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Seattle Seahawks

Paxton Lynch, DeShawn Shead released as Seahawks begin roster cutdown

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Paxton Lynch is helped off the field after getting injured during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, in Minneapolis. (Bruce Kluckhohn / AP)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Seahawks waived backup quarterback Paxton Lynch on Friday afternoon, a source told the Seattle Times, the first known move by the team as Seattle began paring its roster from 90 to 53.

Seattle also later released veteran defensive back DeShawn Shead, with Shead confirming the news via his Twitter account.

Shead played for the Seahawks from 2012-17 before spending last season with Detroit and then being re-signed by Seattle in July. Shead spent time playing cornerback and safety in the preseason but apparently was unable to convince the coaches – for now, anyway – that he deserved a spot on the 53-man roster.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to compete once again as a hawk!,” Shead wrote via Twitter. “I will always appreciate and have love for the 12’s! Can’t wait to see what next!”

Teams must be at the regular-season maximum of 53 by 1 p.m. Saturday.

Waiving Lynch means Geno Smith will be the backup quarterback to Russell Wilson. That’s no surprise, as Smith played well in the final two preseason games and ended the preseason 18 for 34 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, with a passer rating of 100.4 that was the best on the team. Lynch, a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2016, was 18 for 37 for 180 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions and a passer rating of 71.9.

Smith left Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Raiders late in the second quarter after having “got a little tweak” in his left knee, in the words of head coach Pete Carroll. That’s the same knee on which Smith had had surgery three weeks ago to remove a cyst. But the knee apparently checked out OK, given that Lynch was waived.

Seattle also had signed former Ohio State star J.T. Barrett as a backup while Smith was out, but he played in only one game, throwing only three passes, and wasn’t considered a viable candidate for the job.

Lynch signed in January, saying later he had turned down a possible chance to sign late in the 2018 season with Washington because he thought the Seahawks would be a good fit for his skills.

But Seattle then added Smith to the competition in May after it became clear he was not going to return to the Chargers, with whom he spent last season.

That Smith has 31 career NFL starts – 29 coming when he was the primary starter for the New York Jets in 2013 and 2014 – had been perceived as giving him a leg up all along on the backup job. Lynch had just four career starts, all with Denver in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, going 1-3.

Lynch, though, made things interesting when he played well against Denver in the preseason opener, leading Seattle to 19 second-half points in a 22-14 win and completing 11 for 15 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown while also rushing four times for 38 yards and another score.

Smith then sat out the next week in a game at Minnesota after having the surgery on his knee.

But Lynch suffered an injury of his own, a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Minnesota’s Holton Hill (who was ejected from the game and later fined $10,527) and had to miss practice the following week as well as a game against the Chargers.

Smith returned last Saturday against the Chargers and played well in that game, as well as against the Raiders. Lynch, meanwhile was just 7 for 22 for 71 yards in his final two performances, including 1 for 7 for 4 yards in playing the second half Thursday against the Raiders.

“I thought he looked really good,” Carroll said of Smith following Thursday night’s game, when he was 4 for 7 for 107 yards and two touchdowns. “I thought he did a nice job. A great couple balls down the field. A great touchdown pass to Terry (Wright, for 39 yards). It was a beautiful play. He looks in control of the offense. He gets it. He really understands it. So that’s a real positive.”

Lynch has practice squad eligibility and could be a candidate to stay on the Seattle roster in that capacity if he clears waivers. Barrett could also fill that role.

Shead played 57 snaps in the final preseason game Thursday, spending the first three quarters at cornerback and the final quarter at safety with Carroll saying he wanted to give Shead a chance to show all he could do.

“I wanted to give him a chance to show us the versatility,” Carroll said Thursday night. “He had been a long time corner for us. He never had played a lot of safety. That was the spot that we wanted to see if we could really bring him along, and then kick him back out there so he had enough time to show us where he fit there. We just have to figure it out. I don’t know what to tell you, but DeShawn Shead is a great kid. He’s a great champion kid. If we’re fortunate enough to have him on our team, he’s going to help us.”

As a vested veteran, Shead would have had his $930,000 salary guaranteed if he was on the roster Week 1. Seattle could look to bring back Shead later, if needed, when it could essentially pay him on a week-to-week basis.

Two Cougars cut

• S Shalom Luani: The safety from Washington State was also waived, according to ESPN’s Henderson. Luani played in 12 games for the Seahawks last season, mostly on special teams, and had two tackles. Seattle drafted two players this year who can play safety – Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi – creating a logjam in the secondary. A source confirmed the news to the Seattle Times.

• DE Logan Tago: The other former WSU player who was on the roster at the end of camp, Tago was waived Friday, according to ESPN’s Henderson. Tago signed on Wednesday to add depth at end and played 37 snaps against the Raiders on Thursday, making one tackle.