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Seahawks With Array Of Cornerback Options Heading Into 2022 Offseason

Unhappy with the state of their cornerback room, Seattle made a plethora of moves adding to the group late in training camp and results early in the season weren't pretty. But after a strong finish by D.J. Reed and company, the franchise has plenty of quality options to choose from moving forward.

Entering the 2021 season, cornerback was an area of major concern for the Seahawks. As they chose to move on from long-time starter Shaquill Griffin, general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll engaged in a frenzy of moves in order to find a cornerback pairing in the secondary that stuck.

Unfortunately, those measures didn't work out as hoped. Just months after signing projected starting cornerback Akhello Witherspoon, the team decided to move on and traded the veteran to the Steelers in training camp. With rookie Tre Brown sidelined by a knee injury, Schneider was forced to make multiple low profile transactions to land Sidney Jones, John Reid, Nigel Warrior, and Bless Austin to reinforce the depth chart at the position mere weeks from the season opener.

At the time, Carroll and Schneider’s moves were considered by many to be a desperate attempt to fix a failed secondary rebuilding project. The team’s defensive early season results made such declarations correct ones. The secondary allowed a league-worst 8.4 yards per pass attempt throughout the first five games and were well on their way to fielding the worst defense in NFL history statistically.

However, after letting go of long-time project cornerback Tre Flowers in Week 5, the team found stability in the trio of D.J. Reed, Jones, and Brown. In their Week 6 matchup against the Steelers, the Seahawks featured their cornerback pairing of Reed and Brown for the first time and the defense immediately improved. Despite suffering a gut-wrenching overtime loss, the defense only allowed 223 passing yards compared to their 305 passing yards allowed average in their first five games.

In the following two games against the Jaguars and Saints, the Seahawks' defensive back group proved their improvement was no fluke. Bolstered by the new corner pairing, the defense only allowed an average of 215 passing yards, the lowest the team allowed in any two game span during the season.

As they wrapped up the season, Brown was forced to miss the final eight games of the season with a patellar tendon injury, but the defensive production stuck due to the emergence of Jones, who played the best football of his career in the second half.

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As the season came to an end, Reed capped off a career year on multiple fronts. Opposing quarterbacks only completed 47.7 percent of their passes targeting him and posted a 67.8 passer rating. Brown, although only playing in five games, followed similar trends by allowing only eight receptions on 255 defensive snaps, 149 of which were coverage snaps.

In totality, what was once considered a clear cut weakness for Seattle transformed into an area of increased flexibility for Schneider and Carroll, whose will be back with the organization despite a tough 7-10 campaign.

Though only Brown remains under contract among players who started games for the team at the position last season, there are many paths the Seahawk can take to build their cornerback corps for 2022.

What must be figured out first is whether or not the Seahawks will bring Reed back for a third season. While the veteran defender has said he’d love to come back, he’s also made it clear that the price must be right. In the top five for available cap space, Schneider should have no issue pitching a considerable deal around 10-12 million dollars per year if he's willing to pay that price to retain a quality starting corner.

Jones will also enter free agency this upcoming offseason, but should be a much cheaper option for Seattle to bring back. Although he entered the league as a second round draft pick, he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype due to injuries and inconsistent play. At the same time, however, his aforementioned revival and youth could give him a more favorable market than anticipated.

Lastly, with the draft coming up and three more picks than last year, cornerback could be prioritized at some point. Given the team has other pressing needs such as defensive line and edge rushers, such a pick may not be made until later rounds. History suggests that will be the case, as Seattle has never drafted a corner earlier than the third round under Carroll and Schneider.

Regardless, the Seahawks have immense flexibility in the secondary heading into the offseason with Brown set to return from injury, the opportunity to re-sign Reed and/or Jones, and the chance to add at least one cornerback to the fold through the draft. While tough decisions wait, it will be intriguing to see how the brain trust of Carroll and Schneider opts to address the position in coming months.