Report Card Grades for Seattle Seahawks Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
Ever wonder what happens to football prospects after Mr. Irrelevant is selected with the final pick in the NFL draft?
Depending on what they bring to the table, some get the chance to choose which team they believe gives them the best shot at following their dream.
“This was the hardest rookie free agent period we’ve had. Pete was recruiting like crazy just now. We were negotiating with a bunch of guys and once you know that guys are making very hard decisions to come with you, that’s when you know when you’re improving.”
When you think about it, it makes sense. Unlike a few years ago when the Seahawks began rebuilding under Pete Carroll and Schneider, attracting undrafted talent is difficult given the team's roster is far more established.
Two summer's ago Stanford wide receiver Doug Baldwin caught on after signing as a UFA, but for every Baldwin there are dozens of others that don't make the squad.
For the Seahawks this year, do any of these players have a chance?
Let's take a quick look to see how the team fared in its signings by handing out grades for each position addressed with the understanding that most of the players here probably won't make the roster, but of course you never know with Pete Carroll in charge.
Offensive Line: A-
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When looking back at the Seahawks draft, I was a little surprised the team waited until Round 7 before drafting a single offensive lineman.
It's not that the 'Hawks are lacking talent upfront, so much as the potential to upgrade in some places is quite strong. Yet after hearing that offensive guard Alvin Bailey of Arkansas decided to sign on with the 'Hawks, my impressions changed given many considered him a mid-round talent.
Earlier this week when reviewing all of the best undrafted players, Doug Farrar at Yahoo!Sports for the "Shutdown Corner" column included Bailey on his list in stating:
Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas: Big but agile blocker with the ability to protect in space and at the second level, but can also bring it with power at the line. Can play right or left guard. Struggles with more advanced defensive concepts and is erratic in play-to-play blocking consistency. Needs an NFL team that understands how to bridge the gap between potential and performance. (Seattle Seahawks)
If any team is capable of bridging that gap it's the Seahawks with offensive line coach Tom Cable.
Meanwhile another player that may benefit from Cable's tutelage is offensive tackle Jordan Roussos of Bowling Green. Roussos is listed at 6'4" and 307 pounds, so he might be a little undersized compared to seventh-round pick Michael Bowie, who will also be pushing for a spot at right tackle, but you never know how things will unfold in camp.
Overall it looks like the 'Hawks got two solid options to test out here, with Bailey a potential steal.
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Of all the positions the Seahawks addressed immediately following the draft, I was glad to see they didn't ignore linebacker.
Understand that I'm certainly curious to see how seventh-round selection Ty Powell fares, along with recent late-round picks Malcolm Smith and Korey Toomer; nevertheless I like the fact that the 'Hawks also added UNLV's John Lotulelei and Old Dominion's Craig Wilkins into the mix.
On paper both Lotulelei and Wilkins project at best as special teamers, but with no clear candidate to take over the likely vacancy of Leroy Hill's roster spot, I wouldn't rule out one of these two players making a serious push for a roster spot this summer.
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Depending on your point of view, the Seahawks either have everyone they need at safety or not.
Personally I believe the team could have used a mid-round pick in adding someone who can occasionally spell either All-Pro Earl Thomas or help at the nickel spot.
Instead, we will get to see if safety Ray Polk from Colorado can do either.
It seems the potential is there according to NFL.com in their scouting report:
This former running back has opened the eyes of scouts with his play on defense the past two seasons, as his athleticism allows him to work in man coverage while he also has the physicality to make big hits in run support and as an intimidator over the middle. Making plays on the ball more regularly in 2012 (one interception, two pass break-ups in two years) could raise his stock significantly.
Sounds encouraging, but to me the biggest concern is whether or not Polk can stay healthy.
Meanwhile the same could also be said of Ramon Buchanan who at Miami played linebacker, but I'd imagine in order for him to grab a roster spot he will likely need to shift to safety.
Can he make that adjustment and make the final cut?
The opportunity for both players looks to be there...
Defensive Line: C+
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Entering the NFL draft last weekend, it seemed highly likely that the Seahawks would draft a defensive tackle, but could also consider taking a defensive end as well.
True to form the 'Hawks drafted not one, but two tackles in Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams, but opted to skip in taking a pass-rusher.
On some level it makes sense given this past offseason the Seahawks stocked up on rushers through free agency; however, I was pleased to see the team sign defensive end Kenneth Boatright of Southern Illinois on Sunday.
In a word, Boatright is raw, but then again so was Michael Bennett back in 2009 when the 'Hawks brought him in as an undrafted free agent only to let him go and later see him find success in Tampa.
Good thing pencils have erasers and that Bennett decided to come back to Seattle on a one-year contract this winter.
Yet with Bennett only signed for this season, Cliff Avril for the next two and Chris Clemons recovering from an ACL injury, it can't hurt to toss one more player in the mix with the hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.
Odds are probably against Boatright making the final squad, but I'll be curious to see how he fares in camp this summer as a developmental prospect.
Offensive Skill Positions: C
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I suppose it goes to show just how far the Seahawks have come in recent years when the potential of two offensive skill players struggle to get me excited.
Looking back I once again think of Doug Baldwin and his journey from being a undrafted free agent to breakout performer as a rookie two years ago. Fact is players like Baldwin are generally the exception to the norm and more often the beneficiary of signing with a team thin on talent.
Such is not the case for both wide receiver Matt Austin and running back Dominique Whaley, who will arrive in Seattle as arguably the longest of long-shots of this entire group.
Honestly though, if the Seahawks hadn't already drafted both Christine Michael and Spencer Ware, I might be higher on Whaley following his performance at Oklahoma.
However, when you consider that Ware might have a hard time making the roster, you can only imagine how much of a challenge it will be for Whaley to carve a spot out for himself alongside Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.
As for Matt Austin, perhaps his connection to Utah State will help him based on the success of Bobby Wagner and Turbin?
Right now he's going to need all the luck he can get with Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and fellow rookie Chris Harper.
Fortunately for Austin, his 6'2" frame should give him a chance to stand out, but he will really need to turn in an amazing performance to even make the practice squad.
As Pete Carroll explained to the seattlepi.com following the draft, it shouldn't be easy to make the squad this year:
“We hope it’s really hard, it’s very difficult. That means we’re going in the right direction,” Carroll said Saturday after completing the draft. “The whole idea is to make this roster as competitive as possible. And so that means it’s hard for these guys to make it.
“But it’s also the quality of guys we were able to draft and attract here in free agency; it makes it hard for the guys to keep their jobs. That’s just understood; that’s part of the make-up of being here at the Seahawks.”
Today if I had to take a guess maybe Alvin Bailey and one of the linebackers makes the final cut.
In retrospect that's not a bad thing, if we understand that the 'Hawks will now look at these players through an entirely different prism compared to a few years earlier. Rather than grabbing anyone with a pulse, the team can carefully consider whether any of these players along with everyone else in camp are worthy of playing for a contender.
Either way, the motto remains the same, always compete.