The Seattle Seahawks usually seem to produce the absolute cream of the crop of early-September waiver options during the Pete Carroll era. Just ask their first preseason opponent — The Kansas City Chiefs — who almost seem to be made up primarily of players who were cut by the Seahawks over the last four or five years. This year should be no different.
If anything, 2016 might be the year of the most difficult cuts for Seattle in the 10s.
That’s mostly due to the fact that it seems like Carroll and John Schneider have crushed it on the UDFA and low-key free agent market. Fans could probably make a good argument for 10 of these wide receivers to make the team. Or four tight ends. Or five pure running backs. How about nine cornerbacks? Five safeties?
Unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want. In fact, I guarantee that most of you won’t, not when it comes to the final cuts by Carroll this season. Here are seven players who will either be very difficult to release, or who are about to push a former roster favorite out on to the waiver wire and eventually on the Chiefs or 49ers.
WR - Tanner McEvoy
“Versatility” is one of the main characteristics that I think Pete Carroll would use to describe the types of players he likes -- especially bubble players -- because the more you can do, the more options Pete has to keep a guy he might otherwise lose. Well, McEvoy was arguably the most versatile player in college football over the last few years.
At Wisconsin, McEvoy played quarterback, safety, he carried the ball, and he caught 10 passes last season. He’s 6’6, 230 pounds, he gives the team a receiver unlike any they currently have, but he might also have a future on the defensive side of the ball some day, though Carroll has noted that they like what they see from his as an offensive player much more than what they saw from him as a defender this summer. McEvoy isn’t the only player on this list who will be given an advantage based on his ability to play on either side of the ball.
OT - George Fant
It would be pretty incredible if Fant made an NFL roster this year based on the fact that he has played just one season of football since eighth grade, but he’s already gotten first team snaps at left tackle in training camp and second team reps in the first preseason game, so who knows — if he’s capable of holding his own, the team may just hold onto him and wait for development next year; that’s just what they did with Kristjan Sokoli in 2015.
Fant played college basketball at Western Kentucky before just one season of football and going undrafted. However, the team has already moved around just about everyone on an offensive line that is full of inexperience, so what’s one more player who might just have the highest ceiling of any of them? While Garry Gilliam has already lost ground to Bradley Sowell at left tackle and J’Marcus Webb already seems to be halfway out the door, there’s a good chance that Fant could beat out someone like Terry Poole — who was released last season too — for a roster spot.
Many noted his play vs Kansas City for negative reasons, but the fact that he’s competing at all already should tell you how much Pete likes his upside.
TE - Brandon Williams
The team traded for a premier tight end last year in Jimmy Graham, they drafted a tight end in the third round this year with Nick Vannett, and they have a tight end that they like pretty well with Luke Willson, so it would seem like this is one position group that seemed impossible to crack. That was already bad news for someone like Cooper Helfet, but Helfet’s broken foot opened up the door for more opportunities for a player who few fans had ever heard of before training camp.
Or at least maybe you had never heard of this Brandon Williams. (There’s also a defensive tackle named Brandon Williams for the Ravens and a cornerback who was drafted in the third round by the Cardinals.)
This Brandon Williams was 99% out of football a few years ago before a regional combine invite actually worked for someone and a positive medical diagnosis gave him the opportunity to get signed by the Carolina Panthers. He stayed there for a couple of years and after a brief stop in Miami, is now with the Seahawks. And he’s overcoming long odds once again, it seems.
Williams has been one of the true standouts at camp and it’s going to be really difficult to see him getting released if he stays healthy and on the same trajectory that he’s currently been traveling. Seattle will either keep four tight ends or have a surprise release/injury/trade.
DT - Brandin Bryant
When the Seahawks brought in Bryant as an undrafted free agent, it raised some eyebrows based on the idea that he might be used as a fullback in Seattle. Bryant is listed at 6’2, 289 lbs on the Seahawks website, huge for anyone who might actually be expected to touch the football, but he ran the 40 in 4.88.
Consider these 40 times and weights/positions from the 2016 combine:
- Paxton Lynch, QB, 244 lbs, ran a 4.86.
