Memorial Day has arrived, and as much of the country takes steps to return to normal, the dead zone of the summer doldrums of the NFL news cycle lurk just on the other side of the long weekend. Monday not only marks the end of May, it also marks exactly three months until final roster cuts are due for NFL teams on August 31.
Roster cuts are set to be different from years past this summer, with teams now required to trim down to 85 players prior to August 17, to 80 players prior to August 24 and to 53 players prior to August 31. Basically, it’s a round of five cuts after each of the first two preseason games, followed by a final cut of 17 players after the last preseason contest. How much the return of multiple waves of cuts impacts the team’s strategy when it comes to protecting and developing its own talent will likely be hotly debated during camp, but for now the debate can begin on which players currently on the roster will still be around on September 1.
So, here’s a way too early stab at what the roster of the Seattle Seahawks could look like on September 1.
Keep: Russell Wilson and Geno Smith
Cut: Alex McGough and Danny Etling
Wilson and Smith have been the depth chart at quarterback the past two seasons, and there is little reason to believe that is likely to change anytime soon. While Smith has spent the more recent seasons of his career in an Air Coryell offense, he played in Marty Mornhinweg’s version of the West Coast offense during his early years with the New York Jets. (McGough had a cup of coffee in John DeFilippo’s version of the WCO with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.)
Keep: Chris Carson, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas and Rashaad Penny
Cut: Alex Collins, B.J. Emmons and Josh Johnson
Some fans are likely to call for the team to keep Collins, but he spent a good portion of the 2020 season on the practice squad without being poached by another team. In addition, the fact that he signed a league minimum contract with zero guaranteed money seems to be a good indication that there is not a huge market for his services around the league.
The most likely way for Collins to make the 53 man roster could be if another team feels like making an offer for Penny that the front office can’t refuse. Penny didn’t flash much after coming back from knee surgery in 2020, but if the extra eight months of recovery allow his knee to return to pre-injury form, he could put enough on tape in the preseason to make him attractive to another team. The question then would become whether the Seahawks front office prefers a final season from the 2018 first round pick who, barring injury, is slated to be Carson’s backup, or the potential upside of a draft pick. This is the same front office that once traded former second round pick Christine Michael for a conditional seventh round pick, so while a trade of Penny seems unlikely, it can’t be ruled out if there is an attractive enough offer on the table.
Keep: Pro Bowler Nick Bellore
Cut: None. Bellore’s the only fullback on the roster.
Fans keep calling for Bellore’s head, and Bellore and the team simply laugh at their naivete. Bellore has been on the field for 560 special teams snaps for the Seahawks since his arrival prior to the 2019 season, and that is where the focus should be for fans, rather than on his 64 offensive snaps. Fans may hate his $1.7M cap number, but the odds of Bellore going anywhere other than onto the field for Larry Izzo’s special teams groups seem very long.
Keep: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, D’Wayne Eskridge, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart and John Ursua
Cut: Aaron Fuller, Cade Johnson, Darvin Kidsy, Tamorrion Terry, Cody Thompson and Connor Wedington
The top three aren’t going anywhere, and the rest is basically a crapshoot. Hart’s time with the Indianapolis Colts, where he spent an offseason in Frank Reich’s West Coast passing offense, could potentially give him a slight advantage in learning the new system Shane Waldron is bringing in. Of note is the lack of a big-bodied receiver outside of Metcalf, with the other five - Lockett, Eskridge, Swain, Hart and Ursua - needing to be stacked one on top of each other to roughly match Metcalf’s height. That means fans shouldn’t be surprise if the Seahawks look to bring in a big-bodied outside receiver of the type that Pete Carroll likes between now and the start of the training camp. I don’t know if there are any big-bodied receivers with experience in a West Coast offense on the market and available right now who could be paired with Metcalf, but if there are it’s certainly something that could be worth investigating.
Keep: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson and Tyler Mabry
Cut: Nick Guggemos and Cam Sutton
The Hawks tend to keep an extra player at positions seeing turnover, and Dissly is the only member of the group returning from 2020 who saw significant playing time. Everett, of course, is the other keeper, and the final spots behind those two could be decided by the ability to contribute on special teams. Mabry reportedly flashed in camp last summer, and with actual preseason games this year, perhaps fans will get to see that for themselves.
Keep: Duane Brown, Brandon Shell, Stone Forsythe and Cedric Ogbuehi
Cut: Jamarco Jones, Greg Eiland, Jake Curhan and Tommy Champion
Brown and Shell will be hard to unseat as the returning starters, while Forsythe and Ogbuehi are likely penciled in as depth barring injury. Jones’ versatility and ability to contribute on the interior at guard could allow him to stick around, but with the amount of talent the Hawks have accumulated on the interior of the line, Jones could find it difficult to break through the depth chart in that group as well.
Interior Offensive Line
Keep: Gabe Jackson, Ethan Pocic, Damien Lewis, Kyle Fuller and Phil Haynes
Cut: Brad Lundblade, Jared Hocker, Pier-Olivier Lestage and Jordan Simmons
There’s set to be enough snaps turning over at receiver and tight end that those are the position groups where it should be an extra player could be kept. In contrast, with four of five starters returning on the offensive line, and the one new starter having just signed a three year contract with more than $10M in guaranteed money, the top of the depth chart is not difficult to predict. The interesting questions come when it is time to discuss the depth behind those starters. Fuller’s gets the nod here due to his versatility and ability to play both guard and center, as well as the fact that his athleticism comps out well to many of the offensive linemen of the Los Angeles Rams in recent seasons.
That leaves a final spot for depth and that is where things get interesting. Will the team opt to keep Simmons or Jones, neither of whom is signed past 2021 but who have seen more playing time in recent seasons while admittedly potentially not being a great fit for Waldron’s new offensive system. Or, will the Hawks opt for the youth and upside of one of the lesser experienced players in Haynes or Lestage? This is one of those value now versus upside for the future questions that will be interesting to watch unfold through camp.