Questions about Paul Richardson, the cornerback battle, and more in our first 2016 Twitter off-season Seahawks mailbag.
Time to knock off a few Seahawks questions submitted via Twitter (and a reminder that you can always hit me up at @bcondotta as we’ll try to make mailbags a regular part of the off-season the rest of the way).
Q: @mrmikeyharrison asks: Does Paul Richardson have a great chance of being cut if he doesn’t perform in the preseason?
A: No. In fact, I’d say pretty much the opposite. I think if he’s healthy, Richardson is going to be pretty much a lock for the receiving rotation. His straight-line speed and ability to stretch the field is unique among the receivers on the roster and the Seahawks invested pretty heavily in him two years ago in the draft for just those reasons. They are going to want to see what he can do when fully healthy.
Richardson has had obvious problems staying healthy but by all accounts he’s recovered from last season’s hamstring injury. But even the one play he made last season showed what the team sees in him, breaking open down the sideline for a 40-yard reception against the Cardinals.
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Right now, I think four receiver spots are pretty set — the total locks of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett, then followed by Richardson. The question then becomes how many receivers the Seahawks keep on their 53-man roster — they had five at the end of last season but that was also when they were carrying six running backs due to all of the various injuries. They more likely would keep six, and they have at times in the past few years carried more than that.
Assume they keep six, which is probably the most common number of receivers they have had on the roster the last few years, and that could leave Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams, Kenny Lawler and five other free agents who are on the roster at the moment competing for two spots.
Q: @DaleLaGrant asks: Who in the CB (cornerback) depth group do you think has a shot of cracking the final roster now that Brandon Browner is back?
A: How the battles for the final spots in the secondary evolve will be as fascinating as anything else to watch in training camp this season. It will also be interesting to see how Browner factors in. With Pete Carroll saying that Browner will in many ways play as a safety, will the Seahawks consider him a safety for purposes of roster construction, or a corner, or just simply as a defensive back?
The Seahawks have typically kept eight or nine defensive backs on the roster. Last year, they had nine at the end of the season — four safeties, four corners and then DeShawn Shead, who had experience playing both, and started at both safety and corner during the season (Steven Terrell, listed as the backup free safety, also could play some corner if needed, so Seattle sort of had two swing guys among the backups last season)
Four spots in the secondary are set — cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Shead would also seem hard to dislodge having carved out a valuable role as someone who can back up basically everywhere in the secondary. Backup strong safety Kelcie McCray played well down the stretch and also seems in good shape working behind Chancellor. And the way that the team has said it will use Browner would seem to indicate good odds he makes it, as well.
So that could leave everyone else competing for two spots, and in this scenario each of those would likely be cornerbacks, a group including Tye Smith, Tharold Simon, Marcus Burley, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Trovon Reed, George Farmer, DeAndre Elliot and Jamal Marshall.
Simon has had a string of frustrating injuries and will have to show he is healthy. But his size (6-3, 202) and some of the flashes of what he has done when healthy (such as his performance in a start at Philadelphia late in the 2014 season and also when he started a win that season at Carolina as well as the divisional playoff game against Carolina when Bryon Maxwell was a late scratch) remain really intriguing.
Burley has also been a valuable player the last few years, primarily as a nickelback. Right now, those two would probably have to be considered as the favorites to win the final spots — and it may have been telling of how Seattle feels about its overall cornerback corps that the Seahawks did very little to add to the position in the off-season via either free agency or the draft.
Smith was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and played sparingly last season and this looms as a key season for his development. Jean-Baptiste, listed at 6-3, 215, is also really intriguing, especially if the Seahawks can unearth the potential that got him drafted in the second round by the Saints in 2014. Marshall was a star as a tryout player at the team’s rookie mini-camp and quickly signed to the roster. And there’s been a quiet buzz about Reed, a former receiver at Auburn who was in Seattle’s rookie mini-camp in 2015, then in training camp with the Rams and later had a brief practice squad stint with the Dolphins before the Seahawks brought him back to the practice squad late in the season. But it’s really possible that the Seattle secondary looks pretty similar at the beginning of 2016 to how it looked at the end of 2015.