With free agency mostly wrapped up and the draft in the rear-view mirror, the Seahawks have assembled a 90-man roster and transitioned into their offseason program. Though more moves will be made in coming weeks as they continue to shuffle their roster, the vast majority of players currently under contract will be with the team when training camp opens in late July.
As Seattle ramps up preparations for a new season, the organization hopes to see its pass rush taken up another notch after re-signing Carlos Dunlap and adding a pair of proven veterans to the mix in free agency. How will the defensive end rotation formalize for the 2021 season?
Projected Starters: Carlos Dunlap, L.J. Collier
With teams league-wide bypassing older veterans for the most part in free agency, the 32-year old Dunlap returned to Seattle on a more team-friendly two-year deal and he will be looking to pick up where he left off. Galvanizing the Seahawks defensive line as a whole, he produced 5.0 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in eight regular season games, while the team finished with the most sacks in the NFL from Week 9 on. Across from him, Collier quietly had a solid second season while starting all 16 games, recording 22 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and seven quarterback hits while coming through with several clutch plays in the process. The former first-round pick will have to fend off new competition this year to retain his starting role, however, as Kerry Hyder's arrival from San Francisco should create an intriguing training camp battle to start at the base end spot.
Reserves: Kerry Hyder, Benson Mayowa, Rasheem Green, Alton Robinson, Aldon Smith, Darrell Taylor
After stepping up with a career-high 8.5 sacks for the 49ers in 2020, Hyder should see action both as a 5-tech defensive end and reduced inside as a defensive tackle on passing downs for the Seahawks. At 270 pounds, he offsets average athletic ability with stellar hand technique and a relentless motor, using those traits to find his way into the backfield to harass opposing quarterbacks. Coming off a strong finish to the 2020 season, the twitchy Mayowa should see extensive action spelling Dunlap at LEO defensive end, while Smith may see time in that role as well if he isn't suspended for his latest legal issue. Entering the final year of his contract, Green will compete alongside Collier and Hyder at the 5-tech position, while Robinson could see work during training camp at both spots after a surprising rookie season. Like Bruce Irvin did previously, Taylor may play SAM linebacker and occasionally rush off the edge on obvious passing downs.
Wild Cards: Robinson, Green
Even with Taylor transitioning to linebacker, the Seahawks likely won't be able to keep seven or eight defensive ends on the 53-man roster, which puts Green and Robinson's roster spots potentially in jeopardy. Still, both players have talent and upside and shouldn't be counted out when training camp opens in July. Green has dealt with injuries throughout his first three seasons and only pitched in a pair of sacks in 10 games in 2020, but he's only 24 years old and has shown flashes of being a quality rotational defender offering versatility to play multiple positions. As for Robinson, he was one of Seattle's biggest revelations last year, taking on a larger role as his rookie season progressed and producing 4.0 sacks in limited action. It's not out of the question either one of these players may be poised for a breakout season, which would be an ideal development for Seattle both in the short and long term.
Who Makes 53?
The Seahawks will open camp with the most depth and talent they have had at the defensive end position since Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and a young Frank Clark were still together in 2017. Regardless of who starts at base end, Collier and Hyder will both see extensive action across from Dunlap and Mayowa, while Taylor looks set to start at SAM linebacker and moonlight as a LEO edge rusher. Behind those five players, Smith's status holds the key to whether or not Robinson and Green both survive roster cuts. No updates have been provided on the veteran's latest arrest, but given his lengthy track record, he's likely facing punishment from the league down the road. If that winds up being the case, he will either be released outright or serving a suspension, allowing Seattle to keep both young defenders for additional depth at each end position.