News broke last night that the Seahawks were hosting Dwight Freeney for a visit. The 37-year-old pass rush specialist last played for the Falcons in the Super Bowl, recording a sack. Cliff Avril was put on injured reserve. There is an open roster spot. Why not? Bringing aboard the veteran may be the wise move, but Seattle has a series of upcoming roster decisions that need to be factored in. DeShawn Shead, Dion Jordan, and even Malik McDowell may all be on their way back to the field. John Schneider is certainly thinking through all the permutations of roster shuffling depending on who comes back and when, so let’s have a bit of fun and do the same.

 

The straightforward: Freeney signs

Freeney is visiting the Seahawks today. Avril is unlikely to be back this season, if at all. Seattle has yet to fill Avril’s roster spot after placing him on injured reserve, so nobody would need to be cut in order to bring Freeney aboard. What they would have to do is spend money on a veteran salary. The team has precious little cap space, so even a veteran minimum addition is something they have to think through.

Every dollar spent filling Avril’s vacant roster spot is a dollar that has to be saved elsewhere if the team still hopes to trade for a left tackle. What Freeney provides is proven pass rush and veteran savvy that can be shared with youngsters. He is also a bird in hand, so to speak. All the team needs to do is get him to sign on the dotted line. No other moves necessary.

 

More complex: DeShawn Shead returns

The Seahawks did not have to sign Shead this offseason. They knew he was going to miss a large chunk of the season recovering from knee surgery, but they were also not the only ones interested in his services. That they did spend the money on him makes it likely they plan to add him to the roster once healthy. The team already has five cornerbacks:

  • Richard Sherman
  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Justin Coleman
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jeremy Lane

It is unclear how Lane fits in when he returns. Coleman is the better player, but the coaching staff may not agree and prefer the experience of Lane. Thorpe is a special teams ace and is very unlikely to be going anywhere. What to do with Shead?

There are really two options:

  1. Trade Jeremy Lane
  2. Cut Tedric Thompson

There are plenty of reasons to believe the team is actively shopping Lane. They could use his cap space for other purposes, and they have superior players on the team. His recent injury is not helping the cause. The alternative would be to let rookie safety Thompson go. He has been inactive for every game and does not have a lot of upside. The team could probably sneak him onto the practice squad if they want.

Shead also has played both safety and cornerback in his pro career, so he can cover what would have been Thompson’s duties.

 

Even more complex: Dion Jordan returns

Shead is almost a sure thing. Jordan is far more speculative. The team could have cut him as injured a long time ago, but chose to stick with him for a reason. Pete Carroll is excited about his potential as a pass rusher, and Jordan is said to be getting closer to hitting the practice field. He was a top five pick in the draft years ago, but has never flashed in the NFL due to injury and some drug issues.

The first question to answer about a future where Jordan gets added to the roster is what position he would play. Drafted as a defensive end, Carroll has mentioned using him as an interior pass rusher. At 6’6″ and somewhere between 265 and 285 pounds, he does not perfectly fit any line spot. He was 248 pounds coming out of school, which would have him in line for Avril’s LEO spot, but the Seahawks currently list him at 275 pounds, which is far too heavy for a speed rush position. We could find out that he has shed some weight during rehab, but it is impossible to know.

The guys at risk of losing their roster spot should Jordan earn his way onto the team are:

  1. Quinton Jefferson
  2. Dwight Freeney (if they sign him)
  3. Branden Jackson
  4. Marcus Smith

Jefferson just returned and is playing with a broken hand. He has yet to cement his place among the line group. He plays a similar role to Michael Bennett as the end opposite the LEO (called the 5-technique) on base defense and an interior rusher in passing situations. Jordan may have a similar job if he sticks at his currently listed weight. Freeney could be jettisoned a few weeks after the team signs him if they like Jordan better, and see him playing the LEO spot.

Upstart defensive end Branden Jackson makes the list mainly because he is so new and the team is just learning what he can offer. As of now, he has the best pass rush grade of any defensive linemen on the Seahawks, but that was in limited action. Expect the team to give him more opportunities to see just what they have here.

Marcus Smith is a guy the team likes a lot, but his play has dropped in recent weeks. I think they see him as a longer-term LEO prospect that they are unlikely to want to move on from, but he is not safe.

 

Extreme wackiness: Malik McDowell returns

The young defensive lineman was reportedly at risk of never being able to play football again. That still may be the case, but we know he has now been cleared to work out with the team, which indicates some positive movement. If the unexpected happens, and he is cleared to return to the field of play, there will be a series of decisions to make.

First, McDowell’s salary does not currently count against the cap. He has a $1.2M cap number, and the Seahawks have just $1.7M in cap space. There is some pro-rating that would happen, but it will still be a decent chunk of change. I have also been told that if McDowell stays on the non-football injury list for the whole year, his rookie contract will not start until next season, so the team has some incentive to leave him out even if he does get cleared.

Forget all the contract mess for a second and just focus on the roster implications of adding a player the team once compared to Calais Campbell. He was meant to be used much like Bennett, and a bit like Sheldon Richardson. He could play the 5-technique defensive end in certain situations and the 3-technique interior pass rusher on passing downs. Richardson currently does the 3-tech work alongside Bennett.

All four of the guys listed as possible cuts if Jordan returns would be at risk here as well, but I would add Garrison Smith to the mix. Smith is a run-stuffing defensive tackle who the team trusts. Given the problems they had earlier in the year, they are less likely to want to remove him. His addition also coincided with the improved run defense. Still, McDowell is a defensive tackle and the team can only keep so many interior players.

Another possibility is that the player not moved to make room for Shead gets cut. If Lane gets traded to make room for Shead, then Thompson could get cut to make room for someone like McDowell.

