Over the past few seasons, the Seattle Seahawks have brought in a number of undrafted free agents who developed into important contributors for the team.
Defensive end Benson Mayowa appears poised to join that group while taking on a critical role for the Seahawks in 2014.
Mayowa accumulated 10 sacks and eight forced fumbles in four seasons at Idaho and signed with Seattle after being passed on in the 2013 NFL draft. He showed enough to earn a spot last year on the crowded Seahawks roster and is readier to realize his full potential in 2014 than ever before.
Coming out of high school, Mayowa did not receive much interest from major schools and was not a major contributor for the Vandals as a true freshman. However, he did flash his tremendous athletic potential at times.
In the pair of plays above, Mayowa displays that he has the athleticism to be successful against the level of competition that Idaho typically faced. He also looks too small to be a productive NFL edge-rusher against bigger and faster offensive linemen.
However, the Seahawks saw something in Mayowa, even though The News Tribune reports that he measured just 6’3’’ and 252 pounds at the NFL Regional Scouting Combine. Seattle has a history of drafting or signing those kinds of in-between-sized players, many of whom have been successful, leading the team to bring in Mayowa.
Mayowa ran a 4.65 40-yard dash and flashed that explosiveness in the preseason, racking up 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble, earning him a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
As Brian Nemhauser of Hawkblogger.com noted during 2013 training camp, Mayowa competed hard for that roster spot:
Benson mayowa practiced like he can taste that roster spot. Was going at a different speed than others.— Brian Nemhauser (@hawkblogger) August 14, 2013
Now, Mayowa is ready to battle for more snaps and a bigger role as the backup LEO for the Seahawks in 2014.
General manager John Schneider told Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times that Mayowa “had his best week of practice at the Super Bowl, that week. He is going to be ready to compete hard.”
One of the things that made Seattle’s defensive line so successful last season was its deep rotation of players. That allowed Pete Carroll to keep his linemen fresh and adapt to different matchups effectively.
The defensive line lost some of that depth in the offseason with the departures of Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald. Michael Bennett will also be moved around more and Bruce Irvin will be moved to SAM linebacker, meaning the Seahawks will be looking for depth among edge-rushers.
Mayowa is the ideal candidate to rotate in behind Cliff Avril at LEO or possibly start if the Seahawks decide to keep Avril on the strong side.
Danny Kelly of SB Nation notes that Mayowa is up 15 pounds from his playing weight of 252 pounds in 2013, giving him a great combination of size and explosiveness:
DE Benson Mayowa fifteen pounds heavier than last year, says PC. Was listed at 252 last year - puts him at or near ~267— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) May 16, 2014
According to Jason Puckett of Sports Radio KJR, Avril himself had plenty of good things to say about Mayowa's skill set:
Fun interview w/ Cliff Avril: Wants to be in Seattle long-term. Says Benson Mayowa can be one of the best DE in league "has all the tools."— Jason Puckett (@JasonPuckettKJR) April 21, 2014
His new frame might even be a little larger than that of a typical LEO, but the Seahawks could be looking to add more size to their positional rotation. Mayowa still has that athleticism that will make him difficult to guard.
He may also be looked at as a potential long-term piece in case Avril leaves in free agency next season.
After not receiving much playing time in 2013, Mayowa will get the chance to showcase his skill set with the opportunity for more snaps this year.
Joey Jenkins of The Palouse’s ESPN 1400 AM talked with a few Seahawks reporters who believe Mayowa will fully capitalize on the opportunity:
I've talked with 2 people that cover the #Seahawks and both have said great things about Benson Mayowa. Both said he will be a role player.— Joey Jenkins (@JoeyESPNPalouse) May 19, 2014
Terry Blount from ESPN told me that Benson Mayowa could have a "breakout year" this year for the #Seahawks. That's good news Vandal fans.— Joey Jenkins (@JoeyESPNPalouse) May 19, 2014
Mayowa’s competition for a roster spot will be stiff. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn talked with Mitch Levy of Sports Radio 950 KJR AM about the battle, saying, “Some of the guys that will be in the competition will be Greg Scruggs, Benson Mayowa and O’Brien Schofield.”
Undrafted free agent Jackson Jeffcoat is also in the conversation.
It’s impossible to foresee any potential injuries or know how the roster dynamic will shake out, but all four of those players could be in competition for just two spots.
Mayowa has the youth and athletic potential to win a position and play an important role for Seattle this year. He is just the next in a long line of undrafted free agents to help the Seahawks in a meaningful way.