In 2021, the Seahawks have very few surefire reunions on the docket with their upcoming free agency class. Unlikely to bring back some of the biggest names at the top of the list - Shaquill Griffin, K.J. Wright, and Chris Carson - they have quite the mountain to climb to build a championship-caliber roster to their standard this offseason.
Seattle does hold some control over the fate of a few of its players who are technically free agents, whether they're of the restricted or exclusive rights variety. Earlier this week, our very own Corbin Smith took a crack at predicting the outcomes for their three restricted free agents. Today we'll be looking at their exclusive rights free agents, or ERFAs for short.
So what exactly is an ERFA? Perhaps you've heard the term plenty of times and have a general idea of what it means - it's fairly self-explanatory - but don't exactly know how a player eventually falls under the category.
If so, to quickly explain: an ERFA, under the current collective bargaining agreement, is a player whose contract has expired but they've logged less than three accrued seasons in their NFL career (six games or more played per season). At that point, the team they finished the previous season with can then offer them a one-year contract for the league minimum salary, which is personally adjusted based upon their credited seasons (three or more games per year).
For the Seahawks, there isn't really a reason for them not to bring back all six of their ERFAs. They have to fill out a 90-man roster over the course of the offseason and only their top 51 earners are accounted for in the salary cap. So this isn't necessarily a matter of "who stays and who goes," but rather a deeper dive into who on Seattle's roster has this designation because of the service time ramifications.
DB Ryan Neal
One of the Seahawks' biggest breakouts in 2020, Ryan Neal was a great story to follow. On the precipice of quitting football entirely, he was suddenly thrown into a starting role early in the season after safeties Marquise Blair and Jamal Adams went down with injuries. Neal played big in his limited opportunities, moving all over the defensive backfield while logging two interceptions and 44 tackles with 3.0 for a loss. He also occasionally stood out on special teams, most notably blocking a punt against the Giants that went for a safety. He may fall back into the depths of Seattle's roster with the expected return of Blair, but Neal proved he can be relied upon if his number is called.
DT Bryan Mone
Another ERFA who should have an actual impact on the 2021 Seahawks is Bryan Mone. The third-year man out of Michigan accounted for just 228 of the team's defensive snaps last year, but flashed plenty to be intrigued by. While he didn't grade out too well by Pro Football Focus's standards, he proved solid against the run and showed nice feel for getting to the quarterback with nine credited pressures and half a sack.
IOL Kyle Fuller
The Seahawks not only need to get better in their interior offensive line unit, but they need depth as well. Despite serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on substances of abuse at the start of the 2020 season, Kyle Fuller remained a Seahawk throughout the year and even started a game for them at center versus the Rams in their 23-16 loss in Week 10. As one might expect from a player making his first start in three years against the likes of Aaron Donald, it did not go well. But Seattle likes Fuller and will likely give him a shot to crack the back-end of its roster.
CB Linden Stephens
Though he only appeared in 35 snaps for the Seahawks in 2020, Linden Stephens may have a legitimate shot to make the team out of camp. With Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, and Neiko Thorpe all set to become unrestricted free agents in less than two weeks, Seattle has just three corners seemingly locked in for 2021 as of now: D.J. Reed, Tre Flowers, and Ugo Amadi. Although that's likely to quickly change over the course of the offseason, Stephens currently has the inside track to a spot on the team's active roster.
CB Jayson Stanley
In a similar situation to Stephens, Jayson Stanley rarely played in 2020 but remained on the Seahawks' active roster for a good portion of the season. He was on the field for 29 percent of the team's special teams snaps and saw some minimal action on defense in their 40-3 blowout victory of the Jets. His chances of making the roster, like Stephens's, are slim.
RB Patrick Carr
A solid runner at the University of Houston, Patrick Carr signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks last offseason. Though he was cut by the team in August, he later returned to the Pacific Northwest and finished the year on their practice squad. Despite the potential losses of unrestricted free agents Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, Carr is set to be fifth on Seattle's running back depth chart and could be pushed down even further depending on what else the team does to address the position.