Projecting how drafted players will impact the future of current Seahawks is a treacherous endeavour. Step one is to set aside the uncertainty with all the rookies, and assume for this exercise that they will succeed at some level. Step two is to survey the current roster and look for areas of the team that the front office would like to add some young and cheap talent either due to less-than-stellar performance or due to an upcoming free agency from the current occupant. Lastly, you ask yourself if the potential castoffs are too central to the team’s success to be let go. Some of the results may surprise you.
Smith and Wright may be gone in 2015
K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith were integral members of the Seahawks Super Bowl run. They combined with Bobby Wagner to form a complete and diverse linebacking trio. Everyone knows by now that Wright and Smith will be free agents after this season. You should also already know that the Seahawks used a fourth-round pick on outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (KPL). There is little debate that KPL was added with an eye on the 2015 season when the Seahawks are sure to let either Smith or Wright go. What people should consider is the potential that if KPL looks to be a true starting caliber weakside linebacker, both Wright and Smith may be gone.
Both Wright and Smith played WILL linebacker last year, the position KPL projects to, but Wright is better suited to play strongside (SAM). If KPL succeeds, it may be simple to assume Smith is gone. But consider that Wright almost certainly will command more money on the open market due to his size and ability to play in multiple schemes, and that Seattle already has a first-round pick playing SAM. Remember Bruce Irvin? That is the position he moved to last year, and one that Dan Quinn has said he intends to keep him at. It really does not make a lot of sense to sign Wright to an expensive deal and play him at a sub-optimal spot. That may make Smith a more likely candidate to be re-signed, but it will depend on his price tag and KPL.
Seattle could choose to add another linebacker or two in the 2015 draft, where they project to have a bevy of selections, and choose to have that be a young and cheap part of their roster. It is arguably the least critical position group of the defense the team plays, unlike linebacker-focused 3-4 schemes like what the 49ers play. The extra money they save could be used to cement the budget for Bobby Wagner to stay put, and/or on other free agents.
Rice’s odds lengthen to make the 53
We all love Sidney Rice. He is immensely talented and incredibly friendly. You root for guys like Rice. He is also coming off of a serious knee injury, and was not performing well before he was injured. He will turn 28 this season, and is on a one-year deal. John Schneider acknowledged that they had not set out to draft two receivers this year, but two players they loved fell to them in Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Should both grow into solid players, there would be little reason for Rice to be on the 2015 Seahawks roster. The tougher question is how this impacts his chances in 2014. The team typically keeps 5-6 receivers.
That leaves Rice, Norwood, Ricardo Lockette, Chris Mathews, Taylor Price, Bryan Walters, and Phil Bates battling for the last one or two spots. Keep in mind, Kearse can play all three receiver spots. Baldwin can play two. And Richardson is said to be able to play all three, although do not expect them to burden him with that as a rookie. Assume that the team decides to keep a full six on the roster. Norwood has a very good chance of being one of them. Lockette emerged as a great special teams player late last year. Mathews and Price have high ceilings and are younger and cheaper than Rice. There is always the practice squad for a guy like Mathews, but if he flashes, he may not be safe there. Rice may also be less than 100% for much of training camp as he is less than a year from his injury. His best chance of making the team may turn out to be a stowaway on the injured reserve or PUP who could return later in the year.
Carpenter could be cut
It was news to some that James Carpenter was not tendered the 5th season of his rookie deal, making this the final year of his contract. It would be even bigger news if the former first-round pick did not make the roster out of training camp. It could happen. First, the team is already acknowledging that it is far from certain he will play with the Seahawks beyond 2014. Great offensive lines are built with continuity. Giving precious snaps to a player who you do not plan to keep around long-term is short-sighted. It is not a bad decision if that player is clearly better than the alternatives on your roster. That does not appear to be the case here.
Alvin Bailey may already be a better player than Carpenter. His ability to win the job may be hampered by filling in for Russell Okung at left tackle until he is ready to resume practicing. Michael Bowie is also a terrific left guard candidate, but he won’t officially enter that competition unless someone like Justin Britt pulls off the upset at right tackle. A dark horse in the race is second-year player Jared Smith, who just looks so massive right now, a pass rusher practically needs to orbit the Earth to get around him. This will likely come down to whether Carpenter earns the starting left guard role. If he does not, there is little reason to keep him around.
The team has depth there. They signed veterans Greg Van Roten and Stephen Schilling. Lemuel Juanpierre has performed well as a backup guard. Add to that the Seahawks could save $1.5M by cutting Carpenter. That is probably too much to spend on a short-term backup.
Carpenter enters camp atop the left guard depth chart. He is a big man, who Tom Cable said played his best professional games at the end of last season. If he is the best left guard on the roster, do not expect him to go anywhere. If not, he may have played his last game in Seattle.