The Seahawks on Friday morning announced something that had been expected — that they have re-signed veteran Damarious Randall, who was a reserve safety and special-teamer for Seattle in 2020.
But they then did something that’s not all that common — they announced that the team’s plan is “to move’’ Randall to cornerback.
Cornerback, of course, has been a position of much discussion of late after Seattle lost both of last year’s starters, Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, in free agency.
Those departures, in turn, helped spur speculation that the Seahawks might be interested in a reunion with Richard Sherman, especially after an NFL Network report last month stated that neither side would be opposed to the idea.
Did the usually uber-secret Seahawks volunteer that Randall is moving to cornerback to help quell some of the noise?
The re-signing of Randall means Seattle now has four cornerbacks on its roster with significant NFL experience, the others being free-agent signee Ahkello Witherspoon (who played the last four years with the 49ers) and holdovers D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers.
Seattle also has third-year players Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi as the presumptive competitors at the nickel-corner slot. The release did not say if Randall is being moved to outside corner or nickel. But his experience is as an outside corner.
Also on the roster as cornerbacks are former UW standout Jordan Miller, a 2019 fifth-round pick of the Falcons who signed with Seattle late last season, and Gavin Heslop, a second-year player who spent all of last season on the practice squad.
While Randall carries nowhere near the name recognition of Sherman, he does have ample experience playing cornerback in the NFL.
Randall was a 2015 first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers out of Arizona State, taken 30th overall, and started 30 games at corner for the Packers over the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons.
According to Pro Football Reference, he got 18 starts at left cornerback and 12 at right cornerback.
He twice started at cornerback for Green Bay against Seattle in games the Packers won at Lambeau Field in 2016 and 2017. Randall, in fact, had two of Green Bay’s five interceptions in a 38-10 win over Seattle in 2016, the most interceptions Russell Wilson has thrown in a game in his career. Randall has 14 picks in his career.
Randall, who will turn 29 in August. was traded to Cleveland after the 2018 season for quarterback DeShone Kizer and moved to safety, starting all 26 games in which he played for the Browns, including against the Seahawks in a 2019 game Seattle won in Cleveland.
He signed with the Raiders as a free agent before the 2020 season but was released in the cutdown to 53-player rosters, and in late September signed to Seattle’s practice squad before being promoted to the active roster for good on Oct. 21.
Randall played just 35 snaps on defense last year for Seattle, 10 in mop-up duty of the blowout of the Jets and the rest either as an injury fill-in, or on a few occasions in some specialty nickel and dime packages. He also had 69 snaps on special teams.
The Seahawks signed Randall last September seeking depth at safety in the wake of injuries to Jamal Adams and Lano Hill.
And interestingly, at the time Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he felt safety was Randall’s best position, in part citing his speed (Randall ran a 4.46 40 at the 2015 NFL combine where he also recorded a 38-inch vertical leap).
“He’s played corner in his past,’’ Carroll said then. “And he always felt like he was a safety and felt like he’s been at this best in his history (at safety). I see it that way too, watching the film. He was so fast, everybody wanted to try him at corner. That was the thought. But he’s most at home playing the back end.’’
At that time, Carroll noted the Seahawks had heavily scouted Randall ahead of the 2015 draft, the year Seattle ended up trading its first-round pick for Jimmy Graham.
“Back in the draft-times evaluation, we thought he was a really, really good athlete and all-around ballplayer,’’ Carroll said. “He has great speed, and he’s had a solid playing career. The film that you watch of him is really strong, and he makes a lot of plays and covers a lot of ground, makes a lot of tackles. And he runs 4.3-something, so he has a great range back there.’’
Range that the Seahawks will now try at cornerback, which raises the question of whether the Seahawks are done making any significant additions of veterans to that position.
Despite some impressive maneuvering to create salary-cap space, the Seahawks don’t have much room left — roughly $7 million after accounting for every known contract so far other than that of Randall’s (details on his deal were not yet available).
Witherspoon’s cap hit of $4 million for the 2021 season is tied for the 10th-highest on the team, indicating he is expected to contend for a starting job. Witherspoon was ranked as the sixth-highest-graded cornerback last year by Pro Football Focus out of 121 at the position. Reed started eight games for Seattle last season and was ranked 14th by PFF.
Seattle might consider the trio of Flowers, Randall and Miller as suitable backups/competition to Witherspoon and Reed with Blair and Amadi at nickel. (And yes, it’s also interesting that the signing of Randall came just a few days after Seattle learned Dunbar was signing with Detroit, possibly indicating that Seattle indeed hoped to re-sign Dunbar and is now viewing Randall as a possibly suitable replacement. Dunbar signed for the veteran minimum, which might be what Randall is getting.)
The Seahawks could also use one of their three draft picks — Seattle’s first is at No. 56 in the second round — on a corner, a spot that is regarded as fairly deep (Athlon has listed nine corners as possibilities to go in the first two rounds).
So would that mean no room or need for Sherman?
When it comes to the Seahawks, the safest bet is to never rule out anything.
But it might lessen the odds that much more.
Sherman said earlier this week on “The Cris Collinsworth Podcast featuring Richard Sherman” that he would wait until after the draft — and after it becomes that much clearer which teams still have needs at cornerback — to try to find a new home.
“Well, apparently we got to wait ’til the draft happens before anything else shakes out, because everybody has their hopes and dreams in the draft, which is understandable,” Sherman said. “You turn 33, and then it’s like, ‘We’ll wait until we get a young pup; and if we can’t get a young pup, we’ll take an old fool.’ So that’s where we’re sitting.”