Cardinals tight end Ricky Seals-Jones during offseason work.
Ifeanyi Momah is an engaging conversationalist, but he's no salesman.
The Cardinals tight end made a successful transition from wide receiver a few years ago, which is the same route undrafted rookie free agent Ricky Seals-Jones hopes to take with the Cardinals. While the move worked out for Momah, he can't help but look back wistfully at his former position.
"There are still days now when I want to go play receiver," Momah said. "At receiver there's a lot more fluidity and running. You get a chance to showcase yourself more, where at tight end you're doing a lot of dirty work, hitting and blocking. Sometimes you get to go out for a pass, but you're not always getting that glory like a receiver."
Momah made the switch because his career was on life support, and sacrificing the spotlight of a receiver for the anonymity at tight end was a no-brainer because it gave him a chance to keep playing.
"I'll do whatever I can to keep the job," Momah said. "Tight end. I'll long snap."
Seals-Jones is willing to take a similar path if it gets him an NFL shot. The former five-star recruit went to Texas A&M with high expectations, but his career never took off. Even though Seals-Jones only had 26 catches for 333 yards and a touchdown in nine games as a junior in 2016, he eschewed his final season of eligibility to enter the draft.
His name wasn't called, and so Seals-Jones signed with the Cardinals, and it wasn't a surprise when they asked him to move to tight end.
"Once I left A&M and started training, I kind of took that route of putting a little bit more weight on, learning how to block and running routes with the hand in the dirt," said Seals-Jones, who is 6-foot-5 and 247 pounds. "Once the process started going and talking to a lot of teams, they were like, 'How do you feel about tight end?' I kind of knew from there I needed to start working on that, so when I came in it wasn't brand new."
The Cardinals have four tight ends– Momah, Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas and Hakeem Valles – returning from last year, but only Gresham has produced significantly at the NFL level. Seals-Jones hopes to crack the group, although it's a steep learning curve early on.
"My biggest thing is learning the footwork technique of being on the line of scrimmage," Seals-Jones said. "At A&M, you'd just give them a two-way go for the running back. Here, you may have to step in and seal (the defender on a running play), might have to wash them down. Doing footwork technique, that will make me a lot better."
The receiving part comes more naturally.
"You can tell with Ricky, he gets in and out of his cuts really fast," Momah said. "He's a natural pass-catcher. Sometimes he'll pluck the ball with one hand. Without a question he's a good receiving tight end. That's the way it usually is when you make that transition. The receiving part is natural. That's easy, and it's actually easier playing on the inside in the slot and off the line than it is outside the numbers."
Every rookie that joins the Cardinals has a tough time early on, because the playbook is so much bigger than in college. Seals-Jones has the added issue of learning a new position, but luckily he has a family member to lean on for advice.
Seals-Jones is the cousin of Eric Dickerson, the former star running back of the Rams and Colts.
"We talk maybe three, four times a week, depending on how busy he is and my schedule," Seals-Jones said. "He's always that guy I can come to if I ever need advice in life or football."
Seals-Jones has attempted to get up to speed at tight end this offseason, but the rules forbid contact, which makes it tough to know how well he will fare. Training camp is a different animal, as the pads will go on and he will have to prove himself as a blocker as well as a pass-catcher.
"He's aggressive, he's physical and he's a good athlete," Momah said. "But you can tell, just like with any receiver, switching to tight end you've got to learn the technique. And that's going to take a little bit of time, but he definitely has the intention to do that."
Images of the Cardinals rookies as they navigated the first two months with the team