RENTON — The Seahawks have two of the surest things in the NFL at receiver in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
But a week into training camp, just about everything else at receiver feels like something of a question mark.
Last year’s top pick, Dee Eskridge, is again battling injuries, missing a week of practice with a tight hamstring after taking part in only a few plays on the first day with it remaining unclear when he will return to practice.
And while holdovers such as Freddie Swain and Penny Hart seem to have a leg up on a roster spot, and veteran Marquise Goodwin has also been an early camp standout and has a close relationship with new receivers coach Sanjay Lal, little is assured in a year when the Seahawks are retooling after the trade of Russell Wilson.
Seattle has 13 receivers on its roster, vying for what will likely be five or six spots on the 53-man squad. Logically, nine or so are battling for one or two spots after Lockett, Metcalf, Eskridge and Swain — the latter two appear just about assured of spots on the roster even if their roles are not set in stone — and maybe Goodwin.
That means events such as Saturday’s mock game at Lumen Field, set to begin at 2:30 p.m., and the three preseason games that are to follow, may be as important to the cluster of receivers to make an impression as players at any other position.
One of those feeling a particular urgency to make an impression is former Husky standout Aaron Fuller.
Fuller has been on the practice squad the past two years and now is in his third training camp knowing it could be a make-or-break season to stay on the roster in any capacity. The Seahawks will keep a few receivers on the 16-man practice squad that can be assembled after the cutdown to 53.
But with the Seahawks having added a handful of receivers this offseason, including two rookie seventh-rounders whom the team undoubtedly will hope to keep around, even staying on the practice squad again looms as a pretty competitive proposition.
“It definitely brings more competition to the room,” Fuller said of Seattle drafting Bo Melton of Rutgers and Dareke Young of Lenoir-Rhyne in the seventh round last spring. “They definitely want to get those guys in as many plays as possible and get them looks and stuff like that. But at the end of the day it just comes down to me doing the job that I have to do and putting in effort and being consistent in my play.”
That Fuller has stayed on the practice squad for two years shows the Seahawks have seen enough in him to keep him around. And they even gave him a pretty significant reward for his work by elevating him to the active roster for the final game of the 2021 season against Arizona. Fuller got a few snaps on special teams and was on the field for the game’s final kneel-down play, his first NFL action.
“It was just one of those ‘dream-come-true’ moments,” Fuller said. “It didn’t come exactly how I wanted it to, the number of plays and stuff like that. But it was kind of a ‘I can do this’ type moment. It’s something to build upon for the years to come.”
But life on the practice squad can be bittersweet. Practice squad players, who this year can make from $9,200 to $14,000 per week during the season depending on their level of experience (the minimum salary for a player on the active roster this year is $41,470 per week) have all the same responsibilities of those on the 53-man roster during the week but on gameday are resigned to being spectators. In other words, being a full-fledged NFL player every day of the week but the one that matters the most.
“It’s definitely cool just being in the NFL,” Fuller said. “Your dreams are still alive and you get an opportunity each day to prove yourself and things like that. But at the same time, it’s not really where you want to be and where your goals are set at. So there are definitely pros and cons to it. (It’s just) making the most of the opportunity.”
Fuller, who left UW with the seventh-most receptions in school history (159) and also was the team’s primary punt returner his last two years, signed with the Seahawks after the 2020 draft over offers that included one from Houston, about a four-hour drive from his native McKinney, Texas, in part because of the comfort he felt in Seattle.
He said he’s had offers to go elsewhere but that he felt staying with the Seahawks “was the best-case scenario for myself.”
Fuller impressed the Seahawks with a few big plays during scrimmages his rookie season, specifically a touchdown catch in the mock game from Geno Smith against tight coverage from Shaquill Griffin.
He then had five catches in three preseason games last year to tie for third on the team.
And while there will inevitably be a fascination with the new players on the roster as the preseason begins, Saturday’s mock game provides Fuller another chance to show Seahawks coaches why they were intrigued enough to sign him two years ago, as well.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Fuller said. “Three years have flown by.”