The Seahawks have signed veteran cornerback Neiko Thorpe among several moves made on Tuesday.
The Seahawks on Tuesday signed veteran cornerback Neiko Thorpe to their 53-man roster and re-signed veteran fullback Will Tukuafu among a flurry of moves that included waiving oft-injured cornerback Tharold Simon, a fifth-round pick in 2013.
The Seahawks also cleared space on the 53-man roster for Thorpe and Tukuafu by waiving rookie fullback Tani Tupou.
It had been rumored since last week that the 32-year-old Tukuafu would likely return to the roster this week after being released in the cutdown to 53. As a vested veteran, the Seahawks would have had to guarantee all of his $760,000 salary for this season if he had been on the roster in week one. Now, he returns on a non-guaranteed deal. Tupou, who played at UW and Archbishop Murphy, played seven snaps in Sunday’s 12-10 win over the Dolphins. But coach Pete Carroll had hinted that Tukuafu would be back by saying that “he didn’t make it this week” when asked about his status prior to the Miami game.
Thorpe, who has played in 36 games over three seasons for the Chiefs and Raiders since 2012, takes the place in the secondary of Simon, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2013 to high expectations but had an injury-riddled career with the Seahawks, playing in just 11 games.
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Simon missed all of the 2013 season with a foot injury and played just one game last season due to another foot issue. He was inactive for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. After sitting out practice last Wednesday with the injury, Simon had Tweeted “Feel like I dnt belong.” He returned to practice later in the week but Carroll said he was inactive due to having had only one full practice during the week. Simon, though, was not waived with the injured designation indicating that his current health was not a factor in the decision to waive him.
Simon tantalized the Seahawks for years with his 6-3, 202-pound size, often drawing comparisons on physical makeup to other Seattle cornerbacks such as Richard Sherman. Sherman, in fact, stated several times in recent years that he thought Simon had the ability to be among the best corners in the NFL.
“He’s an incredible athlete,” Sherman said in August. “He’s going to be a great ball player. I continue to stand by what I’ve always said—he’s going to be better than me by the time it’s all said and done. The kid’s a player, he just needs to put it all together and hopefully he can stay healthy and it’ll be a fantastic year for him.”
But aside from a few highlights down the stretch in 2014 — notably, a start at Philadelphia in a late-season 24-14 win — Simon’s production never reached his potential.
Simon suffered a shoulder injury in the final minutes of the regular season finale in 2014 which he said was a factor in some rough outings when he was thrust into duty in the playoffs that season. Simon was the defender on two Carolina touchdown passes in Seattle’s 31-17 win over the Panthers in the divisional playoffs that year and also was on the defending end of two touchdown passes in the Super Bowl loss to New England after an injury to Jeremy Lane, saying later “I played real well in the season until we got to the playoffs. Those games really brought my attention that you’ve got to go out there and play ball and know what is going on and always be ready.”
Simon was entering the final season of his initial four-year rookie contract and he acknowledged early in training camp that this was a pivotal season for him.
“Four years in the league and I really haven’t showed anything yet,” Simon said. “It’s definitely a make or break year for me, a major big year, and I’m taking it on like that.”
Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard had said bluntly early in training camp that the biggest key for Simon would be “availability.”
Seattle has five cornerbacks on its roster — Sherman, Jeremy Lane, DeShawn Shead, Thorpe and DeAndre Elliott, who made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent. Steven Terrell, listed as a safety, has also been used as a nickel corner.
Thorpe spent the last two seasons with the Raiders but was waived in the cutdown to 53. He had signed a non-guaranteed second-round tender worth $2.533 million in the off-season, which likely factored into his release as he was beaten out by Dexter McDonald for the team’s fifth cornerback spot.
Thorpe played a career-high 464 defensive snaps last season for the Raiders and was also on many special teams — the latter likely his most immediate role for the Seahawks. He made two starts and had 40 tackles last season for Oakland.
The 26-year-old is listed at 6-1, 200 pounds and played at Auburn where he was a member of the Cam Newton-led team that won the 2010 national title.
Thorpe entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and also played in 2012 with the Chiefs and in 2013 with Toronto in the Canadian Football League. It was not immediately known how the Seahawks were opening up a spot for him on the 53-man roster.
The Seahawks also made several moves on the practice squad, signing QB Jake Heaps, DT Tylor Harris and OL Michael Ola while terminating the contracts of WRs Kasen Williams and Rodney Smith and DT Justin Hamilton.
Williams, a former standout at Skyline High and UW, played in two regular season games and both playoff games for Seattle last season after being activated to the roster late in the year after spending most of the season on the practice squad. But Williams struggled with a hamstring injury throughout the preseason playing in just one game. After being waived in the cutdown to 53 he was signed to the practice squad last week.