After the Super Bowl, Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon were all facing recovery from injuries of varying severity. On top of that, Byron Maxwell was getting ready to sign a blockbuster contract with another team, which turned out to be the Eagles.
That left young Marcus Burley as the only healthy cornerback and DeShawn Shead as a largely untested emergency option who had more experience at safety. So, the Seahawks covered themselves by signing two veteran corners — Williams and Will Blackmon. And then they drafted Tye Smith in the fifth round.
Blackmon once again did not make the roster, and Williams struggled so badly that he was benched three weeks ago, made inactive the past two games and released Monday.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have never been afraid to admit mistakes and move on from them — e.g., Percy Harvin last year — and that’s basically what they did here.
But they did it because they have plenty of talent at the position, and the future is bright.
They signed Williams, a street free agent, in March to a three-year, $18 million deal. They owed him $7 million in guarantees this year, and he will still count for $2.33 million in 2016 while saving the team $3.83 million (he was scheduled for a $5 million salary and $6.17 million cap hit).
If the Hawks had not wasted that money on Williams, they would not have had to release McDaniel in August to accommodate Bobby Wagner’s contract. It turned out to be one of those rare domino mistakes that burn a team twice.
Carroll said the team cut Williams now because “we feel more comfortable with the guys that have been with us.”
The Seahawks won’t have to make that kind of desperation move at corner again — they have a full stable of young corners they have been developing, including Shead, Lane, Burley, Smith and IR players Mohammed Seisay and Tharold Simon.
Here’s a look at the very promising cornerback situation for next year and beyond:
Richard Sherman: The fifth-year player is once again playing at an All-Pro level. He has been the most consistent player in the secondary formerly known as the Legion of Boom. He is signed through 2018.
DeShawn Shead: In three years, Shead has gone from practice squadder to starter. Like Browner, Maxwell, Walter Thurmond and Lane, he was developed by Carroll and his staff. Undrafted in 2012, he was promoted from the squad in December but did not play in a game. This is his third accrued season, which means he will be a restricted free agent next offseason. The Seahawks will have to decide whether to tender him at around $2.5 million (the second-round level).
Jeremy Lane: Lane’s contract year was ruined by his two devastating injuries in the Super Bowl, so he should be a cheap re-sign for the Hawks next offseason. He has been a standout special-teams player and nickel corner pretty much since he was drafted in 2012, and the Hawks should have him back for at least one more year.
Marcus Burley: He will be an ERFA, which means Seattle owns his rights, and he will be in the mix again at nickel back. If Lane somehow leaves, Burley will be the top slot corner.
Tye Smith: The fifth-round pick showed well in preseason, and it is mildly surprising he has not played more this year (just two games). But he very well could compete for the No. 2 starting spot next year. He is signed through 2018.
Mohammed Seisay: Like Burley, Seisay will be an ERFA and under club control in 2016. He impressed Carroll early in camp after Seattle acquired him from Detroit, but he got hurt and fell behind and the Seahawks ended up stashing him on IR before the season. It is possible they will not owe Detroit a draft pick, if the deal was contingent on him making the team. Seisay could be in the mix for the No. 2 starting spot next year.
Tharold Simon: The 2013 fifth-round pick was supposed to be a combo of Sherman and Brandon Browner, but he has played in just 11 games. He has shown some signs in his limited action, but he also was burned badly in the playoffs last season — and later admitted, unbelievably, that he was unprepared for the Super Bowl. It looks like Simon will end up being one of Seattle’s rare draft busts at cornerback. Too many better — and healthier — players in front of him.