Once an August afterthought, the Seattle Seahawks training camp has become a crucible. Gone are the seemingly passive late summer practices with uninteresting PR tidbits and cuts that raised nary an eyebrow or a care. In their place whirls a flashing mass of competitive humanity -- a camp so perilous that even reigning Pro Bowlers' spots aren't safe.
Always Compete isn't just a catchphrase or a throwaway coaching cliche; in Seattle, Always Compete is a mantra. Always Compete turned the VMAC into an agoge, a threshing floor where, barring positional scarcity, only those with elite potential and/or team-friendly contracts survive. I am of the mind that the Seahawks will cut more future NFL starters than any other team in 2013. It started when Will Blackmon was among the first 15 players cut. It continued with the dropping of Michael Robinson, and culminated with the release of 4th round draft pick Chris Harper and three-time Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield. Other casualties included 2013 draftees Ty Powell, Jared Smith, and Ryan Seymour.
There are so many names on the final 53 that I would never have predicted a month ago, guys like Derrick Coleman, Stephen Williams, Benson Mayowa, O'Brien Schofield, Mike Morgan, and John Lotuleilei. While a case can be made that a couple of the DLs (Schofield, Morgan) might not have stuck had the starting D-linemen not forgotten to line their door frames with lamb's blood, Coleman, Williams, Mayowa, and Lotuleilei had outstanding preseasons and, imperatively, don't cost anything*.
*No matter how much you think this matters, I assure you it matters more to Pete Carroll and John Schneider
The three cuts that have made the most noise are Robinson, Winfield, and Harper. Four weeks ago, nearly all of us were penciling this trio into the opening day roster. Today, one of them is waiting for a phone call to extend his NFL career, another is waiting for a phone call to start it, and the other is filling out paperwork to end it. The merits and drawbacks of cutting Mike Rob have been debated ad nauseum and one of the biggest questions is how his role will be replaced. My guess: it won't, and that's okay.
Spencer Ware isn't the consummate lead blocker that Robinson is, but he won't be asked to be nearly as often as Robinson was either. A hallmark of the Pete Carroll era is a proclivity to maximize players' strengths and minimize situations that expose their weaknesses. Ware might not seal off a linebacker as well as Robinson, but he's got a wiggle that Mike Rob doesn't. Carroll is likely comfortable utilizing Ware similarly to how Tom Cable used Marcel Reece as a playmaker in Oakland, although in a smaller initial role. Anticipate more one back sets this year and restrain your fret until you see how Wilson responds to an extra play-maker in the backfield.
Winfield, for his part, was an off-season addition I was very excited about. While I didn't think he'd get cut, the long-awaited arrival of a fully healthy Walter Thurmond makes Winfield a bit expendable. Winfield wasn't kept, not because he was the sixth best CB on a team keeping five CBs, but because he was the fourth best. It is a conundrum that highlights the way Carroll and Schneider view roster construction. $2.5 million is an acceptable price to pay for a third corner in today's pass-friendly league, but it's extravagant for a fourth*. The drop off in skill between Winfield and Byron Maxwell isn't as big as the drop off in salary. It is upon that sliding scale that PCJS makes its decisions and Winfield was simply set to make more money than his contribution was likely to warrant.
*Especially when extension talks with Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Richard Sherman (and later, Russell Wilson) are looming
As for Harper, he was always an upside pick. Despite his marvelous physical assets, Harper was unable to translate them onto the NFL gridiron. Inconsistent separation and ironclad hands did as much to doom Harper as the emergence of Williams and Jermaine Kearse did. Harper was a fun idea and it would've been awesome to see him actualize his potential in Seattle, but at this point I don't see him making any plays that Kearse and Williams can't.
Always Compete is, as Davis Hsu has said, transitioning into Win Forever. In the NFL, that means hard cuts which protect the team's future interests no matter how unpopular they are at the time. It's not enough to simply be good in Seattle anymore, you have to stay good and these cuts, surprising as they seem, are the steps management sees necessary to ensure the long-term prosperity of the franchise.
So which cuts/keeps surprised you the most?
~For the full 53, check out Jared's post here~