By John Boyle
NFL teams have to trim their rosters from 75 to 53 players by 1 p.m. PT Saturday. Since the Seahawks have a little less time with a Thursday night opener, there’s a good chance a lot of those decisions are being made today. So with that in mind, before those cuts start leaking out, let’s get on record what is sure to be a laughable prediction at what the roster might look like after Saturday.
And one quick note about this — even if by some miracle the list below is dead on, there’s a good chance it won’t be the roster by next week. Even with the talent they have acquired, the Seahawks look for every chance to improve their roster, so inevitably somebody who makes the team Saturday will be replaced by a player off the waiver wire in the following days.
QB (2): Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson
The big question is whether or not the Seahawks keep a third quarterback. Terrelle Pryor didn’t do enough to unseat Jackson as the backup, but are the Seahawks willing to use up a roster spot to keep him around? My guess is no.
RB/FB (5): Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Spencer Ware, Derrick Coleman
The Seahawks could decide to keep four here if they prefer a third quarterback or perhaps a 10th lineman, but Ware has a lot of value on special teams, and if Michael’s hamstring could linger into Week 1 or beyond, one more ball carrier for depth might be desirable.
WR (6): Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Ricardo Lockette, Kevin Norwood
One of the tougher positions to figure out, both because there is good battle going on for the final jobs, and also because Norwood’s health is a question mark. Pete Carroll said Norwood, a fourth-round pick who was a standout in offseason workouts, could return to practice this week, but if Norwood isn’t available for game action for a few weeks, is he worth the roster spot as one of the final receivers, especially when a player like Bryan Walters has shown a lot of value on special teams? Lockette is somewhat on the bubble, but has enough special teams value that he’s likely safe. Phil Bates had a strong camp and a nice touchdown catch Thursday night, but he’s likely the odd man out.
TE (3): Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet
Miller and Willson are the easy picks, and if the Seahawks keep a third tight end, it’s almost certainly Helfet, but Helfet is recovering from a knee injury, and the Seahawks showed a willingness to go with two tight ends for part of last season. If the Seahawks value an extra lineman more than a banged-up third tight end, they can use tackle Alvin Bailey as a blocking tight end/sixth lineman.
OL (9): Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, JR Sweezy, Justin Britt, Alvin Bailey, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Caylin Hauptmann, Garry Gilliam
Maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into a “surprise” cut, but I have undrafted rookie Gilliam making the roster over veteran Eric Winston (can a backup being cut count as a surprise?). Winston is a solid backup who can play both tackle positions, but Gilliam, a former tight end with a ton of upside, may have shown enough in the preseason that he wouldn’t make it to the practice squad if he hit the waiver wire. There’s financial incentive to do this too, because Winston’s status as a vested veteran means his entire 2014 salary becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster for the opener. Bellevue HS grad Stephen Schilling showed versatility playing guard and center, and he could very well make the cut, either at the expense of Hauptmann, or if the Seahawks keep a 10th lineman.
DL (9): Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, O’Brien Schofield, Cassius Marsh, Jordan Hill, Greg Scruggs
The top five spots seem set, then it’s pretty wide open beyond that. Schofield out-played Benson Mayowa as a pass rusher this preseason and likely makes the team, and unless Marsh’s hip flexor injury suffered Thursday turns out to be serious, he has shown enough to make the team. Hill had a quiet preseason until Thursday night’s sack, but he has enough upside as an interior pass rusher to keep around. Scruggs’ versatility should help him lock up a spot, but don’t rule out the possibility of D’Anthony Smith sneaking onto the roster.
LB (7): Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle, Mike Morgan, Kevin Pierre-Louis
When healthy, this might be the deepest position on Seattle’s roster, with a Super Bowl MVP out of the starting lineup, and a player like Korey Toomer, who Carroll couldn’t stop raving about in offseason workouts, possibly on the outside looking in. Irvin still hasn’t returned to practice following offseason hip surgery, and while Carroll said that could happen next week, don’t rule out the possibility that he starts the year on the PUP list, which would free up a roster spot for someone like Toomer. Injuries have limited Pierre-Louis, but the fourth-round pick has enough athletic upside and ability on special teams that he should stick around.
CB (5): Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, Phillip Adams
If you’re working under the assumption the Seahawks will keep five corners, which is hardly a given, the top four seems pretty set, but the fifth spot was pretty open before Thursday’s game, and the mixed performances of Adams and Akeem Auguste didn’t exactly clear things up. It seems Adams has the slight edge here, though this could also be a position where the Seahawks look to the waiver wire for a fifth corner.
S (4): Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, DeShawn Shead, Jeron Johnson
Shead played a lot of cornerback Thursday, and his versatility essentially buys the Seahawks a roster spot because he can play both safety and corner. If the Seahawks want a 10th defensive back, or if they see Shead as mostly a corner at this point, then someone like Terrance Parks could be in the mix.
Specialists (3): P Jon Ryan, K Steven Hauschka, LS Clint Gresham
No mystery here.