Heaps: Why Seahawks get a ‘great fit’ at CB with Ahkello Witherspoon

Mar 17, 2021, 1:07 PM | Updated: 1:10 pm

The Seahawks may be losing 2019 Pro Bowl cornerback Shaquill Griffin to the Jaguars in free agency, but they reportedly already have his replacement tabbed.

Seahawks 2021 tracker: Free agents, coaching changes and more

A few hours after reports surfaced that Griffin was leaving Seattle for Jacksonville, multiple reports had the Seahawks signing San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to a one-year deal worth $4 million. Both Griffin and Witherspoon were selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, with Witherspoon going 66th overall while Griffin was the 90th pick.

Witherspoon has had an up and down career for the 49ers, as he has been inconsistent in coverage at times and was even benched at a point. He has also yet to play a full 16-game season, as his career-high in games played is 14 back in 2018. In 2020, he played 11 games (four starts) with one interception and four passes broken up. Overall, Witherspoon has four career interceptions in 47 games (33 starts).

Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy has talked about Witherspoon potentially joining the Seahawks throughout the offseason, and he thinks the reported move is a great signing for Seattle.

“I think it’s a great fit because as you move forward, you want guys that have played in your system,” Heaps said Wednesday afternoon, alluding to the similarities between Seattle’s defense and San Francisco’s. “You want as close to a sure thing as possible. Now, Ahkello Witherspoon’s career history is not a sure thing, but the fact that he played as well as he did in 2020 and you’re projecting that he’s going to keep playing at that level – he’s still very young, he’s healthy – you believe he can bring that level of play to you because he has played in this system his entire career.”

The Seahawks and 49ers have run very similar defensive systems because Robert Saleh, who was San Francisco’s defensive coordinator until his recent hiring as the head coach of the New York Jets, was an assistant on Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s staff from 2011 to 2013. Recent history shows that former 49ers cornerbacks have been successful coming to the Seahawks, as well.

“That’s why it’s a very smooth transition for Ahkello Witherspoon, and it was a very smooth transition for D.J. Reed a year ago,” Heaps said.

In addition to playing in a system similar to what the Seahawks run, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Witherspoon fits the mold of a prototypical Seattle cornerback.

“The other thing that Ahkello Witherspoon brings to the table, as I’ve said before, he is a willing tackler in the run game, which the Seattle Seahawks love about their corners,” Heaps said. “And he has length. He is long, has the ability to (play press coverage), has ability to cover deep downfield. He is not a perfect player, and if he was a perfect player he would be getting a larger contract than he’s had. He’s been benched, he’s gone through a lot in his his career, but 2020 was a breakthrough for him and the Seahawks are banking on that level of production.”

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