Though training camp remains more than two months away, it's never too early to begin considering which players will make the Seahawks 53-man roster.
Seattle currently has 85 players on its roster with rookie minicamp and the start of OTAs right around the corner. While the team will certainly make a few more moves before the real bullets start flying in late July, the vast majority of offseason needs have been fulfilled with the initial waves of free agency and the draft in the books.
Which players will take the field when the Seahawks kick off their season in September? And which ones may be the odd players out?
Without further ado, here's my first crack at projecting the 53-man roster with a look at which defensive players will make the team.
Starters: Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder
Reserves: L.J. Collier, Benson Mayowa, Alton Robinson, Rasheem Green
Final Cut: Aldon Smith
Prioritizing their pass rush early in free agency, the Seahawks found a way to bring back Dunlap on a more team-friendly contract, brought back Mayowa as a complimentary LEO defensive end, and signed Hyder after a career year with the 49ers. Dunlap and Hyder will likely be the starters, though it's possible Collier could hang onto his job at the 5-tech end role after a solid sophomore season. If Smith's latest legal issues are dropped, he could make the team over Green, who has battled injuries and inconsistency in his first three NFL seasons. But for this projection, given his track record, Smith is on a zero-strike policy and isn't on the roster when camp opens.
Starters: Poona Ford, Bryan Mone
Reserves: Al Woods, Robert Nkemdiche
Final Cut: Cedrick Lattimore
Though Seattle did release Jarran Reed, the team did manage to re-sign Ford on a two-year deal and he should transition to playing Reed's former 3-tech role on early downs. Next to him, Mone looks primed to start at nose tackle after a strong finish to his second NFL season, while Woods' return provides the Seahawks with veteran experience at either position. The wild card from this group will be Nkemdiche, who didn't play in 2020 but still possesses outstanding physical and athletic traits for the 3-tech role. Assuming he stays healthy and motivated, he edges out Lattimore for the final reserve spot, with the latter signing to the practice squad.
Starters: Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor
Reserves: Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven
Final Cut: Jon Rhattigan
At the second level, Wagner and Brooks will be starting alongside one another from day one of training camp, giving the team an exciting one-two punch in the middle. There's still a chance K.J. Wright could also return, but the Seahawks have an intriguing replacement plan in place in Taylor, who played linebacker for a couple of seasons at Tennessee. With plenty of depth at both defensive end spots, the best way to get the former second-round pick on the field may be in a Bruce Irvin-type hybrid role at strongside linebacker in base packages. Entering their respective third seasons, Barton and Burr-Kirven will remain special teams stalwarts capable of stepping into the lineup in a pinch defensively.
Starters: Ahkello Witherspoon, D.J. Reed, Marquise Blair
Reserves: Tre Brown, Tre Flowers, Ugo Amadi, Damarious Randall
Final Cut: Pierre Desir
Fans will continue to clamor for Richard Sherman to come home, but while that could still happen, the Seahawks have already invested in several affordable veterans with starting experience. This includes one of Sherman's former teammates in Witherspoon, who the organization has been high on dating back to his time starring at Colorado. He and Reed - who both played in San Francisco together - will wind up winning the starting spots in a tight battle against Brown, Desir, and Flowers on the outside. While Blair should bounce back from injury to regain his starting spot, Amadi will see action in the slot as well. Ultimately, Flowers edges Desir for the final outside corner reserve role and Randall's special teams talents allow him to snag one of the final roster spots.
Starters: Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs
Reserves: Ryan Neal, Marquise Blair, Ugo Amadi
Final Cut: None
Without a long-term deal in place, there may be some drama looming between Adams and the Seahawks. That remains to be seen. But if a deal is reached before camp, there shouldn't be any question marks at one of the team's strongest positions. In his second year in Carroll's scheme, Adams should be far more comfortable and he'll be back working in tandem with a fellow Pro Bowler in Diggs, who will man center field once again. Neal filled in admirably for Adams a year ago and may still have a specific role in dime sub-packages along with special teams duties. Blair and Amadi will provide additional insurance if needed with the ability to play both safety spots.
Starters: Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott
One of the NFL's best special teams units will be back fully intact with Myers, Dickson, and Ott all returning. Nothing to see here.