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Previewing potential position battles on offense following the draft

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With the majority of offseason transactions behind us following free agency, the draft and the signing of UDFAs, the Seattle Seahawks’ 90-man roster is largely set. Before the start of the season, that will be whittled down to 53. Rather than projecting the 53-man roster at this stage, we’ll identify how many roster spots are truly out there to be won in training camp and preseason, and where they are found.

First, let’s establish the absolute locks to make the 53-man roster on offense, barring injury or trade: Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, DeeJay Dallas, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Phil Haynes, B.J. Finney, Damien Lewis, Brandon Shell.

(A note: Rashaad Penny is excluded because of the expectation he will start the season on the PUP list.)

Now, let’s look at each position to see where there are roster spots to be won, and who the most likely contenders for them will be.

Quarterback

Role: Backup

Candidates: Anthony Gordon, Geno Smith

The Coug-turned-UDFA-turned-Seahawk will be competing with the incumbent backup in Smith to see who plays behind Wilson in 2020. The difference in cap hits between the two should be less than $200,000, meaning the spot will go to whoever the best candidate proves to be—Gordon’s cheap contract will be of little advantage.

What will be more of an advantage, however, is Gordon’s legitimate upside as a passer. Smith, a perfectly competent backup at this stage of his career, got off easy in 2019 competing with Paxton Lynch. Not so much this time around. Gordon will prove to be the better option behind Wilson.

Who makes the cut: Anthony Gordon

Running Back

Role: Backup

Candidates: Travis Homer, Patrick Carr, Anthony Jones, yet-to-be-signed veteran

Homer should be a near-lock, and would absolutely be a lock if Seattle felt good about Dallas’s ability to provide early-down touches out of the gate, enabling Homer to continue the third down role he excelled in at the end of last season. However, without that being certain, Homer could still fall victim to roster construction.

There’s also a possibility—perhaps more likely than not—the Seahawks enter Week 1 with four tailbacks, in which case I would bet on Carson, Dallas, Homer, and Carr, barring a veteran addition.

Who makes the cut: Homer, Carr

Wide Receiver

Roles: Third, fourth and fifth wide receivers

Candidates: Phillip Dorsett, Penny Hart, Freddie Swain, David Moore, John Ursua

It seems odd to only list Lockett and Metcalf as locks, but any three of the five receivers listed above could realistically round out the position group—while any of the five could fail to make the team.

It makes sense to group Hart, Swain, and Ursua, as they are likely to see most of their snaps in the slot. It’s likely only one, possibly two, of the three make it. Ursua should be the favorite after he stuck on the roster throughout 2019 despite not producing or seeing the field. Hart, a UDFA last year, is the forgotten man but shouldn’t be: expect him to make a strong roster push.

Logic would suggest Moore, who has been a consistent member of the team’s offense over the past two seasons, and Dorsett, a free agent signing, are safe bets to make the 53. However, Moore’s development stalled in ‘19 after a bright 2018, and he could have been had for just a seventh-round pick this spring; the low tender given suggests Seattle was okay losing him. Dorsett, meanwhile, would only carry a $137,500 dead cap hit if cut. At 27, with a career of middling production, he should not be kept over a younger player if the competition is close.

Who makes the cut: Hart, Moore, Dorsett

Tight End

Role: Fourth tight end

Candidates: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, Stephen Sullivan, Dom Wood-Anderson

With Olsen, Dissly and Parkinson locked in, the Seahawks could choose to proceed with just three tight ends. Olsen and Dissly, however, aren’t exactly pictures of perfect health. Hollister makes the most sense to keep on the 53, but with plenty of options ahead of and around him, Seattle’s likely to cut bait and save $3.259 million.

Sullivan would benefit from a year on the practice squad, but after the Seahawks had to move back into the draft to avoid losing him in rookie free agency, it may be a risk to get him through waivers. Depending on how he performs in the preseason, the team could choose to avoid taking that risk.

Willson, who was a free agent until he returned to Seattle in mid-2019, would likely be safe to cut and have out there on the open market as an option in case injuries again decimate the Seahawks’ tight end group.

Who makes the cut: N/A (Only three tight ends kept)

Tackle

Roles: Backup left and right tackle

Candidates: Jamarco Jones, Chad Wheeler, Cedric Ogbuehi, Tommy Champion

After Jones’s name was not brought up by John Schneider post-draft in reference to the guard competition, it’s safe to assume he’ll revert to his natural position in 2020. As the only natural left tackle on the roster behind Brown, he’ll be the favorite to backup the veteran.

Wheeler, Ogbuehi, and Champion will be competing to backup Shell on the right side. Wheeler, who followed Mike Solari from the Giants to Seattle, will start camp as the presumed favorite. However, both Ogbuehi and Champion received contracts that suggest the team has high hopes for them. Any of the three could end up on the 53-man roster, and potentially even two of three.

Who makes the cut: Jones, Wheeler

Guard/Center

Roles: Backup center, backup right guard

Candidates: Ethan Pocic, Joey Hunt, Chance Warmack, Jordan Roos, Jordan Simmons

It will be an open competition between Iupati and Haynes to start at left guard, but it seems like a lock that one will start while the other sticks as the backup. Following the release of Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker, Finney and Lewis figure as starters—but who will back them up?

Pocic offers guard/center versatility and upside if pressed into action, but Hunt has stuck around for years because of high-level football IQ and is seemingly loved by the coaches. Either player could end up as Finney’s backup, but the competition may be settled by a trade that sees Pocic head to a more athleticism-friendly system for a late day three pick.

Behind Lewis, Simmons offers the highest ceiling but cannot be relied upon to stay healthy. Roos, like Hunt, has stuck around for several seasons and was retained. Warmack, out of the league a year ago, is reportedly already well-thought-of by the Seahawks’ brass and has left/right guard versatility. It would surprise some, but I would give Warmack the edge right now.

Who makes the cut: Hunt, Warmack

Though Seattle’s offense makes up 45-55 percent of the active roster during the season, there are not many available spots when it’s boiled down. Set to be the strength of the team for another season, the Seahawks will have plenty of competition as they try to fill out the margins of the Wilson-led unit.