- DeRunnya Wilson, WR, 224 lbs, ran a 4.85.
- Vernon Adams, QB, 200 lbs, ran a 4.83.
- The fastest DT at the combine was Robert Nkemdiche, and he ran a 4.87 at 294 lbs. Nkemdiche was considered perhaps the best defensive lineman in the draft, if you could ignore his off-field stuff.
- Only four DTs at the entire combine even cracked the 5-second mark, and one of them was Quentin Jefferson, the DT Seattle drafted in the fifth round. Jefferson ran a 4.95 at 291 lbs.
I mean, Bryant was .07 seconds faster than Jefferson, at basically the same weight and .07 seconds is a lifetime in the 40-yard dash. If you’re a wide receiver and you run a 4.45 vs a 4.52, that could be the difference being drafted on day one/day two or not at all.
So there was a lot of speculation that Bryant could be an interesting option at fullback because he’s unusually fast for a big guy but now it seems like Bryant might actually just be an excellent defensive tackle, the position he played at Florida Atlantic. Bryant has been getting really good marks at training camp and it’s going to be really interesting to see what happens at that position now because they already have Ahtyba Rubin, Jordan Hill, Sealver Siliga, and Jarran Reed. Will they keep six defensive tackles? Because Jefferson’s been playing really well too and likely not going anywhere.
(Not-so-fun fact: Rams DT Aaron Donald ran a 4.68 at 285 lbs....)
S/CB - Tyvis Powell
I don’t think it comes as a huge surprise to many fans that Powell is very capable of making the team. He was undrafted but he was also the highest-profile UDFA signing by the Seahawks this year and that usually leads to good things. We’ve seen so much success from guys like Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, DeShawn Shead, Thomas Rawls, Garry Gilliam, and others, that we almost have come to expect it now.
So far it seems like Powell has taken advantage of that opportunity and now that he’s also played some corner in practice, maybe that versatility will give him an even better shot to make the roster at a fairly deep safety position. He may have cemented his case with a strong performance on special teams against the Chiefs, and then logging his first career preseason interception on defense. Powell’s inclusion on the 53-man roster may cost a veteran their spot.
CB/RB - George Farmer
A much longer shot case is that of Farmer, but give credit where credit’s due: Farmer was asked to step up for his team after a string of injuries at running back and he responded with taking valuable reps in practice and then looking okay at times against KC, logging 15 yards on seven carries.
Of course, when you see the depth chart at running back and assume they’ll all be healthy by Week 1, it’s impossible to think that Farmer will make the cut. Same for cornerback, especially considering that Farmer has now lost weeks of development and reps at that position, but perhaps even if he doesn’t make it this time he’s still earned respect from Carroll and the coaching staff for doing whatever’s asked of him, and I think we’ve seen that pay off for other players in the past. He could still have a future with the team, though this season seems unlikely barring more injuries.
He has the best shot of anyone on this list of making the practice squad.
LB/FB - Kyle Coleman
I thought it was really interesting that in a recent press conference, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner was quoted as saying, “[Kyle] Coleman has been the one who has impressed me the most. Man, he’s been out there making plays. Every time we step out here he seems like he always has his hands on the ball. He’s always in the backfield.”
If you’ve got Wagner’s attention, you’ve got my attention. Could he take Brock Coyle’s spot on the roster? That might depend on if they still play the same position or not.
Coleman started out being listed as a fullback when the team signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas Pine-Bluff. He’s since been working his way up the depth chart over practices and training camp it seems, and though he didn’t stand out against Kansas City (listed with one tackle), it would be difficult for any linebacker to get his name called playing a few series against a backup offense. I think it will be more telling to see if he gets a full half or more as a starting linebacker in any of the next three games, but that’s if he’s even playing LB anymore at all; Coleman moved back to fullback on Monday despite all the positive reports from Wagner and Carroll about his play at linebacker. However, with the injuries to the fullback position, it’s possible that they like him as a number one fullback and a backup linebacker, meaning he could still steal a spot from someone on the defensive side of the ball if they think they have enough coverage with Coleman at the back end of the roster.
It’s that type of versatility that’s really going to make these two rounds of cuts interesting.