The Seahawks' experiment at left cornerback failed in the preseason. Three of the four players vying for the role are now no longer with the team, and the other—rookie Tre Brown—is currently nursing a knee injury.
Each player dropped one-by-one; Pierre Desir was released following the team's first preseason game, Damarious Randall was among those cut at the end of the month and Ahkello Witherspoon was shipped off to the Steelers for a fifth-round draft pick in 2023. Before a single down was played in the regular season, the Seahawks had already admitted defeat at one of their most scrutinized positions. The fears of fans and pundits alike had come true: cornerback was—and still is—a problem for this team.
The solution? Well, to be frank, there may not be one. But John Schneider, Pete Carroll and company certainly weren't going to find an answer by simply sitting on their hands. Recognizing the issue now and addressing it head-on was the best route to take, especially at a time where handfuls of players were hitting the open market.
So that's what Seattle did, reeling in the trio of Sidney Jones, Nigel Warrior and Blessuan Austin through various means this past week.
Is it hard to be excited by any of these names? Absolutely, and this isn't really to convince you to feel otherwise. But are they that far off from what someone like Witherspoon initially offered the Seahawks? Not really.
Witherspoon came in with injury and inconsistency concerns following his first four years in the NFL. As such, there was no guarantee he'd overcome those struggles. And, in the end, he proved incapable of doing so this preseason. The Seahawks were banking on building a breakout star, but instead they received the same player they were advertised: a gifted athlete with a passive play style that isn't conducive to sustained success.
With a Pro Bowl-caliber safety duo behind them, Seattle's corners can afford to be more aggressive and take some risks to help mask some of their deficiencies. Witherspoon wasn't up to the challenge, hardly—if ever—stepping up to the line of scrimmage and putting his hands on an opposing receiver and going step-for-step with them.
It just wasn't a good fit, and the Seahawks made that proclamation when they traded him. Now, they feel they have someone who aligns better with what they're about in at least one of Jones, Austin or Warrior.
Jones and Austin are especially interesting because both offer a decent amount of starting experience. Of course, for Austin, being cut by the Jets—the team that held the NFL's second-worst win-loss record last year—isn't going to look good on paper. That's especially troubling when Robert Saleh, one of the game's most touted defensive minds, was the one who pulled the trigger on the decision.
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However, when you stack up Austin's first two years in the NFL to Witherspoon's four, neither really outweigh the other. Both have eye-catching ability but have been burdened by up-and-down play. It's a push with a slight edge to Witherspoon at best, but there's nothing that should definitively put the new Pittsburgh corner over Austin or Jones.
That's the point.
Before the preseason, how Witherspoon would fare was unknown. The Seahawks got their answer and opted not to live with it, and now they have three new tickets to scratch. While the odds of any of them popping are low, there's more upside to hit on something useful than what the Seahawks were getting from Witherspoon—a player who had already lost a starting job that was practically gifted to him.
Nevertheless, Seattle's state at cornerback is a downright mess that could lead to potential disaster this fall. D.J. Reed is the lone man in the group who inspires some confidence, but he's been forced to move to the left side as a result of this entire debacle, and it's hard not to be at least mildly concerned about the impact it could have on his play.
Tre Flowers has been unable to shake his own inconsistency woes, but he's reclaimed his starting job from the fallout of this disaster. Although he had a solid preseason, it's a tough ask for folks to buy into a "new-and-improved" Flowers after being sold the same thing in past summers.
Getting down to brass tacks, the Seahawks just aren't in a good place at corner right now. But this would still be the case if Witherspoon remained on the roster, and his exit truly doesn't move the needle one way or another. While the team practically set $2.5 million in guaranteed money on fire by signing him, it's better than being stubborn about it and paying out the remaining $1.5 million by sticking with him and not searching for any other possible solution.
Jones, Austin and Warrior may not be. In fact, it's highly likely they aren't. But the Seahawks are not worse than where they were prior to the trade, while they arguably carry more upside.