Projecting 90% of a 53-man roster is easy and uncontroversial. To prove as much, here’s a vanilla 53-man projection for the 2020 Seattle Seahawks.
QB: Russell Wilson
RB: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Nick Bellore
WR: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Paul Richardson, Freddie Swain, David Moore, Phillip Dorsett II, John Ursua
TE: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister
OL: Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Ethan Pocic, Damien Lewis, Brandon Shell, Jamarco Jones, Phil Haynes, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jordan Simmons, B.J. Finney
DL: Benson Mayowa, Poona Ford, Jarran Reed, Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Alton Robinson, Damarcus Christmas, Bryan Mone
LB: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Jordyn Brooks, Shaquem Griffin, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven
DB: Shaquill Griffin, Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Tre Flowers, Quinton Dunbar, Marquise Blair, Neiko Thorpe, Ugo Amadi, Lano Hill
Specialists: Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott
NFI: Darrell Taylor, Colby Parkinson
Geno Smith can be cut and re-signed after Seattle sorts out its injuries. If Seattle opts not to do that this year, some one of Bellore, Swain, Moore, Ursua, Finney, Christmas, Thorpe or Burr-Kirven would likely lose his spot.
In creating this I spent most of my time adding names to fill the final few spots. Those few final spots are determined by some mixture of need, positional versatility, special teams performance, and performance in training camp. Nearly every 53-man roster projection is going to look nearly exactly like the above. And, like my own, they’ll all be wrong.
Which is why I offer another projection, in which the players on the bubble I listed above are all gone. This one’s sure to be wrong too, but it gives me a chance to compile a list of players who may be available. Let’s take this spot by spot.
If Bellore is cut ...
Seattle probably keeps Luke Willson.
Bellore only played 29 snaps on offense in 2019. Most of his contributions came as a special teams player. He’s penciled into most projections because he’s Seattle’s only true fullback, but Willson could probably fill those 29 or so snaps, and he’s also played special teams.
A more exciting replacement for Bellore would be Josh Hokit. He’s currently backing up Kyle Jusczcyk.
If Swain is cut ...
The Seahawks may need a return man. In a common sense move long overdue, Lockett, by 2019 an ineffective and very conservative return man, finally ceded the job. Neither Moore nor Homer did much with the opportunity, and Rashaad Penny is hurt. Dallas was a returner at Miami, but mostly in 2018, and his 4.58 forty is not typical of top return men.
Which means if Swain is cut, and I think he’ll be safe on the practice squad, the Seahawks may look for a return specialist to fill his spot. Andre Roberts and Ameer Abdullah could be cut, Marcus Sherels is a free agent, and J.J. Taylor is on New England’s roster bubble. Seattle may not feel it needs a designated return specialist. Punt and kick returns have never been less valuable, but it never hurts for a contender to squeeze every ounce of value from its roster.
If Moore or Ursua are cut ...
The 2020 Seahawks will probably hardly miss them.
While many are predicting a breakout for Ursua, nothing about his 2019 season really suggests that. Since then, Seattle’s added two receivers through free agency and drafted another. Josh Gordon remains a strong possibility to sign with the Seahawks. And Ursua has missed lots of presumably important time at training camp.
Moore, for his part, has proven a serviceable fourth wide receiver. The Seahawks are probably picking between the seeming safety of retaining Moore, and the potential upside of retaining Ursua. But I do not think either is a lock to make the roster.
If Finney is cut ...
Justin Britt may be healthy. He seems to be on Seattle’s shadow roster for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s brought back in some 11th hour maneuvering. Finney would be a costly cap casualty, but if he’s really struggling in camp, it may be worth cutting him to avoid incurring the potential loss of a compensatory pick.
If Christmas is cut ...
He’s probably just too far behind. Carroll referred to Christmas as “really a rookie” after spending last season on the PUP list. I haven’t heard much about the guy this season. That’s a rough start for a sixth-round pick.
Quite a few experienced defensive tackles are available in free agency. Seattle may consider the relative safety of signing a veteran preferable to entrusting Christmas or any other inexperienced tackle. The Seahawks would be looking for a one-gap, run-stuffing defensive tackle like Marcell Dareus, Akeem Spence or maybe even Brandon Mebane. Snacks Harrison and Domata Peko are both available, but they’re not really one-gap players.
If Thorpe or Burr-Kirven are cut ...
Seattle does not greatly value coverage teams.
Thorpe was a good gunner who missed much of last season. The past three seasons he’s played 22, 29 and 22 snaps on defense, meaning he’s strictly a special teams player now. Seattle may opt to replace him with a similar but younger player, who could be seen to have more potential.
Burr-Kirven only played four snaps on defense last season. He’s even more buried on the depth chart this season, especially if we assume Seattle will play more nickel defense. He did however play in 66% of Seattle’s special teams snaps. Like with Thorpe, that may not seem as important this season.
I don’t think either of these players has to be replaced by a similar player. Both are deep depth at stacked positions, and cutting them would likely be done to make room for an acquisition who may play at any position, offense or defense.
Which leads me to this, all cuts made, 53-man roster. This is the one Seattle would take into the regular season and includes Geno Smith.
QB: Wilson, Smith
RB: Carson, Hyde, Dallas, Homer, Hokit
WR: Lockett, Metcalf, Gordon, Richardson, Dorsett, Jazz Ferguson ...
TE: Olsen, Dissly, Hollister
OL: Brown, Iupati, Pocic, Lewis, Shell, Britt, Jones, Haynes, Ogbuehi, Simmons, T.J. Clemmings
I have no idea if Clemmings will ever play another snap of professional football, but I picked him as a representative player because he has starting experience at both tackle spots, and (was) quick enough to play the George Fant position on this offense.
DL: Mayowa, Ford, Reed, Green, Dareus, Collier, Robinson, Mone, Jabaal Sheard
I picked Sheard. Clay Matthews, Terrell Suggs, Cam Wake, even Jadeveon Clowney are all equally good fits.
LB: Wagner, Wright, Irvin, Brooks, Griffin, Barton
DB: Griffin, Adams, Diggs, Dunbar, Flowers, Blair, Amadi, Hill
Specialists: Myers, Dickson, Ott