Coleman was Seattle's primary nickelback the last two seasons and started 10 games over the last two seasons.
The Seahawks suffered their first official loss of free agency Monday when it was reported that cornerback Justin Coleman will sign with the Detroit Lions. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network was the first to report the agreement, stating that Coleman will now be the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the NFL. The deal came a few hours after the beginning of the league’s official “legal tampering” period when teams can begin to negotiate with agents of players whose contracts run out on Wednesday.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Coleman will sign a four-year deal worth up to $36 million. Of defensive players currently under contract for the Seahawks and expected to be on the roster in 2019, the only two who would make more are Frank Clark (who was recently tagged at $17.128 million per season) and Bobby Wagner ($10.5 million per year). Kam Chancellor also has a base salary of $10 million in 2019 but is likely to be released before the season. Coleman’s deal tops the three-year, $25.8 million deal Baltimore gave nickel corner Tavon Young last month.
Coleman was acquired by Seattle from New England for a 2018 seventh-round pick before the 2017 season and eventually beat out Jeremy Lane as the team’s primary starter in 2017. He was retained in 2018 when he was given a tender as a restricted free agent, making $2.91 million for the season.
The Seahawks anticipated Coleman getting a significant raise as an unrestricted free agent and it had been expected he would likely not be retained, one reason the team last week re-signed restricted free agent Akeem King.
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In Detroit, Coleman will be reunited with Matt Patricia, who was the defensive coordinator with the Patriots when Coleman played there in 2015 and 2016.
Coleman had three interceptions in two seasons with Seattle, returning two for TDs, both in 2017.
Seattle currently has six cornerbacks under contract for the 2019 season: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, King, Simeon Thomas, Kalan Reed and Jeremy Boykins. Griffin and Flowers will return as the team’s projected starting outside cornerbacks in 2019 — Flowers on the right side and Griffin on the left.
Reed is thought one player who could help replace Coleman as a nickel. Reed was promoted to Seattle’s 53-man active roster in November after another NFL team approached about signing him off the practice squad. Seattle promoted him to retain him with an eye on the 2019 season, similar to the move they made in 2017 with receiver David Moore.
The 5-11, 199-pound Reed did not play in any games for Seattle in 2018 but played in seven with Tennessee in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was a seventh-round pick of the Titans out of Southern Mississippi in 2016.
The Seahawks obviously can also continue to monitor the free agent market to fill out the depth, as well as having a chance to take one in the 2019 draft.
Teams who suffer a net loss of unrestricted free agents are eligible for 2020 compensatory draft picks. Nick Korte of OvertheCap.com estimated that the Seahawks could be eligible for a fourth-round pick for Coleman in 2020, based on his reported salary. The comp pick formula weighs a team’s free agency gains against its losses and the final declarations on picks for 2020 won’t be made until sometime early in 2020.