Seahawks UFA profile: Dwindling CB depth will impact Jeremy Lane

Mar 1, 2016, 10:22 AM | Updated: 11:09 am
Jeremy Lane's versatility and injury history as well as the Seahawks' lack of cornerback depth are factors that figure to work in favor of his return to Seattle. (AP)
(AP)

For four years, the Seahawks had a seemingly limitless supply of capable cornerbacks.

It started in 2011, when Seattle was so deep at that position that it took two injuries in the span of two games before Richard Sherman got into the starting lineup. It continued in 2013, when a pair of players who weren’t good enough to make Seattle’s 53-man roster went on to start for other teams that year.

Cornerbacks were a downright renewable resource here in Seattle. The Seahawks started six different players at cornerback from 2011 through 2014, from CFL import Brandon Browner to veteran Marcus Trufant to draft picks like Sherman, Bryon Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Ron Parker and Will Blackmon were corners capable of starting elsewhere in the NFL and couldn’t crack
Seattle’s roster in 2013.

Seahawks UFA profiles: Bruce Irvin, Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy, Ahtyba Rubin

That changed last season. Seattle’s cornerback cupboard wasn’t exactly bare, but there certainly wasn’t as many viable parts on hand. When Cary Williams proved incapable of adapting to the Seahawks’ defense, they turned to DeShawn Shead, a key special-teams player and a versatile defensive back who quite frankly doesn’t have the speed Seattle prefers in its outside cornerbacks.

That brings us to Lane.

He was an immediate upgrade last season once he returned from the arm and knee injuries that sidelined him for the first 10 games. He was Seattle’s best option to start opposite Sherman. Now entering free agency, he’s as close as the Seahawks have to a player they need to re-sign, and he’s started only half a season in his four years in Seattle.

Why he might be back: There’s not an immediate alternative on the roster. Tye Smith was drafted in the fifth-round last year, but he projects more as a nickel cornerback while Eric Pinkins is a linebacker at this point after switching positions last offseason.

Finally, throw in the fact that Williams was unable to adjust to Seattle’s defense and it might make the Seahawks more reluctant going forward to assume that a veteran will be able to adjust to the system.

That leaves Lane, who has shown himself to be a corner that is both combative and versatile enough to play both nickel and on the outside. That might make Seattle a little more willing to pay what it takes to keep him.

Why he might not be back: Lane is one of seven Seattle starters scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, and there’s going to be a ton of money being spent on the open market. Being a Seahawks cornerback has been a ticket to millions over the past few years.

Maxwell was the single richest example, but there’s more. Browner landed a multi-year, multi-million contract in New Orleans after playing one season on a stop-gap deal in New England. Walter Thurmond is in position for a decent payday after a successful transition to safety.

The trouble for Lane is two-fold: 1) He’s smaller than the prototypical Seahawks cornerback, listed at 6 feet and 190 pounds (which means he must have been weighed while he was soaking wet and wearing boots); 2) He has missed 19 regular-season games while appearing in 13 games over the past two seasons.

Prediction: Lane is back in Seattle. His market is going to be tempered by his injury history and the reality that a cornerback like Maxwell – after being signed away from the Seahawks – wasn’t as successful as the Eagles hoped. A shorter-term deal with a healthy average salary of $4 million to $5 million might be the perfect middle ground allowing Lane to have another bite at the free-agent apple.

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Seahawks UFA profile: Dwindling CB depth will impact Jeremy Lane