On Tuesday, we previewed the Seattle Seahawks’ UDFAs on the offensive side of the ball. Those five rookies don’t move the needle much and beyond fullback Khalid Hill and/or guard Skyler Phillips, it’s tough to see any of them making the 53-man roster. Seattle’s crop of defensive UDFAs, however, are much more intriguing prospects. There’s drop EDGE/OTTO LB Jacob Pugh, who the Seahawks gave the largest bonus to, as well as defensive tackle Poona Ford, who had no business going undrafted. In total, Seattle signed six UDFAs on defense and should get contributions in 2018 from at least one of them.
It’s rare that before training camp even begins, you would be more surprised if a UDFA didn’t make the 53-man roster than if they did, but that’s the case with the former Texas defensive tackle. The entire pre-draft process was a confusing one for those who followed Ford. A great week at the East-West Shrine Game led to an invitation to the Senior Bowl the following week, but it was still not enough to earn an invitation to the Scouting Combine. Then, draft weekend saw Texas’s punter get selected, yet inexplicably, Ford’s name wasn’t called at any point during day three of the NFL Draft. And even after all that, Seattle managed to bring him in with just an $8000 signing bonus, nothing close to the maximum teams will splash out for high profile UDFAs — usually around $25k.
Ford is a powerful, squatty interior defender who was mainly deployed as a nose tackle in the Longhorns’ 3-4 defense. At 5-foot-11 and 300 pounds, Ford has a body type similar to Brandon Mebane. Compact, low to the ground and impossible to move in the middle of the defense, Ford is exactly the type of defender that can anchor a run defense from the interior. Jarran Reed struggled as the 1-tech last season, with Sheldon Richardson being the team’s best run defender, and might be better suited elsewhere along the line. There isn’t just a chance Ford makes the roster; there’s a good chance he plays meaningful snaps in 2018.
Wilson, like Ford, is an interior run defender with good size, even possessing more prototypical height than Ford at 6-foot-3. And like Ford, Wilson is a primary 1-tech who could free up Reed to make more plays at the line of scrimmage than he was able to in 2017. However, only one of Wilson or Ford will make the 53-man roster and Ford is a much cleaner prospect than Wilson. Known to freelance - a big no-no with Carroll - and play undisciplined football during his time at Purdue, Wilson could very well make more splash plays in the preseason than Ford, but it’s safe to expect Wilson to be the odd man out in a deep interior defensive line competition.
Beal was a two-year starter as an off-ball linebacker at Oklahoma. At 6-foot and 223 pounds, Beal may have previously been viewed as undersized, but as the game evolves into an open game played in space and to sidelines, linebackers with his height and weight will become more common.
Unless he proves to be a revelation on special teams, it’s tough to see how Beal makes the 53-man roster. At WILL there is K.J. Wright and Shaquem Griffin, at MIKE there is Bobby Wagner and D.J. Alexander and at SAM there is Barkevious Mingo and (as I have it projected) Jacob Pugh. In the event Wagner goes down with an injury, Wright would slide inside rather than Alexander stepping into the starting role. Alexander’s roster spot is almost completely on the back of outstanding special teams play; if Beal can prove he can match that value in the third phase at a lower cost, he could steal the sixth LB spot away from Alexander.
A safety at Northwestern, Long is in the process of converting down into a linebacker. Much like Beal, Long will have to prove he’s too valuable on special teams to cut if he’s going to make the 53-man roster. However, if the Seahawks choose to move away from a like-for-like backup for Mingo in Pugh, there’s also a chance Long fits as a backup SAM, with all the qualities of a LB capable of dropping into zones in the flat and over the middle, as well as carrying RBs and TEs down the field.
It was clear from rookie minicamp and the UDFA’s signing bonuses that Seattle has a plan in place for former Florida State EDGE/LB Jacob Pugh. He has the ability to rush off the edge from a three point stance, set the edge against the run, as well as dropping into zones. It’s a unique skill set they had in Bruce Irvin and are attempting to replicate with Mingo. Pugh will allow them to remain consistent with that role as a backup, should Mingo go down with an injury.
The less heralded UCF alum in the Seahawks’ rookie class, Mutcherson will look to crack a crowded safety group in transition. Bradley McDougald was re-signed this offseason and will likely start at strong safety, although the team should know for sure within 4-5 weeks whether Kam Chancellor is playing in 2018. Earl Thomas will be remaining in Seattle to play out the final year of his contract, but it remains unclear when he’ll show up. It’s safe to assume sophomores Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson will be given another year, bringing the roster locks at safety to four, without mentioning veteran Maurice Alexander. Suffice to say, Mutcherson has an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Injuries and an outstanding preseason will be Mutcherson’s path to the regular season roster, and even then it may not be enough.
After getting almost zero production from last year’s UDFA class, the Seahawks are in line to make up for it in a big way in 2018. Hill should be the favorite to win the FB competition, Phillips is far along in his development for an offensive lineman, while both Ford and Pugh should have a role to play on Seattle’s defense.