here at Field Gulls had on our radar prior to last season; he was a UDFA out of Portland State with some raw athleticism and tons of potential. As Sander of BucsNation points out, "the defensive tackle was highly recruited out of high school in 2007, but failed to academically qualify for Oregon. After one year at a junior college, he took a year off to help his mother, who was battling brain cancer." He then played at Texas Tech before transferring to Portland State for his senior season, where he was teammates with current Seahawks CB Deshawn Shead.
At Portland State's Pro Day, the 6'2, 310 pound Wade registered 35.5" in the vertical jump 35.5", 9'1" in the broad jump: 42 reps on bench, a 5.06 40 and a 4.68 20 yard shuttle. Wade seems like a great 'futures' type of contract guy - a former prep star that was the national #2 or #3 DT in the nation, per Rivals, but bounced around due to life circumstances and grades. Wade has a 78" wingspan and 10 1/4" hands. With his vert/broad jump numbers combined with his extreme upper body strength, he's a nice prospect as a backup NT or rotational run stopper.