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Ted’s Talk: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire with Jonathan Sutherland

Could Joey Blount’s injury open the door for UDFA safety Jonathan Sutherland to make the 53-man roster?

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

With plenty of openings on the 90-man roster, the Seattle Seahawks went ham in undrafted free agency, signing 25 rookie UDFAs in May to go along with their 10 selections from the 2023 NFL Draft. Many of these players will become footnotes in Seahawks history, but safety Jonathan Sutherland from Penn State has a shot to continue Seattle’s tradition of UDFAs making the 53-man roster and contributing in meaningful ways.

It’s this pattern under Pete Carroll that makes the Seahawks a prime destination for rookies who didn’t hear their names called in the NFL Draft. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Benson Mayowa, Poona Ford, and countless others were given the opportunity to compete and proved to the team that they can hang in the NFL.

Agents know this. Players know this.

Enter Sutherland, the four-time team captain from Penn State – an honor shared with only Sean Clifford, his teammate in 2022. Sutherland played both linebacker and safety in his Nittany Lions career and wore the number 0 in 2021 and 2022 which is awarded to the special teams leader. Maybe that was related to the game against Idaho in 2019 when he blocked two punts, something that hadn’t happened at Penn State in almost two decades.

That sounds like the scrappy profile of a player Pete would love, right? Speaking of love, Sutherland – listed as a strong safety by the Seahawks – enters an absolutely crowded room featuring Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams which was bolstered even further this offseason with the free agent signing of Julian Love from the New York Giants. And don’t forget rookie sixth-round pick Jerrick Reed II and Joey Blount – last year’s UDFA safety who made the initial roster out of camp. Oh, and 2022 rookie Coby Bryant is now getting time at strong safety as well.

Despite those long odds, Sutherland has been turning heads all throughout the offseason since signing with Seattle.

This has extended into training camp as well.

With Adams still on the PUP list, Love has been the starting strong safety but may see time at nickel when Adams returns since he has experience playing there in the past. Sutherland and Love are both listed on the Seahawks website at 5’11 with Sutherland being a touch heavier at 202lbs compared to Love at 195lbs. That’s awfully close, and the Seahawks might see Sutherland in the same mold as Love.

There’s a lot of evidence that Seattle wants to have three-safety sets as a big part of the defense – an idea that took a hit last season with Adams’ injury in the first half of the first game. Sutherland could provide insurance if Adams can’t make it back to his previous form or, God forbid, get injured again.

Even though he wasn’t drafted, it’s not like Sutherland is untalented. The Ottawa native was drafted No. 5 overall in the 2023 CFL draft.

I get it, the CFL isn’t the NFL but that’s still a testament to Sutherland’s skill level and gives him an opportunity to continue his playing career if this shot in Seattle doesn’t work out.

On that topic, Sutherland’s chances to make the roster may have just gotten a bump with Joey Blount recently leaving practice with an undisclosed injury. At the time of writing, the severity of Blount’s injury is unknown, but he had an important role as a special teams standout last year before sustaining a season-ending injury. Sutherland’s experience in that phase of the game may give him a leg up in the competition if Blount is out for an extended period.

The fact that he’s getting some first-team reps is telling, as the coaches are giving him chances to show he can play in the league. Sutherland’s name has been brought up unprompted throughout the offseason by both coaches and team reporters as someone to watch. That’s not a coincidence, and he’s certainly someone to keep an eye out for this preseason.