Depending on your perspective, the Seahawks might have an enviable situation at cornerback as they enter the offseason.
To fill the three main cornerback roles, Seattle has three recently drafted young corners, all of whom have shown promise, one earning a Pro Bowl bid this year. Combined, Seattle’s cornerbacks are due to make $3.7 million next season, according to OvertheCap.com, less than all but two other teams, and that potentially frees up lots of resources to use elsewhere.
But the end of the season also showed maybe Seattle isn’t as set at cornerback as it might have hoped.
Second-year right corner Tre Flowers had noted struggles in the two playoff games and it’s hard to know yet if Ugo Amadi can really be a long-term answer at nickel.
The Seahawks also will have to decide within the next 12 months or so how much they think Shaquill Griffin is worth — now that he is into the final year of his rookie contract, they can offer him an extension. Do the Seahawks really think Griffin is a worthy successor to Richard Sherman? They’ll let their checkbook do the talking on that answer at some point over the next year.
As we continue our review of Seattle’s position groups, here is a look at the cornerback spot.
Snaps played in regular season: 978.
Contract situation: Two years left on four-year rookie deal.
2019 number to know: Three interceptions tied linebacker K.J. Wright for the team lead.
Snaps played in regular season: 917.
Contract situation: One year left on original four-year rookie contract and eligible for an extension.
2019 number to know: 12 passes defensed most on the team, one more than Flowers.
Snaps played in regular season: 267.
Contract situation: Now an unrestricted free agent.
2019 number to know: Started three games — victories against Atlanta and Carolina and the home defeat against Arizona. Played substantially in nickel and dime packages against Eagles and Vikings in regular season but saw no defensive snaps in playoffs.
Snaps played in regular season: 76.
Contract situation: Entering second season of four-year rookie deal.
2019 number to know: Was the primary nickel in the playoffs with a combined 25 snaps in the games against Eagles and Packers.
Others on roster in 2019
Ryan Neal, played only special teams; Jamar Taylor, began the year as the nickel back but was cut midway through; Neiko Thorpe, played 22 snaps before being lost for the year in November and now is an unrestricted free agent.
The Seahawks went into the season hoping for Griffin to bounce back in Year 3. He showed making the move to right corner in 2018 might not be as easy as the Seahawks thought it would be. They also hoped for Flowers, a surprise as a rookie in 2018, to continue progressing in Year 2.
The perception is that they got one of the two. Griffin earned a Pro Bowl berth as a replacement, while Flowers endured something of a sophomore slump.
Interestingly, the gap between Griffin and Flowers might not have been as wide as perceived. According to Pro Football Focus, teams had a passer rating of 96.3 when Griffin was the nearest defender, as opposed to 82.6 when Flowers was nearest. One reason: Flowers had three interceptions to Griffin’s zero, which factors heavily into the formula.
Griffin plays on the opponent’s right side, while Flowers is on the left, which is an obvious mitigating factor.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, though, said frankly at the end of the season his message to Flowers was “we’ve got to get better” in 2020.
The Seahawks had a merry-go-round at the nickel corner spot. Amadi got the start in the opener against the Bengals, who threw for 418 yards. Seattle then brought back veteran Jamar Taylor, who held that spot until he was released after struggling in the victory at San Francisco.
King then played the nickel spot the next three weeks (in part to match up against the Eagles and Vikings’ tight-end-heavy offenses) before the Seahawks turned to Amadi for the rest of the year.
Carroll said later he wished the Seahawks decided on using Amadi there earlier. Amadi has some room to grow, as the playoff game showed and as should be expected of a rookie who had played little.
King started three games as an injury replacement for Griffin (twice) and Flowers (once). Otherwise, aside from the departed Taylor, no one else played much at corner for Seattle in 2019.
With the top three corners at the end of the season under contract, Seattle doesn’t have to do much at this spot if it doesn’t want.
It seems unlikely the Seahawks are going to give up on Flowers. But it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to add a corner to compete at that spot — one who might be able to help at nickel — either via the draft or free agency.
There are a few big names potentially available, such as Dallas’ Byron Jones, Denver’s Chris Harris and Carolina’s James Bradberry. But the Seahawks haven’t had a ton of success bringing in veterans from the outside (the most notable failure being Cary Williams, who signed a three-year deal in 2015 and was released after playing just 10 games).
The Seahawks are more likely to sign a veteran to a low-risk deal and add via the draft. If it doesn’t bring King back, Seattle at least has to find someone to fill that role (last month, the Seahawks signed Brian Allen, a Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-round choice in 2017 who was on the practice squad much of last season, to a futures contract.)
However, the Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback higher than the third round (Griffin in 2017) during the Carroll/John Schneider era, and only one other higher than the fifth round. That might be the more-expected course of action again.
Up next: Safeties.