If two tweets from Jeremy Lane are any indication, the Seahawks may have made a permanent lineup change at cornerback.
The Seahawks were officially off on Tuesday.
But that doesn’t mean some decisions may not have been being made behind closed doors.
And if two tweets from Jeremy Lane are any indication, then the Seahawks appear to have made a permanent change at cornerback, apparently sticking with rookie Shaquill Griffin as the starting right cornerback in the team’s base defense.
Lane tweeted Tuesday afternoon that “How I get bench on a day off !!” and followed that up with “(Expletive) ridiculous.”
Lane, who has been with the Seahawks since being taken in the sixth round of the draft in 2012, hasn’t played since injuring his groin on the first series of a week four win over the Colts on Oct. 1.
Griffin, a third-round pick this year out of Central Florida, took his spot as the base cornerback and the Seahawks went on to win that game plus the next two against the Rams on Oct. 8 and Sunday in New York against the Giants when Seattle allowed just 131 passing yards. The Seahawks are second in the NFL this week in pass defense efficiency at 69.9 and have had opposing QB ratings against of 67.7, 48.9 and 65.5 the past three weeks, the past two games going against Jared Goff and Eli Manning.
Lane had also been the starting nickelback, with Seattle moving him into the nickel and Griffin coming on to play right corner when the team went to its nickel package. Justin Coleman, acquired in a trade with the Patriots before the season, has filled the nickel role with Lane out.
It’s unclear if Lane might mean he lost both roles or just the starting base job.
Regardless, it’s a move that if Lane’s tweet accurately portray what has happened could have some significant potential long-term ramifications.
Lane was signed to a four-year, $23 million contract in March, 2016 with the team hoping to solidify the other cornerback spot opposite Richard Sherman, and desiring to do so with an in-house product after the disastrous signing of free agent Cary Williams going into the 2015 season (Williams was released in November).
Lane played all 16 games last season as the team’s starting nickel with DeShawn Shead emerging as the other starter in the base defense. Lane got some mixed reviews at the end of the season from coach Pete Carroll who said that “he played a lot of football this year” when asked about Lane in his post-season wrapup press conference.
Carroll, though, raved about Lane this offseason and how his approach had changed with Shead having suffered a knee injury in the playoff loss to Atlanta that opened up his starting spot, and Lane was named the starter heading into the season with Griffin the third cornerback.
But Lane was ejected for throwing a punch on the first series of the opener at Green Bay, and has played only 134 snaps due to missing most of the Green Bay game and then all of the last two plus most of the Colts’ game due to injury.
And if Lane is being eased out of the lineup now the team could be prepping to release him after the season (if not sooner) which could give the team some significant salary cap relief in 2018 and 2019. Lane is due for salary cap hits of $7.25 million each of the next two years but with dead money of $2.5 million and $1.25 million, meaning Seattle could save $4.75 million in 2018 and $6 million in 2019, numbers that already had many speculating he might not be back past the 2017 season regardless.
There has also been speculation that the team could look to trade Lane, but his salary cap numbers may not make that real easy, though a team could obviously trade for Lane knowing it could release him after the season, as well. Lane has a base salary of $4 million for this season, but that has already been guaranteed, the team making that move per Lane’s contract in February.
Interestingly, Lane’s Tweet came on a day when two former Seahawks were released — Byron Maxwell by Miami and Marcus Burley by Houston, Seattle’s opponent this week. So if the Seahawks needed some immediate cheap depth of players who know the system options are out there.
Shead also could be back soon. He is now eligible to come off of the Physically Unable to Perform list and could practice for up to three weeks anytime between now and week 11, with the team then having to decide whether to put him on the 53-man roster or Injured Reserve (that decision can be made up to week 14).
Carroll on Monday raved about the progress of Griffin saying: “Yeah, I’m continually impressed with that he’s holding up such a consistent level of play and he’s getting checked out too (by opponents). He’s getting opportunities and all of that, and I think (defensive backs coach) Andre Curtis and (defensive coordinator) Kris (Richard) and our defensive coaches are doing a great job. For him to be playing at this level, he is aggressively playing; he’s not just out there surviving it, he’s going after it and taking on the challenges and he’s played very consistently. That’s what’s really impressive that he hasn’t wavered at all, and I think six games into it, I think he’s going to be okay. I think he can hang in there and maintain against whatever the matchups are. We’ll see; there will be another great one this weekend, and we should see how it goes. I’m really very confident in him at this point.”