If there’s one area the Seahawks have ruled during their meteoric rise, it’s the Art of the Roster Churn.
In their five years together, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have turned over the Seahawks’ personnel like a couple of mad scientists.
They executed more than 200 transactions in the first season, and hundreds more since, reveling in the challenge of finding players where no one else could. And ones that no one else wanted.
One Super Bowl victory later, the process continues, though the dynamic has changed. The championship validated the fact the organization was oozing with talent. And while the Seahawks’ goal is always to unearth the next group of hidden gems, their paramount mission for 2014 was keeping the nucleus together.
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The cutdown moves Saturday revealed a combination of status quo and next-generation players the Seahawks hope fuel another march to the Super Bowl.
Forty-one of the 53 surviving squad members made the trip to New Jersey last year for the Super Bowl (though not all of those were active). While the Seahawks suffered inevitable attrition during the offseason that very likely will cut into one of their biggest strengths — depth — their ultimate roster will not be markedly different from the one that humiliated Denver.
But that’s not to say that Schneider and Carroll aren’t attempting some wizardry this year. As usual, they kept a couple of undrafted free agents who will try to emulate the likes of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Alvin Bailey and others who went that route.
The Seahawks go so far as to send undrafted players and their agents a brochure extolling their willingness to give everyone a fair shake. And now they’ll have linebacker Brock Coyle from Montana and tackle Garry Gilliam from Penn State as the latest poster boys for the notion that anyone who deserves it will make this team, no matter how initially obscure or overlooked.
These heartwarming stories on cutdown day are always fun. But it’s still a cold-blooded process at heart, one that’s tinged with bottom-line business reality. We learned that last year when popular fullback Michael Robinson, suffering from a severe virus, was axed on cutdown day, both to open up a spot for another player out of nowhere, Derrick Coleman, but also in part because of his $2.5 million contract.
Last year’s camp darling, Benson Mayowa, was unceremoniously axed Saturday, as was linebacker Korey Toomer, who wowed everyone during minicamps and OTAs. The message, an ongoing one with this regime, was unmistakable: Potential and past performance can only get you so far, particularly if there’s a younger and/or hungrier and/or healthier and/or more talented alternative waiting to step in.
It’s a lesson learned by two draft picks who got cut, including fifth-rounder Jimmy Staten, and most poignantly by quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is the physical epitome of what you seek in an NFL quarterback. Pryor’s tools runneth over, but his execution was spotty, his gaffes too frequent, and thus Pryor is now an ex-Seahawk, as enticing as his upside might be. This is a team that couldn’t wait around for him to figure it out — not with talented players pushing for jobs at other positions.
A couple of other takeaways from Saturday as the regular season nears:
• Don’t be surprised if other teams — and not just Gus Bradley’s Jacksonville Jaguars — once again pounce on the Seahawks’ discards. Seattle’s reputation for talent-hoarding is such that players cut by Seattle have a cachet exceeding other teams’ 53-man victims.
• Don’t necessarily fall in love with this roster, as it stands now. History shows that Schneider and Carroll will continue to tinker with the bottom few players as well as the practice squad, so what you see now may not be what you get in a month.
• Conversely, don’t necessarily grieve for those who got cut. Remember that not only did Robinson eventually return to earn a Super Bowl ring, but so did defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who was re-signed two weeks after being a cutdown victim. McDonald wound up starting against Denver, and there’s little doubt that a few of the players on Saturday’s list will be heard from again in Seattle.
Though the core of the team will remain firm, the fringes of the roster will be in flux all season. That’s the Seahawks’ way. Actually, to be fair, it’s the NFL way. The Seahawks just like to think they do it better than everyone else.