A Seahawks career that began with the highest of expectations — comparisons to Richard Sherman — then was sidetracked by his involvement in a well-publicized criminal investigation came to a quiet end Monday when cornerback Quinton Dunbar agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions.
The announcement was made by Dunbar’s agency, Elite Loyalty Sports, and came after he took an official visit to Detroit.
The news came about 12-and-a-half months after Seattle acquired Dunbar in a trade with Washington, giving up a fifth-round draft choice for a player who in 2019 had received the second-highest grade among all cornerbacks other than Sherman from Pro Football Focus. His position coach with Washington, Ray Horton — a former star at the University of Washington — told The Seattle Times last spring “really, that’s what you are getting is a young Richard Sherman.’’
But a month later, Dunbar was arrested in Miramar, Florida, for an alleged role in an armed robbery. Dunbar was later cleared of all charges, but the incident marked a rocky beginning to a Seattle career that never got on track.
The legal issues helped contribute to a late arrival to training camp. He also showed up with a nagging knee injury. He tried to play through it, but the injury contributed to some spotty showings. Dunbar was eventually shelved for the season following a particularly rough outing at Buffalo, having played only six games with 28 tackles and one interception.
Dunbar eventually had surgery on the knee and Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Dunbar would be ready for the 2021 season and that the Seahawks still considered him in their long-term plans.
“We’re talking to him like we’d like him to come back,’’ Carroll said in January.
And the Seahawks are thought to have made attempts to keep Dunbar, especially after seeing Shaquill Griffin sign with Jacksonville last month, meaning both of the players who started the season a year ago at cornerback are now gone.
But Seattle also had to be careful with its salary cap space after making a number of other moves in recent weeks.
That Dunbar won’t return now leaves the question of what else the Seahawks might do to bolster the cornerback position.
Seattle has three players who saw snaps at outside cornerback spots last year — Ahkello Witherspoon (a former 49er who signed a one-year deal as a free agent) and holdovers Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed. Both Reed and Flowers started games for Seattle last season, with Reed starting the final five games in place of Dunbar at right cornerback.
Also on the roster are former Husky Jordan Miller, a fifth-round draft choice of the Falcons in 2019 who Seattle signed late last season, and Gavin Heslop, who was active for one game last season as a rookie, as well as Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi, who will likely compete for the nickel corner spot.
Miller, in particular, could be a wild card in the equation. A suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs in 2019 and injuries last season led to his Atlanta career never getting off the ground. He played in just 11 games for the Falcons.
But Miller is 6 feet 1 and has the length Seattle likes — his arms measured 32.875 inches at the combine in 2019 — and the Seahawks might view him as a legitimate contender for playing time at one of the outside spots.
Seattle also could look to add a corner in the draft (it’s regarded as a pretty good year) or through free agency.
And that could fuel more rumors of a potential reunion with Sherman, who remains available after spending the past three seasons with the 49ers.
An NFL Network report last month stated both the Seahawks and Sherman would not rule out a return.
Among other veterans who remain available are Casey Hayward, Steven Nelson, Bashaud Breeland and Nickell Robey-Coleman.