RENTON — John Moffitt’s tenure in Seattle came to a surprising end Monday, with the Seahawks trading the University of Wisconsin product to Cleveland for defensive tackle Brian Sanford, pending physical examinations, the team announced.
A third-round selection in the 2011 draft by Seattle, Moffitt was considered the long-term answer at right guard. However, injuries derailed his rookie season, and Moffitt had trouble earning his job back after the impressive progress of converted defensive lineman J.R. Sweezy.
With Seattle’s depth at guard bolstered by the steady improvement of rookies Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey, Moffitt potentially could have been part of Seattle’s final roster cuts in two weeks.
Instead, the Seahawks took a flier on a defensive line prospect in Sanford who could help fill out a thin position on Seattle’s depth chart.
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The Seahawks made a similar move two years ago. Bolstered by young depth at cornerback in Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond and Richard Sherman, former first-round draft choice cornerback Kelly Jennings likely was not going to make the 2011 team. So the Seahawks shipped him to Cincinnati for defensive tackle Clinton McDonald.
That trade worked out well for Seattle. McDonald, 26, has ably filled in as a rotational player at defensive tackle behind Brandon Mebane, playing in 29 of a possible 32 games, with 64 tackles in two seasons for the Seahawks.
Jennings, 30, is no longer in the league.
Moffitt, 26, likely will have a chance to start at right guard for Cleveland, with guards Jason Pinkston (high ankle sprain) and Shawn Lauvao (arthroscopic ankle surgery) out for the first few games of the regular season.
Moffitt started nine games at right guard his rookie season before suffering a pair of ligament tears in his left knee – medial collateral and posterior cruciate – that required surgery.
Last year, Moffitt had elbow surgery during training camp, opening the door for Sweezy to start the 2012 season opener at Arizona as a rookie. The two battled for playing time last season, with Moffitt starting six games as he dealt with lingering elbow and knee injuries.
Moffitt, 26, also had issues to deal with off the field. He violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs for not pre-clearing a drug he regularly takes for hyperactivity. Moffitt served a four-game suspension while on the injured reserve list in 2011.
And this summer, he pleaded guilty in Bellevue District Court to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct stemming from three separate incidents at Bellevue Square mall in 2012. Moffitt had to pay a fine of $1,407, and received a suspended sentence of 24 months in jail.
Moffitt initially faced two misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.
Moffitt, who arrived at training camp in the best shape of his three-year NFL career, doesn’t think he got a fair shake in the competition with Sweezy.
“I was kind of shocked,” Moffitt told KJR-AM radio about the trade. “Because I still thought that I was kind of in this, still battling with the whole compete thing. I thought that was still going on. And then this happened. But I think that’s a part of the game, and I really don’t hold any ill will toward anyone.”
Sanford, 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, signed with the Browns as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple in 2010, and spent most of his first season on the team’s practice squad.
In three seasons with Cleveland, Sanford appeared in six games, with five tackles and no sacks.
SEAHAWKS BOOT WIGGS
The kicker competition apparently is over as the Seahawks waived Carson Wiggs, replacing him with defensive end Dewayne Cherrington on the 90-man roster.
Wiggs struggled with consistency in practice and in games. The Purdue product missed from 43 yards in last week’s game against the Broncos. He also missed several attempts from inside 50 yards during training camp.
Wiggs would have been a cheaper alternative to starter Steven Hauschka, who is set to make $715,000 in base salary this season.
However, Hauschka’s always been consistent inside 50 yards. He has converted 80 out of 82 extra points and 49 out of 57 field-goal tries (86 percent), with a long of 52, in his two seasons with the Seahawks.
In 2012, Hauschka made 24 out of 27 field goals for a career-high 118 points. He also set a franchise record with 14 games in a row with a made field goal, from Oct. 9, 2011, to Sept. 16, 2012. But Hauschka’s weaknesses include 3-for-8 kicking from 50 yards or more with Seattle and 41.4 percent touchbacks on his kickoffs, No. 22 in the NFL last year.
However, Hauschka has shown a much stronger leg this season. He almost made a 61-yarder against San Diego. And five of his nine kickoffs in exhibitions have resulted in touchbacks.
At 6-3 and 335 pounds, Cherrington is a Mississippi State product signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by New England on May 3, and released by the Patriots on June 10. Cherrington reportedly visited the Seahawks last week.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org @eric_d_williamsblog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks