With only one week until their season opener in Indianapolis, the Seahawks continue to seek out reinforcements at the cornerback position.
According to Dave Wyman of Q13 Fox, Seattle plans to sign third-year cornerback Bless Austin, who was recently waived by the New York Jets. The addition comes on the heels of the team's unexpected decision to trade veteran Ahkello Witherspoon to Pittsburgh on Friday in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round draft choice.
The Jets' decision to move on from Austin was also viewed as a major surprise, as many expected him to be one of the starting cornerbacks in new coach Robert Saleh's secondary. He saw extensive first-team reps throughout training camp and the preseason across from second-year defender Bryce Hall.
Drafted out of Rutgers in the sixth round in 2019, the 25-year old Austin started 16 games for the Jets in his first two NFL seasons. Playing a career-high 681 defensive snaps in 2020, he produced 63 tackles, four passes defensed, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble, seeing all of his action at right cornerback.
While Austin has shown promise as a run defender, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound cornerback has struggled in coverage. In 2020, per Pro Football Focus, he allowed 369 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 59 targets in coverage, receiving a dismal 47.4 coverage grade. As a rookie, his numbers were slightly better, as he surrendered 237 yards and a touchdown on 34 targets in coverage and earned a respectable 69.9 coverage grade.
From a traits standpoint, Austin has the length (32 1/2-inch arms) Seattle has typically preferred, but most of his athletic testing numbers don't meet the team's past thresholds. He ran a mediocre 4.69 40-yard dash at Rutgers' pro day two years ago while also jumping 35 1/2 inches in the vertical jump and didn't participate in the 3-cone drill or short shuttle.
Due to his length and starting experience, Austin should be given an opportunity to compete on the outside for the Seahawks right away. He will join fellow newcomers Sidney Jones and Nigel Warrior trying to battle for snaps against expected starters D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers as well as rookie Tre Brown.