RENTON — Of the 20 players released by the Seahawks Saturday, none were bigger than defensive tackle Colin Cole.
And that’s not just because Cole weighs in at a beefy 328 pounds.
Cole, who signed with Seattle as a free agent in 2009, started 15 games that year, and 11 more last season while battling an ankle injury. When healthy, he was part of a run defense that was among the league’s best last season before he and Red Bryant both suffered injuries.
But to call Cole’s release a genuine surprise is a bit of an overstatement. Cole recently had surgery on that injured ankle, and has spent all of training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He was not going to be ready to start the season, and the Seahawks had already moved Brandon Mebane from his old defensive tackle spot to the nose tackle position previously occupied by Cole. Free agent addition Alan Branch, meanwhile, was signed to play in Mebane’s old spot, so Cole, even if healthy, might have been the odd man out. And factor in that he was due to make $3.75 million this season, and his release isn’t all that shocking. Even so, Cole’s departure means yet another key player from the past couple of years is now gone as coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider continue the rebuild of the Seahawks.
Other than Cole’s release, there were few surprises as the Seahawks trimmed their roster from 80 down to 53 players Saturday. Guard/center Mike Gibson, who started eight games last season was a somewhat unexpected cut having been beaten out by Lemuel Jeanpierre.
Of course just because Saturday was devoid of major surprises doesn’t mean there won’t be any in the next few days. With so many players being cut league wide, the Seahawks are certainly going to make changes between now and their season opener, most likely beginning today. Last year, the Seahawks released Jordan Babineaux, Julius Jones and Owen Schmitt a day after they survived the initial cuts, though Babineaux was re-signed later in the week.
And while the current roster is sure to change, it’s worth noting just how young and different it is compared to the one Carroll inherited a year and a half ago. Of the current 53, only 10 players were on the roster Carroll and Schneider inherited — there are four more in injured reserve and the physically unable to perform list — and 29 of those 53 players are age 25 or younger.
Part of Seattle’s youth movement is a trio of undrafted rookies — quarterback Josh Portis, safety Jeron Johnson and receiver Doug Baldwin. All played very well in training camp, so their inclusion on the roster was expected. But even so, that’s a lot of undrafted rookies, especially considering that newcomers were at a disadvantage this year because the lockout erased offseason workouts. Safety Mark LeGree, a fifth-round pick, was the only member of Seattle’s 2011 draft class to be released.
In addition to LeGree, several players on the bubble missed the cut. Safety Josh Pinkard had a strong camp, but was let go, which was also the case for running back Thomas Clayton.
Cornerback Roy Lewis, receiver Deon Butler and tight end Cameron Morrah will all start the year on the physically unable to perform list, meaning they have to sit out until after Seattle’s sixth game. Tight end John Carlson, receiver Isaiah Stanback and defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson were all placed on the season-ending injured reserve list. Wilkerson, who signed in free agency, seemed likely to make the team, but suffered a knee injury in Friday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.
Teams can form eight-player practice squads beginning today, and it’s likely several of the young players released Saturday will end up on the practice squad today.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog