SEATTLE — In four years under the guidance of general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have become known for surprise moves when the time comes to cut rosters to the regular-season limit of 53.
So it was again Saturday as Seattle released 15-year veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, who then announced he was retiring, as well as five-year veteran defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who had been listed as the backup to starter Brandon Mebane and started the team’s final exhibition game Thursday against Oakland.
The team also announced it was moving defensive end Chris Clemons, who led the Seahawks in sacks last year with 11.5, from the Physically Unable to Perform List to the active roster, indicating optimism he will return soon from an ACL injury suffered in the playoff victory over Washington on Jan. 6. Clemons, though, has yet been able to practice.
Cutting Winfield will save the team $1 million against the salary cap, money that can be rolled over to next season when the team will have to begin making decisions on some of its bigger-name free agents.
Winfield, signed in the offseason as a free agent, had been competing with Walter Thurmond for the nickelback job, but had not played in the past two exhibition games because of a knee injury suffered in practice. His release, coupled with the news Friday that fullback Michael Robinson had been cut, showed again that the team is not afraid to release veterans to keep talented younger players.
The Seahawks ended up with eight rookies on their final roster, including three undrafted free agents in offensive tackle Alvin Bailey, linebacker John Lotulelei, and maybe the biggest surprise of all, defensive end Benson Mayowa of Idaho, who was signed in May after taking part in a rookie tryout camp.
Also making it were five members of the 2013 draft class — running back Christine Michael, defensive tackle Jordan Hill, tight end Luke Willson, running back Spencer Ware and offensive tackle Michael Bowie.
One draftee who didn’t make it was fourth-round choice Chris Harper, a receiver from Kansas State who had two drops in the game Thursday to cap a lackluster camp. If players clear waivers, the Seahawks can re-sign eight to a practice squad, and Harper could be a prime candidate for that.
Seattle also cut veteran quarterback Brady Quinn, meaning it will enter the season with just two QBs with Tarvaris Jackson backing up starter Russell Wilson.
Jackson was Seattle’s starter in 2011 and re-signed in June after being cut by Buffalo. He led the NFL in quarterback rating in the exhibition season at 131.4.
Two other interesting stories making the team were fullback Derrick Coleman, who is legally deaf, and middle linebacker Allen Bradford, a former running back at USC who the Seahawks decided to try on defense.
The full list of those waived were: WR Phil Bates, DT Michael Brooks, DT Dewayne Cherrington, WR Arceto Clark, TE Darren Fells, DB Winston Guy. Harper, TE Cooper Helfet, DT Jaye Howard, G Rishaw Johnson, TE Sean McGrath, DB Ron Parker, LB Ty Powell, G Ryan Seymour, DB DeShawn Shead, DT Sealver Siliga, G Jared Smith and WR Bryan Walters.
McDonald, Robinson, Quinn and Winfield all technically had their contracts terminated, and linebacker Bruce Irvin was placed on a suspended list and will miss the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The cutting of McGrath also was something of a surprise as that leaves Seattle with just two tight ends — starter Zach Miller and the rookie Willson. However, offensive tackle Mike Person has played increasing snaps at tight end the past two games.
Seattle also added a player to its roster in trading an undisclosed future draft choice to Jacksonville for defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith, who was originally a third-round choice in 2010 out of Louisiana Tech.
Due to injury, Smith has played just eight games in his career, all last season. His acquisition, however, was a clear sign the team is still exploring all options in attempting to shore up a defensive-tackle spot that has been hard hit with injuries throughout camp.
The Seahawks traded for Smith after cutting Siliga, whom it acquired earlier in August in a trade for guard John Moffitt.
Seattle has a bye in Week 12 of the season. Game times are subject to change for TV scheduling.
Aug. 8 Seahawks 31, San Diego 10
Aug. 17 Seahawks 40, Denver 10
Aug. 23 Seahawks 17, Packers 10
Aug. 29 Seahawks 22, Oakland 6
Sept. 8 at Carolina 10 a.m. Ch. 13
Sept. 15 San Francisco 5:30 p.m. Ch. 5
Sept. 22 Jacksonville 1:25 p.m. Ch. 7
Sept. 29 at Houston 10 a.m. Ch. 13
Oct. 6 at Indianapolis 10 a.m. Ch. 13
Oct. 13 Tennessee 1:05 p.m. Ch. 7
Oct. 17 at Arizona 5:25 p.m. NFL
Oct. 28 at St. Louis 5:40 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 3 Tampa Bay 1:05 p.m. Ch. 13
Nov. 10 at Atlanta 10 a.m. Ch. 13
Nov. 17 Minnesota 1:25 p.m. Ch. 13
Dec. 2 New Orleans 5:40 p.m. ESPN
Dec. 8 at San Francisco 1:25 p.m. Ch. 13
Dec. 15 at N.Y. Giants 10 a.m. Ch. 13
Dec. 22 Arizona 1:05 p.m. Ch. 13
Dec. 29 St. Louis 1:25 p.m. Ch. 13