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Seahawks roster projection: As NFL cutdown day looms, who will make Seattle’s 53-player roster?

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 2, 2020

Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson, second from right, runs a drill in which his backups, Danny Etling, left, Geno Smith, second from left, and Anthony Gordon make motions to strip the ball from him during practice Tuesday in Renton, Wash.  (Ted S. Warren)
Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson, second from right, runs a drill in which his backups, Danny Etling, left, Geno Smith, second from left, and Anthony Gordon make motions to strip the ball from him during practice Tuesday in Renton, Wash. (Ted S. Warren)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – Last Sunday’s mock game marked essentially the end of training camp for the Seahawks, unusual as it was in this COVID-19 era.

Seattle’s practices this week have replicated a regular-season practice week (Competition Wednesday, Turnover Thursday, etc.) to reacquaint everyone with that structure and format, before doing it all again for real the following week leading into the regular-season opener at Atlanta on Sept. 13.

While the players’ schedule changes a bit now, coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and the rest of the personnel department will hunker down for what might be their toughest week of the year – deciding who to cut to get the roster down to the regular-season limit of 53.

Teams must be at the 53-player limit by 1 p.m. Saturday, though with no preseason games, teams might make cuts, or at least some, earlier than usual.

The decisions might be somewhat easier because rosters already are at 80 players instead of the usual training camp maximum of 90, a concession made due to COVID-19 protocols.

Still, cuts won’t be easy.

Other COVID-19 roster changes will possibly factor into some decisions.

Specifically, teams can keep 16 players on their practice squads, and up to six can have unlimited seasons of experience – meaning anyone is eligible for those spots.

One thing teams will consider as they make cuts is which players are most likely to clear waivers (players claimed off waivers must be placed on a 53-man roster, meaning the claiming team has to make a move to create room on its roster) and then be able to re-sign to practice squads.

A change in rules also allows two practice-squad players to be called up to the active roster each week and sent back down without any other roster move being required (which is why you hear of 55-player rosters).

As the Seahawks near decision time, here’s an attempt at figuring out what the initial 53-player roster might look like.

Quarterback

Keep: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith.

Cut: Anthony Gordon, Danny Etling.

Comment: There was never any battle for the backup job because, more than ever, this is a year to rely on veterans. Smith has looked good in his second year with the team.

The bigger question might be whom of Gordon or Etling the Seahawks will keep on the practice squad.

Due to needing to get as much work as possible for the starters and key backups in a shortened training camp, Gordon hasn’t had a lot of snaps, and Etling has been with the team for barely a week. Seattle is sure to want at least one on the practice squad, though.

Running back

Keep: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Nick Bellore.

Cut: None.

PUP (physically unable to play list): Rashaad Penny.

Comment: Bellore might be the only mild intrigue here. Recall he was cut a year ago, then quickly re-signed. Seattle could try to do something similar again if it has other roster machinations in store, assuming he wouldn’t latch on elsewhere. Seattle always carries a fullback, though, and Bellore is the only one, so he appears to have a role on the team this season. The Seahawks made one move at this spot Monday to pare the roster, waiving rookie Patrick Carr as injured.

Tight end

Keep: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister.

Cut: Luke Willson, Tyler Mabry, Stephen Sullivan.

Non-football injury list: Colby Parkinson.

Comment: Parkinson remains on the NFI (non-football injury) list, and while he might be ready soon, he could remain there because the Seahawks seem set with their top three tight ends. That means Parkinson misses the first six games, but could come back at midseason.

The Seahawks, though, could still be tempted to make some kind of move with Hollister, who has a one-year deal for a nonguaranteed $3.2 million, a salary the team might still try to lessen somehow.

Willson has looked good in camp, and, with more practice-squad spots for vets, he could be a prime candidate to hang around there.

Without preseason games, it’s hard to read rookies’ progress, including Sullivan’s. He undoubtedly would be kept on the practice squad if waived. Maybe Seattle won’t want to risk that he’d get claimed and will keep him on the 53.

Receiver

Keep: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, David Moore, John Ursua, Paul Richardson.

Cut: Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Cody Thompson, Aaron Fuller, Seth Dawkins, Jayson Stanley, Lance Lenoir.

Comment: Dorsett’s injury situation doesn’t seem so serious that Seattle won’t keep him, but it does seem troublesome enough to think the Seahawks will want to keep six receivers, at least. Seattle had seven on the roster for the opening game last year.

Moore has a $2.13 million restricted free-agent contract that could factor into decisions. But with Dorsett out, Moore has been the third receiver after Lockett and Metcalf and seems a lock to hang round in some capacity.

Offensive line

Keep: Duane Brown, Brandon Shell, Cedric Ogbuehi, Mike Iupati, Jordan Simmons, Damien Lewis, B.J. Finney, Ethan Pocic, Jamarco Jones, Phil Haynes.

Suspended list: Kyle Fuller.

Cut: Chad Wheeler, Tommy Champion.

Comment: It’s reasonable to think Seattle will keep 10 offensive linemen, due in part to a new NFL rule that if teams keep at least eight active on game day they can have up to 48 active overall.

Ogbuehi suffered a shoulder injury Sunday of unknown severity, which is worth watching, but also is the kind of thing that could further compel the Seahawks to keep 10.

Defensive line

Keep: L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Benson Mayowa, Alton Robinson, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Bryan Mone, Demarcus Christmas.

Non-football injury list: Darrell Taylor.

Cut: P.J. Johnson, Cedrick Lattimore, Pita Taumoepenu.

Comment: This is suddenly a position of real intrigue with the news Sunday that Branden Jackson is going on injured reserve and Taylor likely won’t be available for the start of the season.

Seattle is likely to keep at least nine defensive linemen, but they might not all be on the current roster.

The Seahawks have been expected all along to add a defensive tackle. If they don’t, Christmas would seem to have a legit shot.

If not, Johnson or Lattimore. While Taumoepenu just re-signed this week, he was with the Seahawks on the practice squad much of last season, so he can’t be ruled out, either.

Linebacker

Keep: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton, Shaquem Griffin, Ben Burr-Kirven.

Cut: None.

Comment: Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. raved about the linebacker depth last week, and Seattle might well keep all seven.

In fact, that’s the best way to lean with the current roster and the defensive line uncertainty (again, it’d be a surprise if there aren’t some additions to the defensive line over the next week).

But if Seattle has to make a cut here, go with them keeping Griffin instead of Burr-Kirven.

Defensive back

Keep: Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Quinton Dunbar, Ugo Amadi, Marquise Blair, Lano Hill, Neiko Thorpe.

Cut: Chris Miller, Ryan Neal, Gavin Heslop, Debione Renfro, Linden Stephens.

Non-football injury list: D.J. Reed.

Comment: To paraphrase an earlier roster guess, consider seven spots set: Diggs and Adams as the starting safeties, Griffin and Dunbar as the starting corners with Blair as the nickel and Flowers and Amadi as backups and used in situational roles.

Hill might also be a better shot to make it than is conventionally thought with a role as a backup safety (which could be more important with Blair as the nickel) and in specialty packages.

Special teams

Keep: Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott.

Cut: None.

Comment: This remains the easiest position group to figure out.

None of the three has competition and all are under contract for at least two more years.

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