After posting a disappointing 7-10 record to finish in last place in the NFC West during the 2021 season, the Seahawks made an earlier than expected transition into what will be a critical offseason for the future of the franchise.
When the new league year opens on March 16, Seattle will have 15 players scheduled to hit the market as unrestricted free agents. Three players will be restricted free agents and 11 will be exclusive rights free agents, while several other key veterans such as receiver DK Metcalf will be entering the final season of their respective deals ready to negotiate extensions.
Over the next several weeks, I will break down each and every one of the Seahawks' unrestricted free agents by revisiting their 2021 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 2022.
Continuing the series, Sidney Jones finally found a home in Seattle's secondary and played well back in his college stomping grounds. Will he receive a second contract to stay in the Pacific Northwest?
Season In Review
After appearing in nine games for the Jaguars in 2020, Jones re-signed with the team on a one-year, $1.75 million contract and competed for a roster spot in training camp. But the arrival of free agent cornerback Shaquill Griffin and rookie Tyson Campbell pushed him down the depth chart and the team dealt him to the Seahawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick. He primarily played special teams until supplanting Tre Flowers in the starting lineup in Week 4 against the 49ers and struggled in his team debut, allowing a pair of touchdowns in a road victory at Levis Stadium. Following a pair of shaky starts, rookie Tre Brown replaced him the starting lineup, only to go down with a season-ending injury in Week 11. Logging 730 defensive snaps in 12 games, he allowed three touchdowns in coverage and produced eight pass breakups while allowing quarterbacks to post a 106.0 rating against him.
Why Seattle Should Re-Sign Him
A former All-American for the Washington Huskies, Jones looked poised to be selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft before suffering a torn Achilles during his pro day workout. Even with the injury, the Eagles selected him in the second round due to his ball skills and coverage prowess. Things didn't pan out in Philadelphia, but Jones flashed that first-round caliber talent in the second half for the Seahawks, thriving in his final six games while allowing only a 58.3 completion rate, less than 8.5 yards per reception, and no touchdowns in coverage. Quarterbacks posted a 71.2 rating when targeting him, fourth-best among corners with at least 225 coverage reps during that span according to Pro Football Focus. The 181-pound defender also displayed significant improvements as a tackler, producing a career-high 66 tackles while showing a willingness to stick his nose into the fight defending the run and screen plays.
Why Seattle Should Let Him Walk
Aside from sitting out a game on the COVID-19/reserve list, Jones managed to stay healthy throughout his first season in Seattle. But injuries have been a major issue for him dating back to his pre-draft Achilles tear, as he missed all but one game in his rookie season, seven games due to recurring hamstring problems in 2018, and seven games with a new Achilles issue cropping up in 2020. In total, he has missed 31 regular season games in his five-year career due to injuries and illness, which should make any suitor cautious about offering him a long-term deal with any significant guaranteed money. Though his coverage tightened up in the second half, Jones has been vulnerable to yielding big plays downfield from time to time and allowed three receptions of 32 or more yards last year, a big no-no in Pete Carroll's defense. In 2020, he allowed nearly 22 yards per reception with the Jaguars.
One year, $2.2 million
Like fellow pending free agent cornerback D.J. Reed, Jones has youth on his side as he prepares to hit the market. He will turn just 26 years old in May and prospective teams will enjoy seeing the strides he made both in coverage and as a run defender on film with the Seahawks. When considering his age and untapped potential, there's a chance he could receive a surprising amount of interest elsewhere next month. However, his injury history could scare off many teams that would otherwise be interested, keeping his price point in the wheelhouse for Seattle to re-sign him. With a number of roster needs to address and somewhat limited cap flexibility, the team may not be able to fit both Reed and Jones in the budget. Depending on the offers from other teams, Jones' chances of coming back are truly a 50/50 proposition and may hinge directly on whether or not they can keep Reed.