Seahawks Make Roster Moves Before Draft

The Seattle Seahawks recently released linebacker Cameron Jensen. Not that getting rid of Jensen is that earth-shaking; after all, he was on the team's practice squad for all of last season. But his release, which was first reported by Seahawks.NET, means that the Seahawks have only six linebackers on their roster as they head into the draft.

The Seahawks have one of the best starting linebacker corps in the NFL, with regular Pro Bowlers Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson playing alongside Leroy Hill, himself a very talented player. But the players behind those three -- Lance Laury, Will Herring and D.D. Lewis -- are generally unproven commodities better suited for roles on special teams than significant time on defense, particularly in the case of Herring, an undersized college safety converted to linebacker. Lewis, who's been with Seattle before, is the only one with significant playing time.

The Seahawks actually had a very deep linebacker unit last season, with Niko Koutouvides and Kevin Bentley backing up the front three, both with experience. But Koutouvides left for Denver in free agency and Bentley departed for Houston, leaving the Seahawks shorthanded at the position.

Laury was an exclusive rights free agent and Herring is in his second season. If, by chance, one of the top three linebackers is injured, the Seahawks could be in trouble with a defense that relies heavily on its linebackers to make decisions and plays.

Unless one of the top linebackers is available to Seattle in the draft, it seems unlikely the Seahawks will use their first-round pick on a linebacker. But they have to address the position as some point in the next few weeks.

-- The Seahawks announced the signing of punter Reggie Hodges on Thursday. Selected in the sixth round of the 2005 draft out of Ball State by the St. Louis Rams, Hodges has also played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. In 2005, Hodges 41 times for a 37.4 average and nine touchbacks. Since then, he's been mostly on preseason squads. Seattle's current starting punter. Ryan Plackemeier, punted 86 times for a 40.0 average and six touchbacks in 2007.

--The Seahawks signed defensive back Omare Lowe this week, yet another player with ties to general manager Tim Ruskell and coach-in-waiting Jim Mora from their days in Atlanta. Last offseason, the Seahawks' biggest free-agent acquisition was defensive end Patrick Kerney, who had played in Atlanta for nine seasons, including the three years that Mora was coach there.

This offseason, the team signed free-agent running back T.J. Duckett, who played for two seasons in Atlanta under Mora before moving on to Detroit. And then the team signed Lowe, who was in the Seahawks' training camp in 2005 before being released. The University of Washington product played that season and the next for Mora, leading them in special teams tackles.

It is unclear if the moves would have been made had Mora not been in the picture, but that he is exerting his influence on personnel decisions for now the future of the organization seems obvious. The question, of course, is whether this is a smart move given that the Falcons have never had back-to-back winning seasons and Mora's best years in Atlanta came in 2004, when he led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game.

There is some question, however, about whether Lowe will even make the roster. He is their 11th defensive back, and the team usually keeps only eight or nine based on need, with six of the players on the roster assured spots. That he can swing from cornerback to safety bodes well for Lowe, who missed the entire 2007 season on injured reserve.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Seahawks left guard Rob Sims was among the highest-paid NFL players in performance-based pay. Sims, who played all 16 games last season, earned an additional $245,000. He will lose his starting position to Mike Wahle this season, though Sims could start at right guard.

--With 32 compensatory picks being doled out, the Seahawks -- who got none -- have the 25th, 55th, 86th, 121st, 189th and 233rd picks in the upcoming draft, the fewest number of picks the Seahawks have had under Tim Ruskell. Ruskell has had an average of five selections each year make the active roster.

--Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke said that now that the Seahawks are winning games and making money, they are taken more seriously at the league's owner meetings. "We used to be sitting at the kids table at Thanksgiving," Leiweke said. "Now we are invited to sit at the adults' table."

--Though the Seahawks will still hold training camp at their old headquarters in Kirkland, they will have one practice a week at their new facility in Renton so fans can attend, just as they did when training camp was held in Eastern Washington for years.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They really miss me when I'm gone." -- Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren on the teasing he received for being the only coach not to attend the NFL owners meetings.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Seattle Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell said that the signing of defensive back Omare Lowe should be his final move in free agency.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

In free agency, the only players left for the Seahawks to do something with are fullback Leonard Weaver, a restricted free agent who has been given a $1.47 million tender offer, and linebacker Leroy Hill, who becomes a free agent after the 2008 season and a player the team would like to hang onto.

Beyond that, the Seahawks need to spend the next few weeks ranking draft prospects in order of talent. Tim Ruskell has put the team in the position of drafting the best available player in the first round, and there is a chance that a running back, offensive tackle or defensive lineman that the Seahawks covet will be available. If not, they must determine if a player at a position where a need does not need to be filled is worth taking at No. 25.


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