What do we know about the Seahawks' cornerback group? Right now, it appears all but set in stone D.J. Reed will be the team's starting right corner in 2021. Aside from that, there are questions abound; what's the plan on the left side? Who will play at the nickel?
Such musings have been made possible by the recent departures of 2020 starters Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar. While retaining Griffin in free agency was seemingly a long shot from the get-go - and proved to be just that after he signed a lucrative three-year, $40 million contract with the Jaguars - the Seahawks remained in close contact with Dunbar, but lost him to the Lions on a meager one-year deal worth $1.1 million.
They were quick to react to the loss of Griffin, however, inking Ahkello Witherspoon to a contract shortly thereafter. At the time, Witherspoon - despite an inconsistent four-year career thus far - looked to be in line for the outside starting job opposite Reed. And he may still be, but the Seahawks have made it clear they're keen on throwing a few obstacles in his path.
Given their interest in Dunbar and reports of some flirtation with the idea of reuniting with Richard Sherman, it seems they are far from done adding at the position. This takes their most recent additions - which saw them re-sign Damarious Randall and reel in veteran Pierre Desir for a second stint - into account.
While the arrivals of Desir and Randall are intriguing from a depth perspective, let's be real: neither are ideal solutions for the Seahawks' opening at left corner. Both have had success on the outside in their careers, but the last few seasons have seen each go down different paths.
Randall converted to safety once he was traded to the Browns in 2018, and put up one of his best seasons in the NFL at the spot. But a disappointing followup campaign left him without much ground to stand on in 2020, where he barely played for the Seahawks after being cut by the Raiders out of training camp. Now back with Seattle, he's being listed as a cornerback again and should factor into the competitions at both nickel and left corner in some capacity.
However, while the Seahawks claim to be more open-minded about the varying builds corners come in than they've been in the past, it's hard to imagine them starting two 'undersized' players by their standards at each outside spot. Randall measures in at 5-foot-11 with 301/4-inch arms. Reed checks in at an even shorter height of 5-foot-9 with slightly longer arms of 315/8 inches.
Desir is more in line with what Seattle tends to covet at the position, boasting 33-inch arms and a 6-foot-1 frame. But following a breakout season with the Colts in 2018, he's fallen back down to Earth to the tune of a 107.8 opponent passer rating over the last two years. Jumping around from Indianapolis to the Jets and eventually Baltimore in that span, it's unrealistic to expect him to reclaim his one-year success entering his age 31 season.
Randall put up a ton of interceptions - 10 to be exact - in his three years as a starter for the Packers, but he also allowed a whopping 16 touchdowns on a combined passer rating of 94.7 in that time. He should bring some upside as depth, but like Desir, he shouldn't be expected to be the answer to the Seahawks' predicament at left corner.
Simply put: neither acquisition finalizes their group, nor does it inhibit them from doing anything else.
For now, the job appears to be Witherspoon's to lose, with Tre Flowers, Randall, Desir, and maybe Marquise Blair also in the mix.
That said; there's still a draft to be held next week, which presents one of the deepest cornerback classes in recent memory. Even for a team like Seattle, which currently has just three picks in the event, there should be a few appealing options to mull over on days two and three.
After the draft, remaining free agents such as Sherman and Casey Hayward should start to see their respective markets heat up. If the Seahawks - who still have a plethora of other positions to address - fail to snag a corner in the draft, it's likely they'll revisit free agency. That could lead to more speculation focused on Sherman, which would certainly excite most fans in the Pacific Northwest.
At the very least, the Seahawks have options, both in-house and via the draft and free agency. Although the outlook for their group is uncertain as of now, there seems to be a decent chance they're able to put forth a respectable unit this fall, especially with defensive back mastermind Pete Carroll at the helm.