JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton: Breaking down the Seahawks’ roster competitions

Jul 3, 2017, 9:49 AM | Updated: 9:52 am
Malik McDowell is one of two new players expected to be on Seattle's defensive line. (AP)...
Malik McDowell is one of two new players expected to be on Seattle's defensive line. (AP)
(AP)

Last year, the Seahawks tried to get younger.

They had 20 new players at the start of the 2016 season – a surprising 38 percent turnover from the year before – and from that group, 15 were rookies. They had eight draft choices and seven undrafted rookies, though most of the UDFAs had draftable grades.

My early guess is that there will be about 16 to 18 new players in 2017. Expect more draft choices and more veterans but fewer undrafted players.

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The interesting decisions will be how many 2016 and 2017 draft choices make the team. I would anticipate that the Seahawks will keep around 15 choices from the past two drafts, and that would be significant. With so many players on one-year deals and with the contracts of Kam Chancellor, Jimmy Graham and Justin Britt expiring at the end of the season, the Seahawks need to keep a significant number of players who won’t hit free agency for three or four years.

Last year was the season to get younger players on offense. This year, defense was the theme.

It’s pretty clear that the Seahawks are hitting a juncture in which they have to decide if they can continue to make a run at a championship or if they have to make tough decisions on the veterans who took the team to the divisional round of the playoffs or further for five straight seasons.

The core of the team is still very strong. On defense, they have seven Pro Bowlers still in their prime. Russell Wilson, Graham and Doug Baldwin are Pro Bowl position players on offense.

Let’s break down some of the competitions for roster spots.

Quarterback and tight end. Don’t expect much change at either position. Wilson is the starting quarterback and Trevone Boykin is the leading candidate to return as the backup. The Seahawks will probably keep three tight ends who were on the team last year: Graham, Luke Willson and Nick Vannett.

Wide receiver. The top four remain: Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson and Jermaine Kearse. Expect the Seahawks to keep six receivers total. Rookie Amara Darboh should make it, leaving seventh-round pick David Moore in a battle with Kasen Williams, Kenny Lawler and Tanner McEvoy for the last spot.

Running back. This might be the most competitive position on the team, but there also might not be a lot of change. Eddie Lacy might be the only new running back. He’s competing against Thomas Rawls for the starting job. C.J. Prosise will be the pass-catching back. Alex Collins should make it as the No. 4. After that, the Seahawks have to figure out who will be the fullback, and they might not know until the final cut-down to 53.

Offensive line. This one will be interesting. The Seahawks will probably keep nine offensive linemen. George Fant has the edge to be the starting left tackle, leaving Luke Joeckel at left guard. Germain Ifedi, Mark Glowinski and Britt are the other starters. Rees Odhiambo and Oday Aboushi should make it as backup guards. Ethan Pocic will make it as the backup right tackle. That leaves 2016 sixth-round pick Joey Hunt in a battle for the last spot with undrafted rookie Jordan Roos, sixth-round pick Justin Senior and Will Pericak.

Defensive line. Expect nine to make it. Rookies Malik McDowell and Nazair Jones will be the new additions. Michael Bennett, Ahtyba Rubin, Jarran Reed and Cliff Avril will return as starters. Frank Clark will be a key role player along with Cassius Marsh, who is also in the linebacker mix. That leaves Quinton Jefferson, Dion Jordan, Jeremy Liggins and David Bass vying for what could be one spot.

Linebacker. This is the position with anticipated turnover. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are the only sure things. The Seahawks didn’t bring back Mike Morgan and Brock Coyle. They will keep five; remember, Marsh could be considered a sixth. Kevin Pierre-Louis will have to battle to stay on the team, but his special teams ability should allow him to make it. The final two spots will be fought for among free-agent additions Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin and Arthur Brown.

Defensive backs. The Seahawks will probably keep more than 10 defensive backs. DeShawn Shead will open the season on the physically unable to perform list. Veterans Richard Sherman, Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Jeremy Lane and Neiko Thorpe will make the team. Draft choices Shaquill Griffin, Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson are locks. At corner, DeAndre Elliott and Pierre Desir will compete for the last spot, though Seattle could keep them both. Then Bradley McDougald is the third safety, meaning the Seahawks should keep at least five safeties.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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