Lane, who has six career NFL starts, received a four-year, $23 million contract in March that included $11 million guaranteed. He will take over the starting job at right cornerback, opposite Richard Sherman.
With the Seahawks set to report for training camp July 29 (practices begin the next day), it’s time to look at the players I feel are most pivotal in 2016.
Call it “16 for ’16,’’ as we count down the 16 most important Seahawks in 2016, unveiling one new player each day until the team reports.
The countdown continues at No. 9, cornerback Jeremy Lane. Here’s a look at the player who received the most money as an unrestricted free agent in 2016 to remain with the Seahawks.
Player: Jeremy Lane.
2016 contract status: Lane is in the first season of a four-year, $23 million contract that included $11 million guaranteed.
Expected 2016 role: Starting right cornerback, opposite Richard Sherman on the left side.
Why he’s ranked here: Last year when the Seahawks needed a starting cornerback opposite Sherman and knew they would lose Byron Maxwell in free agency, they went outside to find a replacement, signing veteran Cary Williams to a three-year, $18 million deal.
At the time, there weren’t a lot of in-house options, with Lane and Tharold Simon coming off of injuries and few other proven players on the roster.
The signing, though, was one of the worst of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, as Williams was waived after 11 games.
The Seahawks could have risked losing Lane and sought a replacement elsewhere this offseason. But the Williams failure weighed heavily in their decision to quickly re-sign Lane to a deal that makes him their 12th-highest-paid player, even though he has just six career starts.
The signing was an indication of how much the Seahawks value Lane, and cornerbacks who have grown up in their system.
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Seattle teaches its cornerbacks a step-kick technique when playing press coverage that although not necessarily unique, isn’t done by everyone. Williams struggled to adapt to it, which played a role in his release.
Asked about the re-signing of Lane, Carroll acknowledged that cornerback might be one spot the Seahawks are better off sticking with their own.
“I like guys that have not been coached by anyone else,’’ Carroll said this spring. “We have only filled their heads with our thoughts; I like that. We can transition guys and all that, but you can really make it a pure process, and we are really strict about how we do our stuff. We spent 20 years putting this stuff together, we really have a deep belief in it, and when we can really assert the thoughts and the ideas and the principles of it, guys can make quick progress.’’
The task for Lane is to show he is worthy of the big contract and larger role.
When Seattle brought back original Legion of Boom member Brandon Browner, many assumed he would compete with Lane for the starting right-cornerback spot (the quarterback’s left side).
Carroll quickly put to rest that idea, though, stating that Browner will be used as a safety, meaning Lane will start at the right cornerback.
Lane, though, figures to move inside to defend the slot when the Seahawks go to their nickel formations. That would make use of his experience as a nickelback and allow Seattle to potentially use a bigger corner such as Simon or DeShawn Shead on the outside in those situations.
However Lane is used, eyes will also be on him to see he responds to the first significant payday of his NFL career.
Lane has played just 13 games the past two seasons due to injuries. But his play when healthy and Seattle’s renewed desire to keep its homegrown cornerbacks when it can led to a big payoff for the former sixth-round draft choice.
Now it’s time for Lane to repay the team’s confidence in him.