In the aftermath of Shaquill Griffin departing for Jacksonville, the Seahawks wasted little time signing his potential replacement in the secondary.
According to Josina Anderson, Seattle has reached an agreement in principle with fifth-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on a one-year contract. Financial details have yet to be disclosed.
Originally selected by the 49ers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Witherspoon's progress has been stifled to an extent by injuries in his four NFL seasons. He missed the final two games of the 2018 season with a knee injury, sat out six games in 2019 due to a foot issue, and only appeared in eight games last season dealing with a concussion along with hamstring and calf injuries.
In large part as a result of inconsistent play, Witherspoon also was benched on a couple of occasions by the coaching staff, losing his starting job temporarily during the 2018 and 2019 seasons before eventually being reinstalled into the lineup.
But when healthy and playing at his best, the 25-year old Witherspoon has flashed as a potential long-term starter. Back in his rookie season, though he had his share of issues surrendering big plays and missing tackles, he showed signs of being a highly productive NFL corner in limited action. Despite playing just 660 snaps after being a healthy scratch in San Francisco's first four games, he earned a respectable 74.5 overall grade while intercepting two passes and registering four pass deflections.
Then after struggling at less than 100 percent health for most of 2018 and 2019, he earned a stellar 80.9 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus last season, which ranked fourth among qualified cornerbacks behind only Jaire Alexander, Xavien Howard, and Bryce Callahan. Improving upon his tackling as well, his 80.2 overall grade ranked fifth among players at the position.
Standing 6-foot-3 with 33-inch arms, Witherspoon ran a 4.45 second 40-yard dash and posted a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. Presenting the size, length, and athletic traits Seattle typically prefers at outside cornerback, he had a pre-draft visit with the team coming out of Colorado and the coaching staff was tantalized by his traits and potential. If he was still available, he may have been selected at No. 90 overall instead of Griffin.
Given that prior interest, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Seahawks circled the wagons once Griffin opted to leave for the Jaguars, especially considering he played in a similar defensive scheme with the 49ers. His arrival won't guarantee a starting job and he will have to unlock better consistency to see consistent playing time.
But depending on what other moves the team makes in coming weeks, Witherspoon should have a prime opportunity to compete for a starting role against D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers in training camp. It's the type of low-risk, high-reward one-year "prove it" deal Seattle has become known for under general manager John Schneider.