Seahawks rookie minicamp was a little more of an under-the-radar affair this year than in seasons past.
They had just three draft picks to unveil. Also, COVID-19 limitations meant the Seahawks only had 31 players in the camp, which led to short practices with the team basically just one deep at each spot.
But as coach Pete Carroll noted, what mattered more than making evaluations — it’s too early to do much of that in a setting like this — was the players beginning to learn the playbook and the overall process of being an NFL player.
Still, there was lots to take away from the first chance to see players in Seahawks uniforms on a field in more than four months, and the chance to hear from Carroll.
Here are five of my impressions;
Seahawks (mostly) sticking to usual cap policy
Getting chances to talk to Carroll led to clearing up one piece of offseason business: Did the team consider restructuring the contracts of Russell Wilson and/or Bobby Wagner to create more immediate cap space?
The Seahawks could have restructured Wilson’s contract without his approval (they have the right to do so in his deal), and turn $17.925 million of his salary for 2021 into a bonus he would get immediately. That would have opened up roughly $12 million in cap space for the 2021 season by spreading that money out over the 2022 and 2023 seasons, increasing his cap hits in those years by about $6 million each year. Restructuring Wagner’s could have added about $6 million this year but pushed it to 2022.
Some wondered why the Seahawks didn’t do that to open up more cap space in a year when they had little heading into free agency, and if they were reluctant in part to be further financially committed to Wilson in future years.
Carroll said Saturday that it was discussed.
“We’ve looked at every single option that’s out there and even to the point where those guys know we’ve discussed that, too,’’ Carroll said. “It just hasn’t been necessary at this point.’’
Restructuring contracts (not the same as giving an extension) is something the Seahawks have rarely done and only when they’ve had specific moves in mind, such as in 2017 with Doug Baldwin to acquire Sheldon Richardson and that same year with Wilson to acquire Duane Brown.
They’ve never done it to just create a bunch of cap space and then say essentially “OK, now what do we spend it on?’’
What Seattle also did this year was add voidable years to contracts — essentially, fake years — to spread out bonus payments and cap hits. Seattle did that with eight players (including Chris Carson and Carlos Dunlap) to spread out more than $17 million over the next four years. This gave the Seahawks a lot of additional cap space but spread it out over more years than restructuring contracts would have and also lessened the commitment to any one player. And that stayed in line with Seattle’s desire to stay as cap flexible as possible now and in the future.
Taylor’s move means there may not be room for K.J. Wright
The biggest story of the camp was the presence of 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor and where he is spending much of his time — strongside linebacker. Taylor, drafted as a defensive end, revealed he has lost 20 pounds.
It’s obviously far too early to declare him fully back after two no pads, no-contact minicamp practices, but the Seahawks using him at SLB as well as rush end is telling.
The Seahawks also have 2019 third-rounder Cody Barton who can play SLB, where K.J. Wright played most of last season. Wright remains unsigned, and fans understandably have been hoping that one of the best and classiest players in team history might return.
But this past weekend reinforced that Seattle is exploring options to replace Wright with high picks that the Seahawks undoubtedly want to get on the field as much as they can. Last year’s first-round pick, Jordyn Brooks, is set to become the full-time weakside linebacker, and Seattle may be content to let Barton and Taylor fight it out at SLB, potentially leaving no room for Wright.
Also playing the SLB spot this past weekend was Nate Evans, a recent waiver wire claim from the Jaguars.
There might also be no room for Richard Sherman
Carroll, when asked about Sherman after the draft, said the Seahawks were not looking to sign a cornerback. But Seahawks fans are understandably wondering if there isn’t a way a reunion could happen.
But as Carroll essentially said, the Seahawks don’t really need another cornerback. The Seahawks have 10 listed on the roster, not including Ugo Amadi or Marquise Blair, the two presumptive nickel corners.
That number includes rookies Tre Brown (a fourth-round pick) and Bryan Mills (an undrafted free agent who received a $20,000 signing bonus). Brown was playing on the outside during minicamp at the left cornerback spot that Sherman used to play,
Mills also played on the outside at minicamp, on the right side, and at a listed 6-1, 174 he more fits the long, lanky boundary corner the team has often preferred — he has a listed 77⅛-inch wingspan. Sherman’s is 78.
Offensive line battles will be interesting
The Seahawks haves 17 offensive linemen under contract and might keep as few as nine on the initial 53-player roster, though 10 may be more likely — the number a year ago.
Seattle had seven offensive linemen in camp this weekend, and eah likely has a pretty tough fight for a roster spot. But several are intriguing, including sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe.
He spent the two days at left tackle, where he appears to be being groomed as a backup — and eventually maybe a replacement — for veteran stalwart Duane Brown. Tommy Champion, a practice-squad member a year ago, played right tackle this pasts weekend.
Carroll has said the right tackle spot will be a battle between last year’s starter, Brandon Shell, and Cedric Ogbuehi, who took over when Shell was injured late in the season. Some wondered if Forsythe would fit into that competition, but he appears set at left tackle.
The Seahawks used Jake Curhan, who started 40 games for California at right tackle, at right guard. And Pier-Olivier Lestage of the University of Montrea, listed as a guard and center, played mostly left guard at minicamp with Brad Lundblade the usual center. Lundblade has been on and off practice squads of several teams the past three years and played in one game for Carolina in 2019.
And finally, one player to watch
Undrafted free agent safety Aashari Crosswell of Arizona State stood out in large part because of his birth date — Aug. 8, 2000, which makes him s0 years old.
That means Crosswell could become the first Seahawks player born in the 2000s — he is 15 months younger than any other player on Seattle’s roster (WR Connor Wedington is 21, and every other Seattle player is 22 or older).
Crosswell has an intriguing background. He was a highly rated recruit for the Class of 2018 out of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly who had offers from the entire Pac-12 — though his only two official visits were to Arizona State and Washington State — as well as Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Notre Dame, and became an immediate contributor at ASU with six interceptions in his first two seasons. He opted out of the 2020 season after playing just one game to prepare for the draft.
At 6 feet, 208 pounds, he looks the part of a free safety, which is where he played in minicamp. He picked off an overthrown Danny Etling pass on Saturday.
Depending on how Seattle uses Blair and Amadi, the Seahawks might not be real deep at safety, meaning someone under the radar could threaten to win a roster spot.