Why was Kasen Williams waived? And are any more roster moves coming? That and more addressed in a roster cutdown Q-and-A.
You have questions now that the Seahawks have set their initial 53-man roster. Here’s our attempt at answers.
Q: Why was receiver Kasen Williams waived?
A: Seattle coach Pete Carroll isn’t scheduled to talk to the media until Monday afternoon so any official word from the team will have to wait a little while longer. But Carroll cautioned several times during the preseason to remember that personnel decisions are not just based on games but also on practice and everything else that the team does. Williams has been with the Seahawks since the spring of 2015 so the team had a lot invested in him and a lot of information.
Obviously, if the team had really wanted to keep him it could have and would have.
And when Jermaine Kearse was traded on Friday for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, it appeared the path to a roster spot was wide open for Williams, especially after catching nine passes for 208 yards in the preseason, the latter total the third-most in the NFL.
But despite those numbers Williams wasn’t considered one of the team’s top three receivers —- those spots go to Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett. And despite much conjecture about his status, it’s obvious there was never a question there’d be a spot for rookie Amara Darboh, a third-round pick and No. 106 overall. It would take pretty extraordinary circumstances for a team to cut bait this quickly on a player taken that high (and while Darboh had just three catches in the preseason, he also battled a sternum injury and was examined for a concussion, which limited his playing time and are circumstances the team obviously took into consideration).
At that point, it probably came down to two of three players making the roster — Tanner McEvoy, J.D. McKissic and Williams.
McEvoy holds some key special teams roles and had a knack for big plays last season, and at 6-6, 230 has also played some tight end/H-back in the past, the kind of versatility the team likes in players at the end of the roster. Similarly, McKissic is listed as a running back but also has played receiver and was the team’s primary returner all preseason with Lockett out — Lockett is expected back this week but Seattle undoubtedly wants depth at returner just in case.
Seattle also kept 10 offensive linemen after trading Saturday for Isaiah Battle, which also likely factored in, all seeming to make Williams the odd man out (coaches might also have noted that all but two of Williams’ catches for 28 yards came against backup cornerbacks. In his most extended action against starters, in the third game against Kansas City, Williams had one catch for four yards).
Interestingly, Seahawks noted Sunday in a story on their website, Seattle also kept five receivers last year, the same as this year.
Williams was claimed Sunday by Cleveland where he’ll have a chance to prove Seattle wrong and give many Seahawks fans a reason to pay attention to Browns’ games like they never would otherwise.
Q: Aside from Williams, what was the most surprising personnel decision?
A: Given the rumors that began to break Friday morning, the trade for Sheldon Richardson was hardly a shock by the time it finally happened.
But that Seattle could really get a potential Pro Bowl defensive lineman for a player who didn’t figure in their long-range plans and at best was going to be a third receiver — Kearse —- as well as a second-round pick seemed to many like wishful thinking until the Seahawks actually pulled it off.
Richardson may also be in Seattle for just a year — Kearse undoubtedly would not have been back in 2018 regardless. But if he does depart as a free agent Seattle would almost certainly get a third-round pick in 2019 back as compensation, helping replace the pick lost making this about as low-risk a deal from a personnel standpoint as possible.
One caveat — the loss of Kearse and waiving of Williams means Seattle will be depending heavily on a few question marks at receiver such as the health of Lockett, hoping Paul Richardson can take a step forward in what is a contract year, and that McEvoy and/or Darboh can contribute consistently as a fourth receiver.
But should Seattle have the need it’s also usually easier to find in-season contributors at receiver than a potential Pro Bowler on the defensive line.
Q: Will there be any more roster shuffling before the regular season begins?
A: Almost certainly. And that doesn’t come from the team saying so but the fact that there always is — and the Seahawks still appear to have a couple of things to sort out, and maybe before the opener at Green Bay Sunday.
Keeping 10 offensive linemen isn’t totally unusual, but teams more often have eight or nine since generally only seven or eight are active on gameday. The draft pick Seattle traded for Battle is conditional so the Seahawks could be just taking a good look at him — the condition of the pick is almost certainly whether, or how long, Battle stays on the roster.
While Seattle has 10 offensive linemen it has just two it lists solely as defensive tackles — Jarran Reed and Nazair Jones — after the release of veteran Ahtyba Rubin, which was at least a mild surprise. Others can obviously play tackle, such as Richardson and Michael Bennett. But Seattle seems likely to want to add another early down run-stuffing tackle sooner rather than later.
Q: Any numbers about the roster really stand out?
A: As noted above the roster will change constantly from now to the end of the season so it’s probably not worth making too much of the numbers of players kept on either side of the ball or at position groups — for the moment, Seattle has 26 offensive players compared to 24 on defense along with three special teamers.
But two bigger picture numbers do stand out.
1, Seattle has 24 players on the initial roster who were not part of the 53-man roster last season and just 27 who were part of last year’s initial 53-man roster, illustrating again why to the players NFL often more accurately stands for Not For Long.
2, And after the trade of Kearse, just 12 players remain from the team that won the Super Bowl. Now, as then, those players remain the heart and soul of the Seahawks — quarterback Russell Wilson, tight end Luke Willson, receiver Doug Baldwin, defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and punter Jon Ryan.