RENTON — Changes in the NFL’s practice-squad rules over the last few years are impacting the way teams fill out those squads.
Practice squads are set at 16, up from 10 in 2019, the last season before COVID-19.
Six of those spots can go to veterans with any amount of experience. Until 2016, no one was eligible for the practice squad who had more than six games of experience, and until 2019 no players were eligible who had more than two accrued seasons of experience.
COVID-19 compelled the league to look for avenues for added roster flexibility, and changes to the practice squad were the result. Execs, coaches and players all liked the bigger rosters, and the changes appear to be here to stay.
Which brings us to Sean Mannion, signed by the Seahawks on Wednesday to the practice squad.
In the old days, a practice-squad QB was someone in his first year or two who the team would be theoretically preparing for the future.
That isn’t the case with Mannion, who turned 30 in April and has been on and off NFL rosters since 2015 when he was drafted in the third round by the Rams out of Oregon State.
The Seahawks decided to go with Mannion instead of former UW and Lake Stevens standout Jacob Eason, who is entering his third NFL season and fits the prototype of who would have been the usual practice squad QB in years past. Eason signed with Carolina’s practice squad.
In going with Mannion, the Seahawks added a trusted hand whose value, the team says, could be as much for how he can help the top two QBs — Geno Smith and Drew Lock — with the offense of coordinator Shane Waldron. GM John Schneider said Wednesday that Mannion was akin to having another coach in the QB room.
Mannion was with the Rams for two years with Waldron and played in a similar system to what Waldron brought to Seattle.
He also was with the Seahawks in training camp in 2021, but when he was waived afterward, he decided to return to Minnesota, where he had been the backup the past two seasons.
This time, the roles were flipped. After spending camp with the Vikings, Mannion decided to come to Seattle even though he had an offer to stay in Minnesota.
“I had such a positive experience here obviously last year and the opportunity presented itself,” Mannion said. “It was a unique opportunity to come back to a system that I’m very familiar with, and coaches that I feel like I work really well with. I get to work with Geno and Drew. I loved my time in Minnesota. It’s hard moving on, but three years there and loved all my teammates, loved all my coaches. It was a super positive experience for me, but I’m excited to be here.”
That he has a home in the Portland area also made it attractive.
And who knows? Maybe Mannion, who has made just three starts in his NFL career and played in just 14 games, thought that with the Seahawks having a far more uncertain QB situation than it had the last 10 years, anything is possible.
Mannion laughed at Schneider’s comment that he’ll be a head coach someday, while saying he sees it at some point in his future.
He made it clear Thursday that while the Seahawks may view bringing him back in part for how he can help the other QBs he’d like to get back on the field again.
“I plan on playing for as long as they allow me to, as long as I can do it,” Mannion said. “Coaching is a field I plan on getting into whenever I’m done playing, but we’ll see. That would be an unbelievable opportunity. It’s really nice of John to say that, but I think for right now, I’m focusing on being the best player I can be.”
And thanks to the altered practice-squad rules, Mannion may continue to get opportunities to be on rosters longer than he might have in the past. For now, Mannion is just happy to get a chance to continue to play, be it as a backup or a practice squadder.
- During the portion of practice open to the media, cornerback Sidney Jones IV, who has been sidelined with a concussion, was in pads. He was wearing one of the guardian caps designed to try to lessen hits to the head.
- The Seahawks also announced the signings of cornerback Xavier Crawford and tackle Jalen McKenzie to the practice squad. That leaves them with two open spots. One will go to linebacker Joshua Onujiogu, who was waived on Wednesday and cleared waivers Thursday.