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Roster analysis: Cuts highlight competitive culture

By Danny O’Neil

The fact that Antoine Winfield chose the Seahawks over other suitors this offseason was proof of just how attractive Seattle had become as a destination.

Here was a veteran with three Pro Bowls on his resume choosing to come to Seattle because he wanted to play for a contender.

winfield vert
Antoine Winfield has three Pro Bowl selections to his credit, but that wasn’t enough for the veteran cornerback to make the Seahawks’ roster. (AP)

That Winfield was among the 21 players released was evidence of how difficult it was to make this team. Even a veteran with Winfield’s resume wasn’t a lock to make the team.

The Seahawks let go of Winfield, the oldest player on the roster, as well as fullback Mike Robinson, a locker room leader. Seattle kept three undrafted rookies on the roster yet released two fourth-round picks: rookie receiver Chris Harper and defensive lineman Jaye Howard.

Those were just a few of the facts from what was a cut-down date full of surprises in Seattle.

Biggest head-scratcher: Fullback Mike Robinson. Yes, he plays a position that is dying in today’s NFL. Yes, he was going to make $2.5 million, which is a lot for that spot, and he was so ill last week – twice going to the hospital – that he lost significant weight and wouldn’t have been ready to play in the season opener. But he is one of the leaders of this locker room and someone Marshawn Lynch both trusted and respected. While it’s possible to see the business rationale behind the move, there’s also a chance the loss of Robinson will end up costing the Seahawks even more in terms of chemistry.

Most surprising cut: Nose tackle Clinton McDonald. Now, he’s not the biggest name, but he’s also someone never considered at risk to not make the team after two years as a capable backup to Brandon Mebane. McDonald was one of the constants on Seattle’s defensive line this training camp yet he was let go so the Seahawks could add D’Anthony Smith, whom they acquired from Jacksonville.

Most telling move: Defensive end Chris Clemons is on the 53-man roster, meaning Seattle expects him to be ready to play at some point in the first six weeks. Clemons had been on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovered from offseason knee surgery. Had he remained on that list, he would not have counted against the 53-man roster limit, but he would have been ineligible to play until Week 7 at the earliest.

Most puzzling trend: Harper was the highest draft pick to be released over the weekend, and it also continued a trend of Seattle swinging and missing in the fourth round. Seattle has now cut a player it drafted in the fourth round in each of the drafts under general manager John Schneider. Defensive tackle E.J. Wilson was let go midway through his rookie season in 2010, receiver Kris Durham was cut after a single season with the Seahawks in 2011 and now Howard and Harper have been added as roster casualties.

Now, let’s put a microscope on the shape of Seattle’s roster.


• Kept: Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson.
• Cut: Brady Quinn.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 2.3
• Comment: Nothing surprising here. In fact, Seattle might have the best situation in the league at backup quarterback given not only Jackson’s resume, but his experience in the offense.

Running back

• Kept: Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Derrick Coleman, Spencer Ware.
• Cut: Mike Robinson.
• Average kept 2010-12: 4.7
• Comment: Robinson’s future had been a subject of speculation for weeks, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t surprising Seattle decided to cut one of its locker room leaders.

Offensive line

• Kept: C Max Unger, LT Russell Okung, LG Paul McQuistan, LG James Carpenter, RT Breno Giacomini, RG J.R. Sweezy, C/G Lemuel Jeanpierre, OT Mike Person, OT Alvin Bailey, OT Michael Bowie.
• Cut: G Ryan Seymour, C Jared Smith, G Rishaw Johnson.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 9.7
• Comment: Seattle found a pair of rookie linemen it likes in Bowie and Bailey, the latter of whom might eventually be moved to guard.

Wide receivers

• Kept: Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice, Jermaine Kearse, Stephen Williams.
• Cut: Phil Bates, Chris Harper, Arceto Clark, Bryan Walters.
• PUP: Percy Harvin.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 5.7
• Comment: Williams’ preseason production made it impossible not to add him to the receivers even if he isn’t the kind of special-teams player Seattle usually likes to find in its reserve receivers.

Tight end

• Kept: Zach Miller, Luke Willson.
• Cut: Cooper Helfet, Sean McGrath.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 3.3
• Comment: McGrath’s release was surprising because as a blocker, he’d earned some trust in the running game. It’s the shallowest position on the team, which means it wouldn’t be surprising to see Seattle keep searching for a veteran.

Defensive ends

• Kept: Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Benson Mayowa, Mike Morgan.
• Cut: Jaye Howard.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 4.7
• Comment: At this point, Clemons is unlikely to be ready to play in the season-opener while Avril is a question mark because of a sore hamstring. The Seahawks certainly covered their bases, carrying more players at this position than normal especially if you consider linebacker O’Brien Schofield can also play defensive end.

Defensive tackles

• Kept: Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Jordan Hill, D’Anthony Smith.
• Cut: Clinton McDonald, Michael Brooks, Dewayne Cherrington, Sealver Siliga.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 4.3
• Comment: Smith was a third-round pick in 2010 who didn’t play his first two seasons because of injury.


• Kept: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, O’Brien Schofield, John Lotulelei, Allen Bradford, Heath Farwell.
• Cut: Ty Powell.
• Suspended: Bruce Irvin.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 5.7
• Comment: This is the most linebackers Seattle has carried into a season under coach Pete Carroll. Farwell sticks as one of the glue guys on special teams while Lotulelei and Bradford provide depth behind the starters.


• Kept: Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane.
• Cut: Ron Parker, Antoine Winfield.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 5.3
• Comment: Letting go of Winfield means that Seattle is comfortable with Jeremy Lane backing up Thurmond as the nickel cornerback.


• Kept: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Jeron Johnson, Chris Maragos.
• Cut: DeShawn Shead, Winston Guy.
• Average kept 2010-2012: 4
• Comment: Maragos is one of the team’s fastest defensive backs, but like long-snapper Clint Gresham, remained on the team after redoing his contract.


• Kept: K Steven Hauschka, P Jon Ryan, LS Clint Greshman.
• Cut: None.
• Comment: Seattle kept three specialists just like always. Or always except that time that a certain mustachioed coach and the general manager couldn’t agree on a kicker so the team spent the whole season with two players at that position on the roster.