NFC West: Dan Curran
The Seahawks released defensive tackle Kevin Brown, fullback Dan Curran, linebacker Shane Simmons and tight end John Tereshinski as the NFL's 75-man roster deadline approaches. Teams have until Tuesday to comply with the limit.
None of the four players released was considered likely to challenge for a spot.
The Seahawks' decision to sign 31-year-old Edgerrin James and confer upon him "complementary" status behind "workhorse" Julius Jones showed what the team thought about its quality depth at running back: not a great deal.
The move upgraded the position, in my view, because James is better suited than was T.J. Duckett to step into the lineup on a full-time basis if needed.
But the Seahawks still might be chasing the rest of the NFC West at the position.
James' signing provides an opportunity to size up the position across the division.
I ranked each team's situation at running back in my mind before calling Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to talk through each situation. He felt more strongly than I did about ranking the Rams' situation No. 1, ahead of the 49ers' situation. We agreed on ranking the Cardinals' running backs third, ahead of the Seahawks' backs.
Rankings and explanations follow:
1. St. Louis Rams
Current backs: Steven Jackson, Samkon Gado, Antonio Pittman, Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Mike Karney (FB), Jerome Johnson (FB)
Williamson's take: "Adrian Peterson is the best back in the league and I would probably give the No. 2 honor to DeAngelo Williams right now, but then Steven Jackson is right there -- if healthy, of course. I think he'll get a ton of touches there. They are installing more of an Eagles-type offense. He'll be a bigger, badder version of Brian Westbrook and catch a lot of balls. He will also be the focus of every defense and there could be a greater chance of injury. Karney is a little more athletic than some of the pure straight-ahead hammer blockers. He has had injury problems, too."
My take: The 49ers' overall depth at running back appeals, but Jackson is unquestionably a special player athletically, more so than any back in the division. Special traits always appeal to the scout, which might explain why Williamson was quick to rank the Rams' running backs ahead of those in San Francisco. From my perspective, the Rams' situation at running back might be best in the division while it lasts. I question whether Jackson can hold up for a full season. The drop-off from Jackson to the next guy -- whoever it might be -- will be more dramatic than elsewhere in the division. That's another reason I'm a little nervous about ranking the Rams' running backs No. 1.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Current backs: Frank Gore, Glen Coffee, Michael Robinson, Kory Sheets, Moran Norris (FB), Bill Rentmeester (FB), Brit Miller (FB)
Williamson's take: "I like Gore as well. I would say he is more of the fifth- to 10th-best back in the league. I do not think his skills are as impressive as Jackson's skills. He is also going to be a jack-of-all-trades and get a ton of touches, but his job will be a little easier because I think their passing game will be more respectable than St. Louis' passing game. Of the fullbacks, I like Norris probably the best in the division. He will help Gore's cause. I don't think that is a determining factor one way or another, though."
My take: Gore has shown signs of wearing down late in seasons. He could be at additional risk as the team commits more fully to a run-oriented power scheme. But his toughness and running style earn him high marks. He's enjoying a sensational summer and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has said Gore will matter more than the quarterback. All signs point to Gore revisiting the production level he enjoyed during the 2006 season. And with Coffee breaking out in the preseason, the 49ers appear better protected than the Rams if their starter gets hurt.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Current backs: Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jason Wright, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Chris Vincent, Dan Kreider (FB), Tim Castille (FB), Reagan Maui'a (FB)
Williamson's take: "James is more proven than Hightower, but Hightower is cheaper. I don't think he is a special player at all. He has had a better preseason than I expected, but he does not bring any special quality to the table. He is not an extremely powerful player, he is not going to wear down defense, his pass-catching skills are ordinary, he is not a make-you-miss guy and he is not a speed player. Wells has the most talent of any back in Arizona or Seattle."
My take: Cutting James and adding Wells is like moving money from a savings account into something riskier. James was never going to pay off big at this stage of his career. Wells has the talent to complete an already productive offense, but it's tough to believe he'll be healthier in the NFL than he was in college. I know he didn't miss many games at Ohio State, but he's already missed a bunch of training camp. The burden of proof is on Wells at this point. Hightower has been more productive in the preseason because he has taken the opportunity seriously. He looks leaner and quicker than he was last season. The Cardinals can get more from this position by resisting the temptation to throw so frequently.
4. Seattle Seahawks
Current backs: Julius Jones, Edgerrin James, Justin Forsett, Devin Moore, Owen Schmitt (FB), Justin Griffith (FB), Dan Curran (FB), David Kirtman (FB)
Williamson's take: "I don't trust Jones to carry the load. I probably like him better than Hightower, though. I don't like him as a No. 1, but I don't know if either team has a No. 1 right now. Wells has the best chance. Jones is a complementary player, a gets-what-is-there kind of back. I don't think he is a great receiver or anything. He is not tremendously powerful or elusive. Justin Forsett is probably the most intriguing back between Arizona and Seattle. With Edgerrin James, I don't have a lot of faith in him. One thing people don't understand about his game, though, is that he is a great pass-protection back. He will be used more out of the backfield than he was the last couple years, especially with Seattle's offensive line being shaky. He can grind out some yards and could be good in the red zone."
