The Seahawks had to waive Tyvis Powell to make room for Devin Hester this week. Here's a look at how and why that happened.
When the Seahawks decided to sign veteran Devin Hester as a punt and kickoff returner this week to replace the injured Tyler Lockett, they also had to decide which player to waive off the 53-man roster to make room.
The player they decided to waive surprised more than a few — rookie safety Tyvis Powell, an undrafted rookie free agent from Ohio State.
Powell had played little, seeing action in just eight games this season, all on special teams, without recording a statistic.
But the 6-3, 211-pound Powell was also regarded as something of an organization favorite, a player many in the front office fell in love with the day he signed, thinking he might be the team’s next undrafted free agent to make a real splash, following in the footsteps of the likes of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Thomas Rawls.
Powell arrived with a significant college pedigree, a three-year starter at Ohio State who was the Defensive MVP of the Buckeyes’ national title game win over Oregon in 2015, and was a star of Seattle’s dramatic pre-season opening win at Kansas City.
The way Powell played in the pre-season compelled the team to keep him on the 53-man roster while understanding that he might not play much this season with the Seahawks feeling that if they waived him he was likely to be claimed and gone forever, similar to some defensive backs of past seasons.
Maybe the most notable of those who have gotten away via waivers/release is safety Ron Parker, who was a roster numbers game casualty on the 2013 Super Bowl team and has gone on to become a solid player with Kansas City and in 2015 signed a five year, $25 million contract with the Chiefs.
But when the Seahwks waived Powell this week to make room for Hester, they knew they were likely saying goodbye to him for good.
Since he was put on waivers he can now be claimed by any team, in reverse order of the current standings.
However, in contrast to the regular season, when the waiver period lasts just 24 hours, the waiver period changes after Dec. 30.
As detailed in the NFL black book, waiver requests made after Dec. 30 — which basically means, any by a playoff team — have a 10-day claiming period with termination or assignment delayed until after the Super Bowl (meaning, teams won’t know if Powell has been claimed or cleared until after the Super Bowl, but with teams having 10 days to decide whether to claim him).
That rule is in place in part so that other playoff teams don’t claim a player just to pick up details on an opponent prior to the playoffs (meaning, so the Lions couldn’t claim Powell this week just to learn whatever they could about Seattle).
If Powell clears waivers then he would become a free agent and could sign with any team, including the Seahawks. But again, that wouldn’t happen until after the Super Bowl.
All of that also means Powell cannot be signed to Seattle’s practice squad. It’s worth remembering that practice squads dissolve at the end of a team’s season, so only playoff teams still have them. Seattle could sign other available players to their practice squad, but since Powell is subject to waivers that last through the post-season, they cannot sign Powell. And once Seattle’s season ends there is no practice squad, just a 90-man roster that can be assembled (officially, after he new league year on March 11 — players sign futures contract prior to that point, which binds them to become part of the 90-man roster).
So why did the Seahawks waive Powell now if they kept him on the roster all season in large part because they wanted to keep him around for the future?
A couple things happened along the way.
One, after the injury to Earl Thomas, Seattle brought back Jeron Johnson, a Seahawk from 2011-14 who immediately moved into a role as a backup strong safety to Kam Chancellor with Kelcie McCray – who had been the backup strong safety — moving to backup free safety behind Steven Terrell, who was now the starter in place of Thomas.
With the Seahawks still harboring legitimate Super Bowl hopes, the team preferred the experience and reliability of Johnson at that position as opposed to an untested player such as Powell.
The team is also keeping five cornerbacks, the fifth of whom is DeAndre Elliott, who has emerged as an immediate special teams contributor — Elliott has played 191 special teams snaps, seventh on the team, while Powell had played 104. Powell, though, had been inactive the last four weeks and six of the last eight while Elliott has played in each of the last eight games and has even snuck in 29 defensive snaps (Powell never played a down on defense).
Basically, that made Powell the 10th defensive back, when the Seahawks have often kept just nine. That was a luxury the team was willing to live with for most of the season.
But a couple other things then happened this week.
One, defensive tackle Tony McDaniel suffered a concussion Sunday — something the media/public didn’t know about until Wednesday — and will not be able to play against the Lions Saturday.
That means that John Jenkins, a backup defensive tackle who has only played twice since being claimed by Seattle off waivers from New Orleans in November, may suddenly be needed in a depth role. With McDaniel out, Jenkins — who maybe could have been deemed expendable — becomes essentially the third defensive tackle behind Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin and seems likely to be active against the Lions.
Another player the Seahawks could have also considered waiving instead of Powell — running back Terrence Magee — they basically couldn’t.
Magee was signed off Cleveland’s practice on Dec. 20 to add depth at running back, a move the team made the week after Seattle had placed Troymaine Pope on Injured Reserve.
Players signed off another team’s practice squad, though, have to be on the 53-man roster for three weeks or the team loses the roster spot — in other words, Seattle could have waived Magee, but they couldn’t have filled his spot and would have had only 52 players for this week. Once a team is in the playoffs and a Super Bowl a legitimate possibility, the present tends to take precedence over the future.
And with Thomas Rawls nursing a sore shoulder suffered against the Cardinals on Dec. 24 — he’s been deemed healthy but the team has no choice but to hedge its bets somewhat — and C.J. Prosise still not back, Seattle needs the depth at tailback, anyway.
All of that led to the Seahawks reluctantly deciding to waive Powell.
Powell has taken the waiving in stride via his Twitter, undoubtedly understanding he has a football future somewhere.
He Tweeted the night of his waiving that “It’s all love for the Seahawks are u kidding me! They gave me an opportunity to live my child hood dream. I’m forever grateful for that.’’
And on Thursday night he Tweeted “If waiving me and bringing in a returner helps Seattle win the super bowl this year, then I’m with it.’’ (Worth noting that the team can give Super Bowl rings to whomever it wants, so if Seattle were to win it all Powell would undoubtedly be rewarded).
The Tweets illustrated why many around the team had grown to like Powell — he Tweeted earlier in the fall asking fans for a suggestion of a high school football game to attend. He ended up going to the Rainier Beach-Garfield game incognito, saying he wanted to have something to compare to Ohio high school football.
Who knows? Powell could well be back in Seattle at some point. But for now, he’s gone, the vagaries of an NFL season and the league’s many rules converging all at once.