Under general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks have only used the franchise tag twice in the past 11 years. Dealing with a cap crunch as a result of the pandemic, that trend will continue in 2021.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Seattle has opted not to use the franchise tag on Shaquill Griffin, allowing the fifth-year cornerback to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17. Per multiple sources, the team isn't expected to use the tag on any other players, including running back Chris Carson.
If the Seahawks would have placed the exclusive tag on Griffin, he would have been set to earn an estimated $15.266 million in 2021 per OverTheCap.com. Even after releasing defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the organization only has $18 million in cap space currently and lack of financial flexibility played a key role in the decision to let him hit the market.
Drafted in the third round out of UCF in 2017, Griffin became a starter early in his rookie season and has been a fixture in Seattle's secondary over the past four years in the post "Legion of Boom" era. In 57 games with 53 starts, he's produced 249 tackles, six interceptions, and 48 passes defensed while earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2019.
Per Rapoport, the Seahawks hope to be able to re-sign Griffin in free agency, but that may be easier said than done given the team's cap woes.
While position groups such as receiver and defensive end are saturated with proven veteran talent, the cornerback class isn't overly impressive. Only 25 years old, Griffin offers youth, athleticism, and upside that few other players heading towards free agency offer and though he has been marred by inconsistency in his career, he should be one of the most appealing corners available in free agency.
Griffin recently indicated that he wants to remain in Seattle if possible, but he understands the NFL is a business and is eager to test his value on the market. Given the aforementioned lack of cornerback options, he should have no shortage of suitors later this month.
Jacksonville and the New York Jets stand out as two cornerback-needy teams with plenty of cap space that would be ideal landing spots for Griffin. New Jets coach Robert Saleh previously coached under Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and could use a talented corner to bolster his secondary, while the Jaguars would present the opportunity for Griffin to return to his home state and team up with former first-round pick C.J. Henderson.
If the Seahawks aren't able to keep Griffin, they may turn their attention to bringing back Quinton Dunbar, who is also an unrestricted free agent. The 29-year old veteran only played in six games due to injury after being acquired from Washington via trade, but Carroll told reporters in January that the team had interest in re-signing him.
As for Carson, signs continue to point to the two-time 1,000-yard rusher leaving in free agency, though it remains unclear what other teams will offer running backs on the open market. Seattle already has re-signed Alex Collins and former first-round pick Rashaad Penny will be back to full health after missing most of the 2020 season recovering from a torn ACL.