Busy Seahawks continue to churn roster

RENTON — One day after coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider cut the Seahawks roster down to 53 players, the two men in charge of the Seahawks got out the wrecking ball.

Carroll has stayed away from saying that the Seahawks are rebuilding, but the team’s actions Sunday made it abundantly clear that a major roster overhaul is underway.

One day after cutting very few veterans or players of note — T.J. Houshmandzadeh was the only big-name cut, and that move was expected — the Seahawks parted ways with a number of veterans. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson was released, and Seattle reportedly releasing running back Julius Jones, safety Jordan Babineaux and fullback Owen Schmitt, all of whom started games last season. The Seahawks did not announce those moves Sunday, saying more moves were coming today, but a source confirmed Schmitt’s release, and ESPN reported that Jones and Babineaux are both on the way out.

There had been speculation that Jones, Babineaux and Schmitt were all vulnerable, particularly Jones and Babineaux, who were each scheduled to make $2.45 million this season. The fact that both had fallen out of the starting lineup made them expendable. Schmitt was the Seahawks’ only true fullback, but running back Quinton Ganther had seemingly passed him on the depth chart, and Seattle’s new offense leans heavily on two-tight-end sets which lessen the role of a fullback.

By cutting Babineaux, Jones and Vickerson, the Seahawks get rid of $6.659 million in base salary for 2010, which is close to what Seattle will end up paying Houshmandzadeh, whose $7 million salary was guaranteed. When Houshmandzadeh signs with a new team, he will likely take the veteran minimum of $850,000 and leave the Seahawks on the hook for the balance.

The Seahawks also announced the release of guard/tackle Mansfield Wrotto, center Steve Vallos and safety Kevin Ellison. Wrotto’s release came as a surprise given that he started the past two preseason games at left tackle with Russell Okung out with an ankle injury. Assuming Okung isn’t back for the opener — the more likely scenario — that means the starting left tackle will be either Chester Pitts, who is coming back from microfracture surgery and only returned to practice last week. Or a player added within the past week, most likely Stacy Andrews, who Seattle acquired in a trade with Philadelphia over the weekend.

Once Jones, Babineaux and Schmitt are officially released, the Seahawks will have just 27 players remaining from last year’s team, a total that includes two people not on the 53-man roster: linebacker Leroy Hill (suspended) and tackle Ray Willis (injured reserve).

The Seahawks also announced the additions of guard Evan Dietrich-Smith and safety Nate Ness, both of whom were claimed off waivers.

Also, sources confirmed that Seattle signed defensive tackle Junior Siavii, who was released by the Cowboys, and running back Michael Robinson, who was released by the 49ers. Siavii was a backup in Dallas and will likely serve the same role in Seattle, taking the spot of Vickerson, who served as Colin Cole’s backup during the preseason. Robinson, who spent his first four season in San Francisco, provides size and depth at running back, and is also a standout on special teams.

The Seahawks also reportedly added quarterback Zac Robinson, a rookie out of Oklahoma State who was drafted in the seventh round by New England and cut by the Patriots on Saturday. Robinson is a likely candidate to end up on Seattle’s practice squad, which has not yet been named.

The Seahawks also hired a new offensive line coach according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, adding Pat Ruel to the staff. Ruel coached offensive linemen in the NFL from 2000 to 2004, and spent the past five seasons as the offensive line coach on Carroll’s staff at USC. When he wasn’t retained at USC after Carroll’s departure, Ruel took a job with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

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