Although the fourth-year pro is the least-known member of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” he’s the only one scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the game. And he just happens to play the position that I believe ranks as New Orleans’ top free-agent need.
Of course, a big game by Maxwell on the NFL’s biggest stage might shoot his market value through the roof (if it’s not there already). ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan ranks the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Maxwell as the best of an impressive free-agent cornerback class that also includes enticing names such as Brandon Flowers, Kareem Jackson, Tramon Williams and Antonio Cromartie.
“It’s rare for someone of his talent and age to make it to free agency,” Caplan said of Maxwell, who turns 27 next month.
Caplan cited Maxwell’s height, arm length and ability to play in man coverage among his strengths. Maxwell took over as a full-time starter midway through last season as an injury replacement and has locked down the No. 2 cornerback job opposite Richard Sherman ever since. Naturally, he gets targeted a lot because Sherman is on the other side, but Maxwell has mostly held his own while also intercepting six passes over the past two years.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider said it’s a top priority to talk with Maxwell after Sunday’s game, but the Seahawks have already spent big bucks on the rest of their secondary and have a lot more bills coming due in the future. So it’s possible Maxwell could be picked off by another team.
The Saints obviously have cap constraints of their own, but they have shown a willingness to stay aggressive in free agency with similar cap constraints in recent years (see: Jairus Byrd, Keenan Lewis, Ben Grubbs, Curtis Lofton, etc.)
Maxwell acknowledged this week that he’s excited about the prospects of testing the free-agent market, though he said he would love to stay in Seattle as well.
“I mean definitely, you know, I’m the prettiest girl at the dance right now,” said Maxwell, who was a sixth-round pick out of Clemson in 2011.
When asked if he thinks he’s made a name for himself over the past two years, Maxwell said probably, but that he doesn’t think in those terms because he never wants to “settle.”
“The sky’s the limit. There aren’t ceilings, to be honest with you. It’s one of those things I don’t put a bar on it,” Maxwell said. “Defensive MVP of the Super Bowl would be nice. That’s what I’m saying; there’s no ceilings. I just want to take it as far as I can take it.”
Another pending free agent in Sunday’s game who will be highly coveted is New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty – though it’s hard to imagine the Saints bidding heavily on another safety with so much invested in Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro already (in terms of both dollars and draft picks).
Ayers (6-3, 255) has four sacks and an interceptions since joining New England as a rotational player in Week 8. He’s mostly been used as a pass rusher on nickel downs, though he also has the versatility to play linebacker and switch between 3-4 and 4-3 looks – all of which could intrigue the Saints.
Ayers was highly touted as a second-round pick out of UCLA in 2011, but he never realized his potential with the Titans and reportedly became disenchanted as he fell down the depth chart. But the new life he found in New England could make him a more enticing possibility.