Getting right to it, let’s review how the Seahawks’ defense could look in 2020 as I continue an attempt at guessing the team’s initial 53-man roster.
The projection for which offensive players could make the 53-man roster is here.
There were 25 players on the offensive 53-man roster, and there will be three special-teamers.
So that leaves 25 for the defense, and lots of tough decisions.
One note is that NFL teams will be able to expand their active rosters to 55 on game days in 2020.
But teams will have a 53-man “permanent’’ roster, then will have the ability to add two more from the practice squad each week.
So that means the most accurate way to look at an NFL roster is still setting a 53-man roster.
Here we go with the defense:
Keep: L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Branden Jackson, Benson Mayowa, Alton Robinson, Darrell Taylor, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Bryan Mone.
Cut: Demarcus Christmas, Eli Mencer, Marcus Webb, Josh Avery, Cedrick Lattimore.
Comment: I think everyone assumes the Seahawks are going to make another significant addition to the defensive line at some point, be it finally reeling in Jadeveon Clowney — which can’t be counted out until he signs elsewhere — or signing someone like Everson Griffen.
But for now, making decisions on who to cut and who to keep up front doesn’t seem overly hard — basically keep all the vets and draft choices from this year and for now cut all the undrafted free agents (and Christmas, more on him in a minute), two or three of whom you figure would get re-signed to the practice squad and hang around in some capacity anyway.
The Seahawks say they plan to use Collier and Green as tackles on passing downs, so the above list basically includes four true ends (Mayowa, Robinson, Taylor and Jackson) and three tackles (Reed, Ford and Mone) and then Collier and Green, who will play end in the base defense and tackle in the nickel/dime. That’s basically how Seattle did it last season when the Seahawks typically had nine defensive linemen, three of whom were true tackles.
The wild card here could be Christmas, a sixth-round choice in 2019 who spent last year on the Physically Unable to Perform list. It’s hard to predict how he’ll do because we haven’t seen him do anything, but if he plays well he could make them keep a fourth tackle and go with 10 DLs, or simply reconfigure things a little differently. Lattimore is an intriguing tackle prospect who could make a legit push for the final tackle spot, as could Avery, who at 322 pounds is the second-heaviest DT on the roster after Mone.
Keep: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Shaquem Griffin.
Cut: Sutton Smith, Emmanuel Ellerbee,
Comment: This is suddenly one of the most intriguing position groups to watch. Wagner is set in the middle and Irvin will play a lot in a hybrid role as both a strongside linebacker in the base defense (which is why the team is listing him as a linebacker) and a rush end in the nickel. But the weakside spot could be a real battle between Wright — coming off shoulder surgery — and first-round pick Brooks.
And then where does Barton — who can play both WLB and SLB — fit in? Unless the team makes a move of some kind with Wright, though, those five are set on the roster, meaning Burr-Kirven and Shaquem Griffin could be battling for the final one or two spots. For the moment, I’ll put both on the team. But Seattle could well just keep six and Griffin might have to show that the special pass-rush package they put in for him last season is worth using more this year.
But again, the new rules on practice-squad players means the Seahawks could easily keep whichever player didn’t make it around to be called up to the 53-man roster as needed. And, in general, it will be interesting to see how the larger practice squads and relaxed rules on practice-squad eligibility impact roster decisions.
Keep: Quandre Diggs, Bradley McDougald, Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Quinton Dunbar, Ugo Amadi, Lano Hill, Marquise Blair, Neiko Thorpe.
Cut: Linden Stephens, Josh Norwood, Chris Miller, Brian Allen, Ryan Neal, Gavin Heslop, Debione Renfro, Kemah Siverand, Jayson Stanley.
Comment: Seven spots seem set — Diggs and McDougald as the starting safeties, Griffin and Dunbar/Flowers as the starting corners, and Amadi and Blair as backups and used in situational roles, with Amadi the leader at the moment for the nickel job (and, for now, I’ll assume Dunbar’s status won’t be impacted by his recent armed robbery charge).
But the final few spots will be pretty intriguing. The team brought back Stephens recently with the stated idea that he could be a nickel candidate, and my thought is the team is seriously thinking about keeping him around as depth at that spot. But the Seahawks also seem to be hinting that maybe Flowers or Dunbar could be used in nickel roles, and with Amadi there that could be enough players for the nickel. Hill would be veteran depth at the safety spots and Thorpe has been a special-teams mainstay since 2016 so he also gets a nod.
But just about any of the rest could make legit runs for a final roster spot. And again, the larger practice squads and relaxed eligibility rules also mean just about anyone is a candidate for those spots. So two or three of those cut would likely still be on the roster in some capacity.
Keep: Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott.
Comment: The easiest position group to figure out as none of the three has competition and all are under contract for at least two more years.