Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks sign UW’s Tupou, see special role for Browner

Seattle’s new fullback Taniela Tupou (99) stretches during a rookie minicamp workout this past Sunday. Tupou graduated from Archbishop Murphy High School and played on the defensive line for the University of Washington.
Seattle’s new fullback Taniela Tupou (99) stretches during a rookie minicamp workout this past Sunday. Tupou graduated from Archbishop Murphy High School and played on the defensive line for the University of Washington. The Associated Press

Brandon Browner will have a special role.

Vernon Adams was a special quarterback at Oregon and Eastern Washington. But he won’t be one for the Seahawks — at least not for now. The fallout of last weekend’s rookie minicamp is that Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps are the current backups behind Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks gave a sixth-round draft choice last summer to Detroit hoping Mohammed Seisay would become special. Now he’s waived.

And Seattle has a potentially special place for Taniela Tupou. The former Washington Huskies defensive lineman is now a 284-pound fullback, after earning a contract from the Seahawks coming out of his weekend tryout.

Along with Tupou, Seattle signed four other players Monday that had tryouts in the three-day, rookie minicamp last weekend: 6-foot-2 cornerback and former North Texas free safety Jamal Marshall, linebacker Pete Robertson, tight end Ronnie Shields and wide receiver Tyler Slavin.

To make room on the 90-man offseason roster the team released veteran reserve defensive tackle A.J. Francis plus defensive tackle Lars Koht and safety Robert Smith. The Seahawks also put wide receiver Jeff Fuller and Seisay on waiver/injured status.

In August, when Seattle traded with Detroit and newly signed cornerback Cary Williams was still an unknown, Seisay briefly was a potential starter at right cornerback. But he could not stay healthy. He injured his groin in the first exhibition game then spent all last season on injured reserve while Williams failed and was cut.

With Seisay’s injury settlement and release and from what coach Pete Carroll said Monday on 710-AM about Browner’s role suggest the Seahawks are going to be mixing and matching at cornerback, safety and nickel back this season. That will be among Browner (signed in March to a one-year, veteran-minimum deal), Jeremy Lane (re-signed to a $23 million, four-year contract), DeShawn Shead, Marcus Burley, perhaps Tharold Simon (if he stays healthy) and whomever else emerges this preseason.

It sounds as if Browner is going to be a match-up specialist against bigger receivers.

“We’re going to use him at safety on base downs,” Carroll said. “And in nickel we are going to use him to match up in different spots and play inside. So we may be able develop a really unique role for him.”

Last season, New Orleans signed Browner to a three-year, $15 million deal then played him at press corner. It was a disaster. He led the league in penalties for the NFL’s second-to-worst ranked pass defense. Browner said he played through a knee injury he suffered in the first preseason game.

Two seasons ago, New England had Browner inside mostly against bigger targets. That worked better; he was a key defender on what became a championship-winning defense when the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49.

Browner was Seattle’s starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman during its Super Bowl-winning season of 2013. He returned this past March for one year and $760,000, not guaranteed.

Arizona’s 6-foot-3, 213-pound Larry Fitzgerald comes out for a key third down in a division game this season? Here comes the 6-4, 221-pound Browner to bang on him off the line for that play. That’s the kind of situational use Carroll has in mind for him.

“We’ve seen (Browner) play in, back to his New England days, they used him quite a bit inside and matched up on tight ends and against slot receivers and things like that,” Carroll said. “See how that develops. Really love having him. He’s such a competitor, such a tough guy.”

Tupou beat out Kyle Coleman from Arkansas-Pine Bluff and 280-pound defensive tackle Cody Fulleton from Dartmouth in his tryout at fullback in the rookie minicamp. Tupou joins Brandin Bryant, a 6-2, 289-pound defensive tackle from Florida Atlantic in the competition to become potentially the biggest fullback in the NFL. Seattle, for that matter, is about the only NFL team still seeking a fullback to be use in a rare, run-based offense.

The Seahawks let more traditional running back Derrick Coleman and 293-pound Will Tukuafu go unsigned into free agency after last season. That leaves them with no experienced fullbacks to block for Carroll’s power-running game.

How big is Tupou to be a fullback? The native of Marysville and veteran of Archbishop Murphy High School caught passes in drills this past weekend while wearing the largest number the team can issue: a defensive tackle-like No. 99.

Now that’s he’s signed the Seahawks have issued him a fullback-like No. 45.

While Tupou made it out of rookie minicamp with a contract, Adams did not. The former college passing phenom was third behind Boykin and Heaps in running the offense this past weekend. Adams said Friday he has a tryout scheduled for this week with Washington. He said his biggest challenge this past weekend was reciting 11-word play calls inside a huddle, something he didn’t do in college.

For now Boykin, the undrafted free agent from TCU, and Heaps, the former Skyline High School star who played at BYU, Kansas and Miami through 2014, are the backups on the 90-man offseason roster.

Boykin was impressive at times over the past weekend, and Carroll mentioned how his similar style to Wilson’s could help with continuity at quarterback.

Seattle would still like to bring back unsigned, veteran backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. The team has been talking to his agent.