Amid an offseason defined by change, the Seahawks initiated a substantial shakeup in the secondary for a second straight offseason, overhauling their cornerback group with a pair of rookies and allowing a quality starter to walk in free agency.
One year after Shaquill Griffin departed for Jacksonville, D.J. Reed flew the nest to reunite with New York Jets coach Robert Saleh, signing a three-year, $33 million deal. In corresponding moves, Seattle brought back Sidney Jones and signed former first-round pick Artie Burns to a one-year "prove it" deal before using consecutive draft picks in the fourth and fifth round to acquire Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen.
With at least five players, including Jones and Burns as well as their two incoming draft choices, poised to compete for both starting spots on the outside, intense battles await when training camp opens next month at the VMAC. To this point, coach Pete Carroll hasn't given any indications on who may start, but Jones and Burns held those positions during the offseason program.
"These guys don't get to compete, they can't make plays on the ball. We can't do that, so you kind of have to use your imagination, could he have made that play and all that? Sidney was really active in both, he and Artie were, and they played a little bit different style. I was fired up about Artie, I didn't realize he would look that good that early so, he's taking to our stuff," Carroll said.
Heading into their annual six-week moratorium between organized team activities and training camp, how does the Seahawks cornerback group look? Diving into the depth chart, here's an updated look at the projected starters, a sleeper to watch, a potential wild card to keep an eye on, and a player squarely on the roster bubble.
Projected Starters: Sidney Jones, Coby Bryant
Rebounding from several injury-marred seasons since coming into the NFL, Jones overcame a tough first couple games in a Seahawks uniform and transformed into a viable starter down the stretch. Playing on the left side across from Reed, the former All-American flourished during his final six games, allowing only a 58.3 completion rate, less than 8.5 yards per reception, and no touchdowns in coverage. Although he didn't pick off any passes, he held opposing quarterbacks to a 71.2 rating, the fourth-lowest among qualified corners according to Pro Football Focus. He also stepped up his game as a run defender, amassing a career-best 66 tackles, building momentum to remain a starter in 2022.
While Jones may enter training camp as the favorite to start on the left side, questions remain in Reed's former stead. Long, athletic veteran Artie Burns may have the first crack at winning the job after playing well for associate head coach Sean Desai in Chicago last season and performed well during OTAs and minicamp. Still, Bryant comes into the league as a highly decorated fourth-round pick after winning the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's best defensive back last year at Cincinnati. Boasting elite ball skills, a high football IQ, and plenty of toughness, he has all the tools to make a push to play right away in the secondary and the coaching staff already seems to be enamored by him.
Sleeper: Tariq Woolen
A unicorn unlike any cornerback the NFL has ever seen, the 6-foot-4 Woolen possesses elite 4.26 40-yard dash track speed, underrated quickness, remarkable 33 5/8-inch length, and a desire to be great. After only playing two seasons in the secondary at UTSA following a conversion from receiver, however, it remains to be seen how much time and development the fifth-round pick will need before he's ready to play defensive snaps on Sundays. Most likely, he's going to start his NFL career as a key special teams player for the Seahawks while harnessing techniques such as the kick step and improving his understanding of coverages on the practice field. But he turned heads during the offseason program and if he takes to coaching quickly, it's not out of the question he could vie for playing time far earlier than projected with his immense physical gifts.
Wild Card: Tre Brown
Given the arrival of Bryant and Woolen in the 2022 NFL Draft, many have forgotten about Brown, who performed at a high level in five games and three starts for the Seahawks as a rookie last year before rupturing his patellar tendon. Thrust into the lineup replacing a struggling Jones in Week 6, he held opposing quarterbacks to under a 50 percent completion rate, produced a key fourth down pass breakup against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and didn't allow any touchdowns in coverage before suffering the season-ending injury. A feisty, physical player for his size who can play on the outside as well as the slot, if the ex-Oklahoma standout can get over remaining hurdles in his recovery from knee surgery and compete in camp, he could take back the starting role he vacated when he got hurt last year and put himself back into Seattle's long-term plans.
On The Bubble: Michael Jackson
Heading towards camp, Jones, Burns, Brown, Bryant, and Woolen look to be the favorites to earn 53-man roster spots, with most of those aforementioned players offering special teams ability. If there's an under-the-radar veteran returning who could overcome the odds, Jackson has the goods to beat it. Possessing quality size at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds with 32 1/2-inch arms and 4.45 40-yard dash speed, he looks the part of a Seahawks corner on the outside and played quite well in two games last season. Thrown into the lineup due to injuries and COVID infections at the position, he produced a pass breakup in the end zone against the Lions in Week 17 and didn't allow a completion on two targets on 19 coverage snaps. It's a small sample size to work off of, but Carroll seemed impressed at the time and if he can build off that, he might be a surprise candidate for a roster spot.
Seahawks Post-Offseason Depth Chart Reviews