Seattle’s Marcus Smith (97) forces a fumble by Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett that was recovered by Bobby Wagner for a touchdown during an Oct. 1, 2017 game in Seattle. The Seahawks released Smith on Friday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle’s Marcus Smith (97) forces a fumble by Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett that was recovered by Bobby Wagner for a touchdown during an Oct. 1, 2017 game in Seattle. The Seahawks released Smith on Friday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seahawks surprisingly release key backup on defense

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said ‘personal reasons’ affected the decision to part with Marcus Smith.

By Bob Condotta

The Seattle Times

Marcus Smith entered training camp three weeks ago expected to play a key role on the Seahawks’ defensive line this season — particularly as a pass rusher, one of the team’s biggest question marks.

Friday, his contract was terminated under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

Smith, listed as the backup at the right defensive end spot behind Frank Clark, had missed the last two days of practice to deal with what coach Pete Carroll had referred to as a personal and family matter. Friday, Carroll said those personal issues were at the root of the decision to move on from Smith.

“There were some personal reasons that came into it,” Carroll said of Smith, who had 2.5 sacks in 14 games for Seattle in 2017 and then re-signed a one-year deal worth up to $1.425 million in March. “He’s been a great kid in the program and all, and all things considered that’s as far as I’m going with it. It was the right thing to do and he understood and he agreed with it. … We talked through the whole thing. I just kind of want to leave it alone because it’s personal stuff and I’d really like to leave it there.”

Smith had run with the number one defense at times in training camp though he also missed some practices with a hamstring issue.

Carroll, though, said Smith’s health was not the reason for his release.

The Seahawks will apparently take a $400,000 dead money salary cap hit for the signing bonus Smith was given.

To fill his spot on the roster, the Seahawks confirmed the earlier reported signing of veteran Erik Walden, who has 35 sacks in 145 games in a career that dates to 2008. Walden will have to be paid at least a minimum of $1.015 million, though exact terms of his contract were not revealed. Walden, who turns 33 next week, had four sacks with the Titans last season, but 11 with the Colts in 2016.

Carroll described Walden as essentially playing the same role Smith was targeted for.

“He’s been an outside backer and a nickel rush guy,” Carroll said of Walden, who had a visit with the Seahawks last week. “He’s been real physical and tough and we’d like to see how he gets into the competition.”

Walden was not on the field for the Seahawks’ walk-through Friday in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Chargers, however.

Seattle signed Smith in July 2017 after he had been waived by the Eagles. Smith was waived by Philly shortly before he was due to receive a $594,000 roster bonus.

A first-round pick of the Eagles in 2014, he had been regarded as a bust after making just four sacks in three seasons with no starts in Philadelphia.

But he was orchestrating a career revival with the Seahawks, making 1.5 sacks in a win over the Colts in October, in which he also forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Bobby Wagner.

Smith was expected to help fill the void created at the end spot by the trade of Michael Bennett and the waiving as injured of Cliff Avril.

His role loomed even larger with Dion Jordan on the Physically Unable to Perform list and uncertainty lingering about when he will return. It seems more likely by the day that Jordan could begin the season on the PUP list and have to miss at least six games.

In the good news department on the pass rush, Carroll said Clark had a good week of practice and will play Saturday against the Chargers for the first time following offseason hand surgery.

Clark and Branden Jackson will likely be the team’s starting ends against the Chargers, with Quinton Jefferson and rookies Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin as backups.

Seattle also waived cornerback Elijah Battle and signed undrafted free agent rookie running back Justin Stockton of Texas Tech.

The team needed some depth at running back since first-round pick Rashaad Penny is out for a few weeks after having surgery Wednesday to repair a fracture on his left index finger. Penny was back at practice Friday but will not make the trip for the game. Also, tailback Gerald Holmes has a concussion and the team needs some bodies to help fill out the running back position for preseason games.

Here are other personnel updates from Carroll Friday.

— Carroll said it remains unclear if veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell, who returned to practice this week after sitting out last week with a groin injury, will play, saying he needs to make it through the pregame warmup without any issues before being cleared.

— WRs Tyler Lockett and Amara Darboh will also not play. Lockett suffered a toe injury in practice this week and is being held out while Darboh will miss his second game with a hip flexor issue.

— RB C.J. Prosise will play after missing last week with a hip flexor issue.

— Carroll also said CB Dontae Johnson and safety Maurice Alexander are expected to see their first playing time. Johnson started all last season for the 49ers as right cornerback but has battled a foot injury since signing with the Seahawks in the spring. Alexander has battled a groin issue. Both could emerge as potential starters if they can show much the next few weeks. “They’re both going to play if everything goes well in pregame,” Carroll said. “We’re counting on those guys to get some play time. It’ll be their first game, first shot so we’ll be restricted on how much we play them but we’re excited to get them out there.”

— WR Doug Baldwin did more conditioning this week and will do even more next week as he attempts to make it back from a knee issue. Carroll said there remains no reason to think he won’t be ready for the regular season opener against Denver Sept. 9. “He’s back to going again here and he’s conditioning to get back in,” Carroll said. “Next week will be really important to see how far along he comes. Really, the fourth week will be first chance we really get to work him really hard and press him, and then we’ll see how that goes in terms for that week and then heading into the opener. We think he’s going to be fine, but we’d like to have a really good active week next week and so that the week after that can be a good competitive week, which is short, but still we’ll get after it pretty good and see how far we can take him.”

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