RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks decided Saturday to keep defensive end Chris Clemons on the 53-man active roster, rather than placing him on the physically unable to perform list to start the regular season.
The decision with Clemons was among the surprises as the Seahawks got down to the league-mandated roster limit. The decision to keep Clemons on the active roster is an indication he could be back from the knee injury he suffered during the NFC playoffs at Washington last January within the first month of the season. Clemons did individual work separate from the team during training camp, but has yet to take part in a single practice. Had Seattle placed Clemons on the PUP list, he would have missed the first six games of the regular season.
Seattle also cut a handful of veterans, the most surprising the decision to terminate the contract of former Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson. The lead blocker for Marshawn Lynch for the past three seasons, the Seahawks will go into the regular season without a true fullback on the roster.
Along with Robinson, the Seahawks decided two quarterbacks was plenty and cut Brady Quinn after he lost out to Tarvaris Jackson for the job backing up Russell Wilson. Defensive back Antoine Winfield was also cut and coach Pete Carroll tweeted the veteran indicated his intention to retire after 14 seasons. Winfield was beat out for the nickel defensive back position by Walter Thurmond.
Veteran defensive tackle Clinton McDonald was also cut and Seattle traded an undisclosed draft pick to Jacksonville in exchange for defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith, pending a physical. Smith played in eight games last season before ending the year on injured reserve with a head injury. He missed all of 2010 — his rookie season — with an Achilles’ tendon injury sustained in training camp and missed all of 2011 with a toe injury sustained in preseason. He was a third-round pick for the Jaguars in 2010.
Defensive line will be one of Seattle’s biggest concerns going into the opener on Sept. 8 at Carolina. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel have been slowed by groin injuries late in training camp and defensive end Cliff Avril has been bothered by a hamstring injury. Now, the Seahawks are saving a roster spot for Clemons, with no announced time on when he will return.
Along the defensive line, the Seahawks also cut former fourth-round pick Jaye Howard and recently acquired tackle Sealver Siliga. Seattle will go into the regular season with nine defensive linemen and eight linebackers, but linebackers Mike Morgan and O’Brien Schofield have been used as rush defensive ends.
Winfield was viewed as a coup signing when Seattle got him to agree to a one-year deal during the spring with the intent on him being the Seahawks fifth defensive back. But Thurmond was finally healthy after two years of injuries and was impressive both on defense and as a returning on special teams during the preseason.
For now, the Seahawks are moving forward with just two tight ends as well after cutting prospective No. 3 tight end Sean McGrath. Unless a move is made in the next few days, Seattle will go into the opener with only Zach Miller and Luke Willson.
Seattle kept eight rookies on its roster, including undrafted rookies linebacker John Lotulelei, defensive end Benson Mayowa and offensive lineman Alvin Bailey. They’ll join running backs Christine Michael and Spencer Ware, defensive tackle Jordan Hill, offensive lineman Michael Bowie and Willson.