The NFL draft is interesting/intriguing/indubitably entertaining not only for the new players a team adds, but for what those moves say about a team’s current roster.
So, here’s a day-after assessment of four winners and four losers among those already on the roster from Seattle’s 2019 draft.
QB Russell Wilson: After returning to leading the league in rushing in 2018, the Seahawks have made it clear they don’t plan to veer much from their overall philosophy. So despite Wilson now being the highest-paid player in the NFL, don’t expect him to start throwing it two-thirds of the time. But drafting three receivers — and two in the first 120 picks — sent a message that the team does want to give him some additional receiving help. True, the Seahawks also may be without Doug Baldwin, and drafted with that in mind. But D.K. Metcalf is potentially the kind of big receiver Seattle has been looking for forever, it seems, and Gary Jennings is both big and fast — as well as having known Wilson since he was in grade school — and John Ursua’s college production is intriguing. Seattle had taken just three receivers in the last three drafts and two of those in the seventh round.
OT Germain Ifedi: In assessing the Seahawks’ draft needs last week, USA Sports Weekly listed right tackle first, stating Ifedi has “struggled’’ and a replacement “would allow him to be better used as a backup.’’ The Seahawks, though, apparently disagree, as they ended up tied for making the second-most picks of any team in the draft and didn’t use any on an offensive tackle.
The Seahawks instead seem content with Ifedi and George Fant competing on the right side this year, with Jamarco Jones — a sixth-rounder last year — also in the mix. How strongly Seattle feels about Ifedi will be known in the next week as the team has to decide by May 3 whether to pick up an option for the 2020 season on his contract that would pay him just over $10 million. The Seahawks could decline for now and re-sign Ifedi later, if they want. But regardless, the lack of drafting any tackles shows Seattle apparently likes what it has for now.
QB Paxton Lynch: Maybe lost in the shuffle of all that happened over the weekend was a comment from coach Pete Carroll that seemed to indicate the backup QB spot is Lynch’s to lose. Maybe that was obvious from the moment he signed in January — the Seahawks are never going to invest a ton in the backup spot as long as Wilson is around and healthy.
Still, it was tempting to wonder if they’d do something to add some legit competition for Lynch behind Wilson, especially as they kept accumulating picks. Instead, Seattle will rely on UDFAs to fill out the spot, with Carroll saying he likes what he has learned so far about Lynch, who was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2016.
“We’re excited about the quarterback position, with a little bit of help from Paxton,’’ Carroll said. “He looks like he’s going to give us an exciting choice there. We’ll see how he develops. ‘’
Tight ends: This was another position many thought Seattle would address, given Will Dissly coming off a serious knee injury, Nick Vannett entering the last year of his contract and Ed Dickson having a contract that means he could be a salary cap casualty either of the next two seasons. But Seattle didn’t use any of its 11 picks on a tight end, sounding confident Dissly will be fine — Carroll said Saturday that Dissly is “making great progress” — and apparently fine for now with Dickson and Vannett and worrying about the future later. “The tight end position is solid,’’ Carroll said.
The only other tight end on the roster is Tyrone Swoopes, though, so expect the Seahawks to add another one or two at some point before training camp.
WRs David Moore/Jaron Brown: Okay, so Seattle needed to add some receivers with Baldwin’s situation. But Carroll’s comments after drafting Metcalf also illustrated that the Seahawks felt they have needed more out of the split end position — or, the other outside spot opposite Tyler Lockett — than they have gotten lately.
“We’ve been attempting to find that guy because it is a real factor if it fits right,’’ Carroll said. “The split end spot is there for a guy who can match up one-on-one. You get a lot of one-on-ones over there and if a guy can do a good job of beating whoever he’s going against, then you can have a real weapon on that side. We’ve loved it over the years. But we have not had that guy.’’
Moore got his shot to take the job over a year ago but after some flashes at mid-season struggled down the stretch. And Brown had just 14 receptions after signing a two-year deal worth up to $5.5 million a year ago. Seattle could save $2.75 million against the cap releasing Brown, so he’s going to have to fight to stay on the roster with the influx of receivers in the draft.
Safeties Tedric Thompson/Delano Hill: I wrote a few times prior to the draft that I was curious to see if the Seahawks drafted any safeties — and particularly up high — after having spoken pretty enthusiastically about the progress of Thompson and Hill last season when each saw their first significant action. That the Seahawks think the jury remains out on each, though, was proven with their actions in taking a strong safety (Marquise Blair) and a free safety (Ugo Amadi), in the first four rounds, and each among the first 132 picks.
Hill is also recovering from surgery to repair a hip injury suffered in the final regular season game of the season, so maybe Seattle also wanted a hedge on that. Seattle, though, clearly is looking for better play at the safety position this year, the first in the Carroll era in which it enters a season knowing it won’t have either of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Almost every linebacker: It was a little of a surprise that Seattle drafted two linebackers among the first 142 picks in Utah’s Cody Barton and UW’s Ben Burr-Kirven, who each project initially to play the inside spots — Carroll specifically said Barton will start out at weakside linebacker behind K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks.
Is Seattle looking for a successor for Wright and a hedge on Kendricks’ availability? Maybe so. And who knows, maybe the Seahawks are also taking a flier to see if one or the other could be an heir apparent for Bobby Wagner down the road if things were to go haywire in Wagner’s negotiations for a contract extension — he is entering the final year of his contract and is serving as his own agent.
More immediately, this seems to put on notice that the Seahawks want to make sure they have the best option possible if injuries hit the position again, as happened last year, when Barkevious Mingo had to play some WLB and Austin Calitro and Shaquem Griffin also had to fill in. Any or all three may need to show some things to stay on the roster. Always compete, indeed.
RBs C.J. Prosise/J.D. McKissic: Prosise, a third-rounder in 2016, is entering the final year of his rookie deal and has played just 16 of 48 possible games, meaning it was already obvious this is a make-or-break year for him. But Seattle showed it’s not just handing him the third-down/two-minute back role in the wake of the departure of Mike Davis, drafting Travis Homer in the seventh round and then specifically mentioning his receiving ability as a reason.
“He can play on third down,’’ Schneider said of Homer. “We actually had him in the third down category because he had such good hands coming out of the backfield. Really good instincts. Just really, really tough.”
McKissic also has played in the two-minute/third-down back role in the past. But interestingly, the team is currently listing McKissic as an RS — return specialist — and not as a running back, as it did last season. That may just mean they may be keeping the option open to use McKissic at either running back or receiver, depending on what they need.
But Seattle figures to give Homer every chance to win the third-down/two-minute role behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny — who seem set as a 1-2 punch at the top of the tailback depth chart. And with Amadi and Jennings each having some significant return experience, there will be lots of options there, too.