My take: The Seahawks haven't targeted the position early in the draft recently and it shows. Paying Shaun Alexander all that money a few years ago set back the position. The team wasn't going to immediately invest as much in a replacement. Jones and James are both very good in pass protection, though, and I think that will help the offense more than the running stats will show. This looks like a pass-first team on paper. We'll find out whether the zone blocking scheme can manufacture production. Having the same five offensive linemen for more than a week or two would certainly help. Forsett has been the Seahawks' most impressive back this summer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The race among Seahawks receivers for the last couple roster spots features high stakes.
Contenders Jordan Kent, Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor are no longer eligible for the practice squad. One or two of them could be finished in Seattle, at least for now, if they fail to earn spots on the initial -- not even close to final -- 53-man roster.
Kent and Taylor each were active for at least nine games last season -- Obomanu was active for 12 in 2007 -- as the Seahawks worked through catastrophic injuries at the position. That made each receiver ineligible for future practice squads.
Deon Butler, Mike Hass, Logan Payne and Michael Bumpus are the current Seattle receivers with eligibility remaining. Butler is expected to emerge from camp as the fourth receiver behind T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Nate Burleson.The chart shows all 29 current Seahawks players with eligibility, arranged by position.
NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
As the NFL puts it:
After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s).
A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.
The Seahawks face tough decisions on the defensive line, with Nick Reed and Michael Bennett fighting for spots on the 53-man roster. Baraka Atkins is not eligible for the practice squad after playing 12 games as a rookie in 2007 and nine more last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks have a few tough decisions to make before reducing their roster to 53 players in less than three weeks.
The final spot or two at receiver remain unsettled. I see at least 10 defensive linemen worth keeping, but perhaps no more than eight offensive linemen. The final spots at all three general positions on defense -- line, linebackers and secondary -- could spur debate.
The Seahawks aren't even certain which kicker will earn a roster spot, opening possible trade scenarios for teams with needs at the position.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the Seahawks might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Rams.
Here's a quick look at which Seahawks players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
RENTON, Wash. -- Aaron Curry spent the last two weeks biding his time in the Seattle area while his agents worked toward a contract agreement.
By Saturday, Curry said he was approaching his breaking point. He seemed to be only half-joking when he said he considered sneaking into team headquarters to watch practice from a secret location. Missing the first eight days of camp was that tough, he said.
The Seahawks threw Curry into practice only hours after reaching the six-year agreement. The rookie first-round choice struggled some in one-on-one coverage drills. Cameron Morrah, Dan Curran and John Carlson were among those to beat Curry in the drill, although one of the NFL game officials monitoring practice flagged Curran for offensive pass interference.
Later in practice, Curry could have laid out Morrah. He let up at the last moment because the team was not wearing pads for this session.
Tatupu stayed in close contact with Curry throughout the rookie's absence, relaying what coaches were discussing in meetings. According to Curry, Tatupu even offered to meet with Curry at a nearby hotel to walk him through any new wrinkles. It never came to that, Curry said, because the staff didn't introduce anything too different from what they discussed during minicamps and organized team activities.
Curry said was "very scared" he would miss too much camp. He had told his agents he could wait only so long without getting a deal done, and that he felt Saturday was getting close to the end of that window. Even so, Curry said he had no idea a deal was near until the very end.
NFC West teams will be releasing or otherwise removing from their rosters players before training camps open in late July.
Download full 26-column rosters here.
A few quick roster-related notes for NFC West teams:
Arizona: Fourth-oldest team in the league overall, but projected starters are 17th-oldest (offense) and 18th-oldest (defense); league-most three receivers with Pro Bowl experience, counting special-teamer Sean Morey; division-high six tight ends on the roster, but have kept more than three only once on last five opening-day rosters.Note: Go ahead and add former Falcons tackle Renardo Foster to the Rams' roster. The team claimed him off waivers, successfully.
San Francisco: Division-high 10 players with Pro Bowl experience, counting the injured Walt Harris; 12 starters drafted among the top 50 overall choices, most in the division; five defensive backs drafted by other teams, third-most in NFL; division-high eight starters drafted in first round, division-low one starter drafted in third round.
St. Louis: Three players with Pro Bowl experience, tied for fewest in the NFL; carrying 12 receivers, one off the league high, reflecting uncertainty at the position; projected starting front seven averages division-low 264 pounds with James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker and Adam Carriker's listed weight of 296 pounds (reported as 310 pounds at times previously).
Seattle: League-low 12 defensive backs; the Seahawks signed fullback Dan Curran after he practiced on a tryout basis; 34 defensive players, fewest in the league; sixth-oldest offensive starters in the league; five wide receivers drafted by other teams, most in the NFL; front seven averages a division-leading 274 pounds, based on listed weights.