Will the third-year tackle make it back for the start of the season? That and more in the latest edition of Seahawks beat writer Bob Condotta's mailbag.
Let’s get to more questions!
A: Immediately after draft weekend I wrote about five guys I thought had the best chance to make the team. But illustrative of how quickly things can change, three of those players are no longer affiliated with the Seahawks (Marcell Frazier, Brad Lundblade and Viane Talamaivao).
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Since then, the Seahawks have held their rookie mini-camp, which helped sort out out the bottom end of the roster and bring a little more clarity to what each position’s depth looks like. We also have since learned which of the UDFAs received the biggest bonuses — teams this year had $103,856 in signing bonus money to hand out to undrafted free agents however they wished (that’s not the salary — all UDFAs receive non-guaranteed three-year deals separate from whatever bonus they get).
Not that the signing bonus necessarily means everything since those amounts are not much by NFL standards — there are all kinds of years when the UDFAs paid the most money didn’t make the team (one that stands out is 2014, when the two biggest bonuses went to DLs Jackson Jeffcoat and Andru Pulu, neither of whom made it).
And the Seahawks didn’t pay any of their UDFAs much this year compared to other teams around the league.
According to Spotrac.com, at least 28 other UDFAs got signing bonuses more than the largest one the Seahawks handed out — $15,000 to linebacker Jake Pugh of Florida State, a number by ESPN’s Brady Henderson. Henderson also reported that fullback Khalid Hill of Michigan and defensive tackle Eddy Wilson of Purdue each got $12,000 and defensive tackle Poona Ford of Texas got $8,000.
If nothing else, those amounts show which UDFAs the Seahawks appeared to pursue the most aggressively.
Pugh appears set to be a strongside linebacker, a spot that is wide open for a backup — Barkevious Mingo appears to be the starter there. But Seattle last week also signed 2016 sixth-round pick Dadi Nicolas apparently as an SLB/edge rusher. And sixth-round pick Jacob Martin of Temple will also be tried at SLB. So there’s going to be a decent competition there.
Hill might have the best chance of the four UDFAs listed above since the Seahawks appear set on having a fullback on the 53-man roster this year — there are currently four on the 90-man roster — and at the moment it appears to be a pretty dead heat.
The other fullbacks are Jalston Fowler, a practice squad player last year who was with the Titans most of the last three years; Tre Madden, who won the job last year before going out with an injury in November; and Marcus Martin, another undrafted rookie free agent.
Hill, listed at 6-2, 263, has measurables as impressive as any of the fullback candidates and his NFL.com scouting report makes him sound like a perfect fit for what the Seahawks want to get back to with their offense this season. “Hill is a converted tight end with the toughness and physicality teams look for from lead blockers,” NFL.com wrote. “Hill can be scattershot in locating the proper targets as a lead blocker and that may or may not change with more coaching. When he has a one-on-one matchup, however, he can bring the funk and leave linebackers on the wrong side of the battle. Hill can get open in space on play-action passes, but he’s got to improve as a pass catcher in order to be considered a viable NFL fullback option by most teams.”
While Seattle has had a rep for getting a lot out of UDFAs (Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, DeShawn Shead, to name three), the Seahawks didn’t get much out of their UDFA class a year ago with Jordan Roos and Tyrone Swoopes the only members of the team’s original UDFA class in 2017 to appear in a game last season.
A: Fant, who is the last undrafted free agent to become a starter, doing so in the 2016 season, suffered an ACL injury last Aug. 18 in a preseason game against Minnesota after having appeared to have won the job as the team’s starting left tackle.
That date is important because ACL injuries are 9-10-month recovery times no matter what — they simply take that long and require a number of steps to go through and hurdles to clear and all that. The good news is that Fant has appeared to have no setbacks and no complications and the last word we got on this from coach Pete Carroll was that they expect him to be ready for the start of the 2018 season.
Given that training camp will start right around July 26 or so, which would be just over 11 months from when Fant was injured, he may be ready for the start of the camp.
I would imagine the team will take it cautiously with him through OTAs and mini-camp — there’s zero reason to push an injury at this point.
But given everything the team has said to this point, there’s no reason to think he won’t be available for the season, which is what really matters.
Once he does make it back, Fant is expected to be tried at right tackle as well as left tackle — with veteran Duane Brown having been added to the team since Fant was injured — where he could push incumbent right tackle Germain Ifedi for the starting job.
A: I never knew he liked hydroplanes.