The Seahawks still have some roster calculus to do before they tackle the basic math of wins and losses in their impending regular season.
But they have eliminated one of their biggest roster variables.
An NFL source with knowledge of the imminent transaction confirmed to The News Tribune on Friday night what NBC Sports’ website ProFootballTalk.com reported earlier in the evening, that the Seahawks will release quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
The source requested anonymity because the Seahawks had not yet announced the move. It means the former Oakland Raiders starter will go on league waivers, free for any of the other 31 teams to claim.
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The team will make the announcement, along with Seattle’s final cuts, after 1 p.m. Saturday. That’s the league deadline to trim the roster to 53 players for the NFL opener Thursday against Green Bay and beyond.
Later Friday night Pryor tweeted his Seattle goodbye — with class:
“Being in Seattle was an amazing experience. Great coaches, tech people, equipment management ! Blessing !” the quarterback wrote on his @TerrellePryor Twitter account.
Pryor’s release means trusted, popular 10-year veteran Tarvaris Jackson will be Russell Wilson’s backup for the second consecutive season. Jackson has a contract guaranteeing him $1.25 million this season.
Pryor has one year remaining at a base salary of $705,000 on the four-year deal he signed with the Raiders in 2011. Any team that would claim him off waivers would pick up his contract.
Seattle acquired Oakland’s starter for parts of three seasons for a seventh-round draft choice this offseason. Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were intrigued with the 25-year-old former Ohio State star’s athleticism and creativity. But he often lacked accuracy on even the most basic of throws in practices and in four wildly up-and-down exhibition games this month. Bevell had been trying to get him to be more patient finding receivers downfield while scrambling rather than immediately taking off to run.
Thursday on his former home field he completed 11 of 17 passes with a touchdown at the end of a sharp, 87-yard drive in a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half. It was as good as he’s looked all month. But he also missed on relatively simple throws, such as a fourth-and-3 pass 5 yards downfield to Bryan Walters that he threw 10.
After the Seahawks’ 41-31 loss to the Raiders in the exhibition finale, Pryor sounded apprehensive about his future.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not really my decision to say whether I played great. It’s up to the coaches.”
Carroll was noticeably — and as it turns out, revealingly — blah about Pryor for one of the only times this month when he was asked about his performance following Thursday’s game.
“He made some plays,” Carroll said, without his usual elaboration. “He battled really hard to give us a chance.”
Percy Harvin was away from the team again Friday, a players’ day off following their middle-of-the-night return from Oakland. The previous three days Harvin was gone for what the Seahawks say is a “personal matter.”
When asked Thursday whether he just gave Harvin another day off, Carroll didn’t directly address the issue.
“We left a lot of guys home and there’s a bunch of faces that didn’t make this trip,” the coach said, and left it at that.
The Seahawks have to make a determination Saturday whether linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has been on the preseason physically-unable-to-perform list following spring hip surgery, will indeed get back to practicing next week as Carroll has hoped. If the team deems Irvin too far away, the pass rusher is eligible to go onto the PUP list for the start of the season. That would sideline him for the first six games.
Pryor’s imminent release makes it likely Seattle keeps at least six wide receivers. Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and rookie second-round draft choice Paul Richardson are the top four. Ricardo Lockette seems too valuable as an outside gunner blowing up returners on punts and the first man sprinting down on kickoff coverage to release.
Fourth-round pick Kevin Norwood hasn’t practiced in four weeks after having a bone spur removed from his foot. Seattle wouldn’t have had Norwood fix that in the middle of training camp if it didn’t want to keep the rookie from Alabama around. But do the Seahawks devote a roster spot to him based only on a handful of no-contact practices in late July?
They could put Norwood on the injured-reserve list with a designation to return at midseason, but each team gets just one such designation each year. Seattle may not be willing to use that chip on a backup rookie wide receiver and may instead save it as insurance against an injury to a starter later.
The biggest decision is what to do with Walters. If he makes the team that means All-Pro safety Earl Thomas won’t be the primary punt returner, after all. Carroll gave Walters, the Kirkland native who was on the active roster for February’s Super Bowl, every punt and kickoff return at Oakland. Walters showed fearlessness and quick acceleration at the start of his returns all month, but he fumbled a kickoff return in the first quarter that the Raiders turned into a touchdown on the next play.
Carroll used the ominous term “backbreaking” to describe Walters’ fumble. Did he mean to Walters’ roster chances, too?
Yet in the next breath the coach said: “We really trust in him and believe in him, and he did a great job. He scored a touchdown, made a big catch on a third-down blitz situation. He’s a really good ballplayer.”
And teammates like him; Baldwin was clowning with Walters in the locker room Thursday trying to get him to laugh during an interview.
“I don’t know,” Walters said. “I did what I could do. I left it out there. That one little play I slipped up a little bit but other than that I played my game and that’s all I can control from here.”
By mid-afternoon Saturday, the Seahawks will have their 53 guys set for Thursday’s rapidly approaching opener.
“I’m really happy with how we made it through (the preseason),” Carroll said. “We’re healthy enough to really feel like a good-looking group on both sides of the ball.
“Next time we go, it’s the Packers.”