Because Shead played in only the final two games last season, he would have been stuck on the same $1.05 million contract in 2018 because of an NFL "toll" rule.
The Seahawks plan to release cornerback DeShawn Shead on Monday, his agent, Cameron Foster, said Saturday afternoon, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.
But the Seahawks aren’t doing it because they don’t want Shead on the team any longer. Instead, the move is designed to keep a favor to a player who has been a favorite of coaches and teammates since arriving in the league as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and Foster said the Seahawks have made it clear they hope to keep Shead in Seattle.
Shead played last season on a one-year contract for $1.05 million, appearing in only the final two games of the season due to a knee injury suffered in the playoff loss to Atlanta in January, 2017.
Because Shead played in only the final two games, the NFL had recently determined that Shead’s 2017 contract could “toll” and he would have to play in 2018 for Seattle on the same deal.
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That’s due to a clause in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that states that players not activated off the Physically Unable to Perform List until after the sixth game of the season in the final year of their contract must have their contracts tolled (Shead was not activated until Dec. 23).
But Foster said in an interview Saturday that the NFL Players Association has offered a different interpretation of the rule — that being active at any time of the season should mean the contract will not toll.
Foster said the Seahawks went along with that interpretation as well as doing Shead something of a favor in allowing him to hit free agency, which had been the understanding of each side when Shead signed to stay in Seattle last spring.
KJR-AM and ESPN.com first reported the news Saturday and Foster later confirmed it to the Seattle Times.
Shead has indicated on social media several times in recent weeks that he will be an unrestricted free agent. But Foster said the league informed him a few days ago that he would not be via the clause in the CBA.
“So the Seahawks are going to be nice and said ‘we are going to release him because we promised him this and we want him back and we want him happy,”’ Foster said. “So it’s not like they don’t want him to come back. So we’ll see what happens.”
Shead had hoped to fully explore free agency following the 2017 season, when he was slated to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career after also having been a full-time starter for the first time in his career, starting at right cornerback.
But his knee injury scuttled those plans and he took a one-year deal with the Seahawks with the hope that he would get healthy and then could again hit free agency.
Foster said that just as the Seahawks have told Shead they’d like him back that Shead “would love to stay a Seahawk.”
But for Shead, being a free agent after starting all of the 2016 season and then playing enough at the end of last season to show he was healthy represents his best chance to date to make a big payday.
Foster said Shead already has a visit lined up with the Detroit Lions on March 15, the day after the official beginning of the free agent signing period.
Shead Tweeted in January that he was under the impression he would be a free agent, and since then has generally been considered as one in media free agent listings.
“Having a good time working out this offseason!,” Shead wrote then. “It’s a blessing to be able to hit this grind healthy. It’s surreal that I’m a free agent but I’m excited to see what the future holds and where I will end up!’’
Said Foster: “The league was just abiding by he written rule but the Seahawks are being honorable and doing what we all thought they would do.”
Shead’s release, combined with the releases on Friday of Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane means that Seattle has just four cornerbacks currently under contract for the 2018 season — Shaquill Griffin, Mike Tyson, Neiko Thorpe and DeAndre Elliott.
Thorpe — who has played rarely on defense in his two years with Seattle but is one of the team’s best special teamders — is actually the highest-paid, with a cap hit in 2018 of $1.9 million, which had led to some speculation that he could also be a cap casualty.
Justin Coleman, who was the team’s starting nickel last year, is a restricted free agent and it is expected the Seahawks will tender him to keep him in the fold.
Byron Maxwell, who ended last season as the starter at left cornerback in place of Sherman, is among the team’s 16 players who will become unrestricted free agents Wednesday but has said he would like to return.
Shead, though, could also be used as a safety — he has played both safety spots and cornerback in his time with the Seahawks — and coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Combine last week that Seattle could again used him at safety, if he is re-signed.
“We’ll see what happens,” Carroll said. “We know he can play corner and we like the way he plays at corner, but everything is open. I have not talked directly to him about that, but we have mentioned it to him.”