The Seahawks now have three cornerbacks who were primary starters a year ago on their roster, further solidifying the position in the wake of the departure of Richard Sherman.
The 6-2, 200-pound Johnson, a fourth-round pick in 2014, started all 16 games last season for the 49ers. But San Francisco recently signed another cornerback you may have heard of — Richard Sherman — making Johnson expendable and giving the Seahawks a need for another veteran. No terms were immediately available.
The signing of Johnson gives Seattle three cornerbacks who were primary starters last season — Johnson with the 49ers and Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman with the Seahawks.
It’s known the Seahawks have been in talks with Byron Maxwell, who ended last season as Seattle’s other starting cornerback and remains unsigned. But the signing of Johnson might mean Maxwell will now look elsewhere. Seattle’s agreement with Johnson comes a day after it was reported he had visited the Vikings.
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Johnson, originally a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2014, started at right cornerback last season for the 49ers. Griffin started there for Seattle last year with Sherman and then Maxwell on the left side. But Seattle could maybe be thinking of moving Griffin to the left side, typically regarded as the more important spot. Coleman, who recently signed his tender as a restricted free agent, is expected to again be the team’s starting nickel in 2018, a role he took over early last season from Jeremy Lane, who was released in March and remains unsigned. Seattle also lost DeShawn Shead, a starting cornerback in 2016, who signed a free agent deal with the Lions.
The 26-year-old Johnson may be best known for picking off a Blake Bortles pass and returning it for a touchdown to spark a late-season 44-33 win for the 49ers over the Jaguars.
But he did not rate real high in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback grades for 2017 at 36.7, allowing a passer rating of 108.7 and a catch percentage when receivers he was covering were targeted of 65.1.
The Seahawks now have seven cornerbacks under contract for 2018 — Johnson, Griffin, Coleman, DeAndre Elliott, Neiko Thorpe, Mike Tyson and Akeem King, though it’s also thought King could be tried as a safety.
Johnson is the eighth free agent signed by Seattle since the signing period began last month joining DE/LB Barkevious Mingo, TE Ed Dickson, WR Jaron Brown, S Maurice Alexander, guard D.J. Fluker and defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen.
Alexander was officially a street free agent since he had been waived last season. The other seven would count against Seattle in the NFL’s compensatory pick formula. At the moment, the Seahawks do not appear in line to get any comp picks in 2019, according to OvertheCap.com.
It was also reported Wednesday that the Dolphins have signed linebacker Terence Garvin, who was a backup for the Seahawks last season (starting three games). He is the eighth Seahawk to sign elsewhere as a free agent, joining Sherman, Shead, tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Paul Richardson, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, offensive lineman Matt Tobin and tight end Luke Willson.