McDowell would battle for snaps with Nazair Jones, Bennett, Richardson and Jarran Reed. My guess is they would look to give Bennett the most relief as he is battling injury and is leaned on heavily.

Bird’s-eye view

Here’s a look at the roster by position group, with the guys I believe are locks to stick around, the possible new additions, and the guys who could lose their spots as a result. I don’t get into the left tackle situation here as that is dependent on the trade requirements. You can assume Lane and Jimmy Graham are the guys who could be impacted by a trade for a left tackle. You can also see the current allocation at each position. When you see 10 below the DL column, that indicates the team currently has 10 defensive linemen on the roster. More than 10 names are listed there, so you can see how they would need to shuffle players off the roster to make room. Those are the bubble guys I highlighted in yellow.

7 Responses

  1. Uncle Bob

    Pretty good perspective, though I’d say that anything involving McDowell would be the most speculative…………let’s not forget that his suspect motor is still a hanging question above the injury considerations.

    As for options, the known unknown is the specter of injuries. The team has been comparatively better off than many teams in that respect, though not free from certain meaningful impacts. Each game has the potential to force a roster move that might play into the scenarios noted.

    For intrigue I’ll toss out another/couple alternative(s) to clear some roster space, though minimal on cap impact; disenchantment over Prosise may be peaking for coaching/management. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see he and Madden get let go, move Davis up for depth, and net a roster spot. Just sayin’………..

  2. Wigman

    Having these players possibly return is a great problem to have and a testament to the overall health of the team. The new found depth on the d line is amazing and is further proof that Pete still has the eye for talent. Naz.reed.jackson.smith so good. Now on to the rant. It’s only one game and it was against a team that is undermanned but the o line looks better . The ever so slow progress is nice . Still why is it always better with lineup changes. Aboush is better than glow. Pocic/glow better than joke . And if no one else will say it I will . Rees is better than fant has ever shown. Rees is well beyond fant after 6games than fant was after 16. Point is why can’t the team figure these improvments sooner. Need to have a honest take on who was better at left guard. My guess is it was Pocic even if it was close you would have to go full time with pocic he would have the much higher ceiling . Pocic would hold off joke when he comes back in my eyes. This would mean cable was incorrect on 3 of 5 spots coming out of pre season. New feature . My two cents. I love Doug Badwin his play is top tier and he has the brains to go with. It seems like he and Russ are somewhat coach/players. Both have been adimit on getting j.d. In the game. Whoever is deciding that Rawls/lacy/procise are better at anything is a bad evaluator . My wife keeps saying see Lacy is doing good and it’s always j.d. I loved Baldwin pushing cable to allow Wilson to speak . Baldwin is shockingly underrated and he just keeps going and improving. Shame Russ missed him on that deep ball but it’s a good sign that that is there. Back to the top. If any of these players come back and need roster spot just cut Lacy. What does it take? Go hawks

    • Uncle Bob

      I’m in the camp of an O-line needs to work together for awhile to perform better as a unit. That being said, the line this last weekend looked good considering. I would point out though that more play action was called and Russ doing things that help the line not appear to get beat as badly (to the joy of the many fans who’ve been pleading for that approach). Rees did do a decent job of manning his zone for the flea flicker, and looks to be getting better. A reasonable debate could be had on him vs. Fant, but it would be pretty pointless given the circumstances.

    • Jack Reacher

      Don’t agree on Fant/Rees Statement. I realize Fant didn’t get any time to show his improvement, but was the best OL on the field when he played in pre season. Had already gotten named starter. Rees, who’s had a full college career has look every bit as bad as Fant did last year. Every game, until this last game has been a statistical train wreck for him and why they are trying out guys like Brandon Albert and talking about Duane Brown (who’s now off the table). Rees had a match up that worked for him last weekend, but don’t for a moment think he’s remotely *fixed*.

      You can’t cut Lacy because no other back has shown and ability to stay healthy. McKissick is not an every down back and has a role, but I’m afraid they have to stay with Lacy on the roster simply for depth that will almost certainly be needed. Remember we already lost Carson who started out the year as our depth guy, but turned out to be the best of the bunch.

    • Jusjamn

      Pocic? I guess you didn’t see him play in the pre-season. he looked totally lost against scrubs. I hold out hope, but that looks long term before serviceable. Honestly he looks much better at center, but Britt has that locked down.

  3. Thomas Rawls

    Tanner McEvoy would not be missed if we were to add one of these guys. I haven’t seen enough Tedric to know if he is good, but I have seen enough McEvoy to know that he is not.

  4. Wigman

    Using pre-season and hope is not the best way to evaluate players ability. Rees is just better at nfl football than George fant was last year. Fant may have better upside because of overall athleticism and size but the point is Cable continues to be wrong on who should be starting and getting the chance to improve. He wants players to look a certain way and it’s just killing the long term o line stability year after year. Webb nope.sowell nope.novak nope. Britt as a tackle nope. Britt as -guard nope. Glow at left guard 1st try nope. Glow as right guard nope. Glow as left guard again nope. Gilliam as left tackle really nope. My best guess is cable is a fine coach but he really really struggles on who can play and where. Fedi could have been at tackle last year.Ress needed a way longer look at left tackle. Pocic is the best left guard on team but for some reason he got zero snaps in first 5 games. Even coach wilson is waving the play Pocic flag. Cable was so sure the left side was decided early and a strength . It was not. Joke is just ok . He has played many nfl games he is what he is. Pocic was better in his first 20 snaps. People said that Rees would benefit from Joke playing next to him. Turns out Rees’s best game was with Pocic next to him.Hopefully this is now understood and the team has someone else making these choices. If Carroll wants to run power football and get the d line on its heels then they need a guard. Not tackles. Rees/f/a/Britt/Pocic/Fedi. Next week and next year. Glow and fant can be backups. Go hawks