The Seahawks' preseason came to an end with Thursday night's loss to the Raiders, but while players will have a bit of time to rest this weekend before beginning preparation for the regular-season opener, these next few days are critical for the Seahawks front office, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider in particular.
On Saturday afternoon, NFL teams must trim their rosters from 90 to 53 players, which means between now and then Carroll, Schneider, assistant coaches and scouts will take one final hard look at their roster and decide who stays and who goes. It's a challenging process, but one the Seahawks are looking forward to because they like what this team can potentially look like when the dust settles this weekend.
"Everything is about looking forward and making these roster decisions and figuring it out and putting it together," Carroll said following Thursday's game. "We'll be competing like crazy the next couple days and that's how we know how to do it. I'm excited about getting to our 53. We really like the guys that we have and the guys that can play for us in spots. We've got roles for guys to take over. We've got a real clear thought about what we're doing with a lot of stuff. It's really exciting that we're to that point now, and we have not been able to show you, we have not been able to put it out in front, but we know what we're doing with this and we're excited about this and we're looking forward to getting it all pared down and away we go."
Carroll's coaching staff and Schneider's scouting department have played crucial roles in this evaluation process, and will continue to offer feedback, but ultimately it will be a long weekend for the two men in charge as they make the difficult decisions. And it's not just as simple as cutting 37 players by Saturday; the Seahawks will also be watching what other teams do, seeing if there is value to be found on the waiver wire on Sunday, and there is always trade talk this time of year—last year the Seahawks added Justin Coleman and Sheldon Richardson on the Friday before cuts. In other words, Saturday's 53-man roster could feature a player or two who wasn't on the team Thursday, and Sunday's 53-man roster could look different than Saturday's.
"It comes down to John and I doing a lot of the work," Carroll said when asked what takes place over the next few days. "We've done a lot of preliminary work to get to this point. We have decisions that we have to call on. There's certain things we have to do. The coaches are all available through the next couple days for work and going back and making evaluations that we need. We'll be looking at players around the league as well. So, everybody's kind of on call to be available to make whatever decisions we need to make. But it's really up to John and I to put this thing together. Everybody's really contributed to this point. This (fourth preseason) game is important. We don't want to be impatient about making decisions. We're going to get to the film first, and make sure that we've seen everything that we need to see."
Of course, as exciting as this time can be and as important as it is to the future of the team, it's also a difficult one for players who receive bad news over the next few days. Some players who are cut will quickly find jobs, either on other teams' 53-man rosters or on a practice squad, with Seattle or elsewhere, but the unfortunate reality is that for some NFL hopefuls, Thursday night could end up being their final NFL game.
"This is the worst of the worst now," Carroll said of making roster cuts. "I spent most of the time (Wednesday) night talking to these guys about how grateful we were about how they worked and the effort that they've brought and the mentality. You guys have asked what's going on in the locker room; these guys have been awesome. All through the offseason, from the time we got back in April, these guys have set their sights on going after these opportunities and try to see where they could make their spots. They've been extraordinary and it's been a blast to coach these guys. The entire offseason, we maxed that out. In camp, everything worked great. I just wished we had won a couple games and had a little more fun in the locker room, but other than that, these guys, they've really bust their ass the whole time. I was really fired up to be with them tonight. So now that we have to separate from some guys and transition here, it's really hard. It's a big day for guys in the next couple days. It is for the coaches as well—it's much more difficult for the players—but we'll figure it out. What's always happened for us is that a lot of guys that have come through here and made an impression, they come back to us in time. We see a lot of guys throughout the depth chart that could do that and could be available to us, so we think we've really nurtured some good guys to help us as we need guys to call in to fill the roster as we go through the season."