Following an early Wild Card round exit, the Seahawks have officially transitioned into an offseason that could be one of the most significant of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era.
When the new 2021 league year kicks off in March, Seattle will have a whopping 24 players set to become unrestricted free agents. Four players will be restricted free agents, while six will be exclusive rights free agents and several others will be entering the final year of their current contracts ready to negotiate extensions, including safety Jamal Adams.
Over the next several weeks, I will break down each and every one of the Seahawks' unrestricted free agents by revisiting their 2020 seasons, assessing why they should or should not be re-signed, breaking down an ideal contract, and making an early prediction on whether or not the player will return in 2021.
Up next in the series, Shaquill Griffin has steadily improved during his four seasons roaming Seattle's secondary. But did he play well enough to warrant a lucrative long-term deal in an expensive cornerback market?
Season In Review
Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2019, Griffin's fourth season as a Seahawk got off to a bit of a rocky start from the outset. While he picked off two passes during the first six games, he allowed five touchdowns in coverage during that span and got torched by Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in a Week 3 win, allowing 151 receiving yards on nine completions against him. Then, a hamstring injury suffered in Week 7 cost him four games. Upon his return to the starting lineup in Week 12, the former third-round pick out of UCF played much better in the final two months, allowing 20 receiving yards or fewer in five of the final seven regular season games and just one total touchdown in the second half. He finished the season with an up-and-down playoff outing against the Rams, allowing a late touchdown to Robert Woods in coverage to seal the defeat.
Why Seattle Should Re-Sign Him
Since Carroll took over in 2010, the Seahawks have had far greater success at the cornerback position with "homegrown" players who were drafted and developed within their own system rather than bringing established veterans in. Starting 53 games, Griffin has shown signs of evolving into a lockdown-caliber defender during his four seasons in the Pacific Northwest, including producing 14 passes defensed in coverage both during his rookie season as well as 2019. He has gradually lowered yards per completion and passer rating against him each of the past three seasons and set a career-high with three interceptions in 2020, showing signs of improvement in key areas to play the position in today's pass-happy, offensive-driven NFL. He has also been a steady presence against the run on the outside, producing 59 or more tackles in all four seasons in Seattle.
Why Seattle Should Let Him Walk
Griffin has improved since being drafted in 2017 and deserved his lone Pro Bowl selection, but he hasn't necessarily taken the steps towards stardom the Seahawks envisioned he would after replacing Richard Sherman as the full-time starter in 2018. His overall performance has been marred by inconsistency, as he has hasn't allowed an opposing passer rating below 94.4 and has missed 35 combined tackles over the past three seasons. In some regards, he took significant steps backward in his development in 2020, with Pro Football Focus crediting him with a career-worst seven touchdown passes allowed and a career-low five pass breakups. While he will only turn 26 in July and has room to grow, such regression casts doubt about his ability to become a true shutdown cornerback and he has missed six games due to injury the past two years.
3-4 years at $11 million per year
According to Carroll, the Seahawks have been pleased with Griffin's progress during four seasons with the organization. With him being a homegrown talent who still has plenty of untapped upside, Schneider will be doing everything in his power to keep him for the foreseeable future. The problem? If he hits the free agent market, teams have been throwing exorbitant amounts of cash at young cornerbacks. To this point, his lack of consistency raises questions about whether he's worth investing $13 million-plus per year annually on a long-term deal. Last March, James Bradberry received $15 million per year from the Giants and Byron Jones signed a five-year deal worth more than $16 million per year. If Griffin somehow gets offers anywhere close to that price range - history suggests he could due to his age and athletic tools, even with a lowered salary cap due to the pandemic - it's difficult to envision him returning unless he's willing to take a bit of a hometown discount.
Seahawks Free Agent Primers