RENTON – Two things have been made abundantly clear over the three-plus years Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been at the helm of the Seahawks.
One, they don’t shy away from players with past legal troubles. Bruce Irvin and Marshawn Lynch are prime examples that a less-than-impeccable record isn’t necessarily a deal breaker in Seattle’s eyes.
Two, they seek out players with builds that are unique to a given position. Seattle’s defense has physical oddities at every level.
In that way, Tharold Simon is the quintessential Seahawks pick. When they chose the LSU product in the fifth round on Saturday, it was another sign of their affinity for oversized cornerbacks as well as their willingness to take on a player who at one point or another had been in trouble with the law or his college team – or in this case, both.
That’s not to say the Seahawks prefer players with rough edges or rap sheets, they’re just perhaps less inclined than other teams to make assumptions about someone who’s found himself in some legal hot water.
So they didn’t rush to judgment when Simon was arrested in his hometown of Eunice, La. Thursday – the first night of the draft – and charged with public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise after a dispute with an off-duty police officer who had told him to move his car.
“We were able to speak with his attorneys and feel comfortable with the situation,” Schneider said. “That’s really all I can say about it.”
According to the Associated Press, a police report stated that Simon told the officer he could have him fired and then resisted as he was being arrested for making that threat.
“I had 30 witnesses right there that know I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t say nothing wrong. I’m a humble guy,” Simon said during a conference call after he was drafted. “I’m embarrassed about what happened because it shouldn’t have happened.”
Simon already had one blemish on his resume – a failed drug test in 2011 that led to a one-game suspension – so there’s no doubt he was relieved to be drafted following an arrest that could not have come at a worse time. He wasn’t entirely surprised it was Seattle that chose him, though. And he wasn’t disappointed, either.
“I was just watching the draft, hoping they would take me,” he said. “I knew they liked me a lot.”
Simon, listed as tall as 6-feet-3 and anywhere from 193 to 202 pounds, has the size and physicality that are distinguishing traits of Seattle’s cornerbacks. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are both over 6-feet-3 and weigh at least 195 pounds, physical anomalies at a position that traditionally has required the quickness, agility and top-end speed not often found in players that big.
The fact that Sherman and Browner have become arguably the NFL’s best cornerback duo speaks to how the Seahawks differ from the rest of the league in the way they evaluate players – focusing more on what they can do as opposed to what they can’t.
“Those longer guys, they’re always going to be a little bit tighter than someone like Marcus Trufant coming out – really loose and quick and could move,” said Ed Dodds, one of the Seahawks’ area scouts. “But they don’t have to be that loose because they’re so long. The passing game is all timing, and they’re at the line of scrimmage disrupting and then their length enables them to get back into position when they’re really kind of not in position.”
Dodds saw that ability in Simon, a player he had scouted for the past two seasons. Simon isn’t the fastest cornerback in this year’s class – the Seahawks clocked him at 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day – but he can recover when it appears he’s been beat.
Dodds remembered a play from last season in which Simon was trailing a receiver who had gained separation before he closed and made the interception.
“I’m going, ‘There’s no way he catches this ball,’ and he caught it,” Dodds said.
The Seahawks see Simon as an outside corner as opposed to one who will cover the slot, so any playing time he gets as a rookie will most likely come on special teams or if Sherman or Browner become injured. Seattle doesn’t need Simon to be a major contributor this season, which could be said about every one of their 11 draft picks.
Seattle drafted Simon more with an eye toward 2014 and beyond. Browner will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this coming season, the same time Sherman will become eligible for an extension. Will the Seahawks be able to afford both having already spent money to retain some core players and knowing the bill will soon come due for quarterback Russell Wilson? Simon is a contingency plan in that regard.
“He looks like a guy that is right in the same format as the guys that we have – very long, very aggressive,” Carroll said. “He should fit in very well.”