The first casualty of this year's final roster cutdown has been identified tonight, and it's none other than fullback Michael Robinson. The move doesn't make me particularly happy, but I understand it. Robinson is a phenomenal lead blocker and special teams ace, but 1) he's aging, 2) he was scheduled to make ~$2.5 million this year, and 3) he's been unable to play the past few weeks due to illness and isn't expected to be healthy enough to suit up for a few more weeks.
In a way, we can chalk this move up to the ever-increasing marginalization of the fullback in modern pro offenses. Robinson was great at clearing the way for Beast Mode to roam free into opposing secondaries, but even so he was only on the field for about a third of Seattle's offensive snaps. The pass is the thing these days, and most teams prefer to go with an extra wideout or tight end over a blocking back (the better to spread out defenses, you see). Unlike spinners and nose guards, I don't think the position is ever going to disappear entirely from the NFL, but it may very well end up becoming indistinguishable from the hybrid H-Back position.
Still, this may not be the last we hear of Robinson in the Pacific Northwest. As Danny Kelly pointed out over at Field Gulls, there's nothing to stop Seattle from re-signing him to a more cap-friendly number once he gets back into playing shape, much like the Ravens did with Vontae Leach. In the meantime, let's hope whoever is stepping into Robinson's shoes (Derrick Coleman, perhaps?) is up to the task.
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I'll continue to update this post as this year's cuts leak out, so be sure to check back here throughout the weekend.
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UPDATE (8/31, 10:30): This year's cuts are brutal. According to Jason La Canfora, the Seahawks are releasing one of my favorite players in the whole damn league, cornerback Antoine Winfield. At 36 his speed has declined enough to warrant a demotion to nickel back in coverage, but his claim to fame has always been his well above-average ability to tackle.
It figures -- after years of watching him punish running backs like a small(er) Ray Lewis for the Vikings, I finally get to see him do the same for the Seahawks only to watch him fall victim to the logjam of young, talented, big defensive backs on the roster. If Jeremy Lane hadn't made huge strides in his game toward the end of last season, or if Walter Thurmond or Byron Maxwell had shown up on the injury reports this preseason with their usual suite of health problems, Carroll et al most likely would have kept Winfield around. But he did, and they did, and so out the door Winfield goes. I doubt he'll be jobless for very long.
If Thurmond breaks his leg next week, I'm going to drive to Seattle and rage-vomit geysers of boiling, flaming blood directly into his eye sockets.
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UPDATE (8/31, 3:00): Quarterback Brady Quinn and defensive tackle Jaye Howard have both reportedly been cut. Quinn's release is not surprising as his competition for the backup QB gig, Tarvaris Jackson, outplayed him all preseason long.
The loss of Howard, on the other hand, is a bit confusing to me. The second year DT was a wrecking ball in opposing teams' backfields all preseason long, and he looked to be a solid choice for a defensive line group riddled with injuries. Maybe the Hawks are hoping to add him to their practice squad, but it's doubtful that he will clear the waiver wire. Anyone want to bet he ends up in a Jacksonville uniform by day's end?
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UPDATE (8/31, 3:30): In a bit of non-cut related news, Ian Rapaport is reporting that defensive end Chris Clemons has been added to the active roster. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll be ready to go for the season opener, but the team clearly thinks he'll be ready well before week six, which would have been the earliest he could have been added to the roster if he had begun the year on the PUP list.
Also, Jared Stanger over at Field Gulls is reporting that defensive tackle Sealver Siliga has been cut. Siliga was a bit of a longshot to make the team after having been added via a trade with Denver for guard John Moffitt, but against the Raiders on Thursday he looked like he could be a potential force as a rotational guy in the middle of the line.
I now officially have no idea what the Seahawks are planning to do with their defensive line group.
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UPDATE (8/31, 3:45): According to multiple sources, including Pete Carroll, Antoine Winfield is retiring from the NFL. It's a bit unclear whether he chose to retire because the team cut him or if he informed the team that he was going to retire and that decision was just initially reported incorrectly as his having being cut, but that's a minor detail. Either way, one of the most effective and underrated corners of the last decade has just hung up his cleats, and the league is the poorer for it.
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UPDATE (8/31, 4:10): Tom Pelissero of USA Today is reporting that the Seahawks traded a conditional pick to the Jaguars for DT D'Anthony Smith. Apparently Jacksonville was planning on cutting him, but Seattle decided that they didn't want to risk losing him to a higher waiver claim.
As Rotoworld puts it, Smith "has done nothing in the league besides get injured since being a top-75 pick in 2010." To be fair, that sounds a whole lot like what everyone said about Clemons when the Hawks traded for him back in '10, but that doesn't make me feel any better about this move. Did I mention that I have no idea what the Seahawks are planning to do with their defensive line?
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UPDATE: (8/31, 4:30): The Seahawks have finally issued a press release listing this year's cuts. Here's the rundown, grouped by position (names not already reported above are bolded):
G Rishaw Johnson
G Ryan Seymour
G Jared Smith
QB Brady Quinn
FB Michael Robinson
TE Cooper Helfet
TE Darren Fells
TE Sean McGrath
WR Phil Bates
WR Arceto Clark
WR Chris Harper
WR Bryan Walters
DT Michael Brooks
DT Dewayne Cherrington
DT Jaye Howard
DT Clinton McDonald
DT Sealver Siliga
DE Ty Powell
CB Ron Parker
CB Antoine Winfield
S Winston Guy
S DeShawn Shead
I'll put something up on the 53 man roster later on, but for now the main surprise for me is at tight end. I expected Fells to go, but releasing both McGrath and Helfet as well leaves the Seahawks with just two tight ends on the roster, Zach Miller and Luke Willson. Either Darrell Bevell is planning on cutting back on the two tight end sets or they plan on adding a third TE via trade or waiver claim. It's too bad to see McGrath go, I rather liked him -- here's hoping he gets added to the practice squad.
By my count, the Seahawks released several recent draft picks, including two who were chosen in 2012, Guy (6th round) and Howard (4th), and a whopping four from the 2013 draft class: Harper (4th), Seymour (7th), Powell (7th), and Smith (7th). Granted, most of those players were late-round choices, but even so it would appear that Carroll and Schneider really weren't kidding when they said that the depth on the roster was far too strong for there to be enough spaces on the roster for all their picks this year. And with DT Jesse Williams on IR and CB Tharold Simon on PUP, that leaves just five of Seattle's eleven picks this year remaining on the active roster.