The Seattle Seahawks' most significant offseason move involved a player who has made just six career starts.
The team brought cornerback Jeremy Lane back on a four-year, $23 million deal with $7 million guaranteed. Lane has been a good player for the Seahawks since they drafted him in the sixth round in 2012. But this is clearly an example of betting on a player's future, not paying for past performance.
"I was really happy to get Jeremy back because I thought that’s a big deal for us," coach Pete Carroll said during the owners meetings. "His best play is ahead of him. He’s done great stuff for us. But that solidifies the corner spot going into the draft, which I thought was really important."
Last offseason, the Seahawks tried to replace Byron Maxwell with Cary Williams in free agency. Williams started 10 games but was eventually released. The coaches said he had trouble picking up their techniques, and it seems possible that the organization learned a lesson from the failure.
It's much easier for the Seahawks to draft and develop young cornerbacks who have not been trained in other schemes because breaking bad habits can be challenging.
Of course, starting is a relative term. Last year, the Seahawks rotated Lane and DeShawn Shead outside and in the nickel. Carroll indicated that Shead might be a better option against bigger receivers, while Lane could fit better against superior athletes.
"Really thought DeShawn Shead did a great job last year," Carroll said. "But I think the combination of Jeremy and DeShawn gives us two different style corners, and both those guys play the nickel spot. It allows us to flip guys around matchup-wise. Richard as well, as we did last year. So we have all the flexibility, the best flexibility we’ve ever had, and it allows us to go into the draft and not have to be concerned about having to get a guy. With the young competition that we have, we think that it’s a pretty strong position for us."
Lane spent much of last season recovering from the broken arm and torn ACL he suffered in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. He only appeared in six regular-season games in 2015, but he definitely made a difference.
In the Seahawks' first 10 games, they ranked 16th in opposing passer rating (88.8). In the final six games with Lane, they ranked first (62.8). Obviously, strength of opponent and other factors need to be taken into account. But Lane's performance down the stretch helped earn him a new deal. And overall, the Seahawks' defense ranked third against the pass in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings.
The organization has young corners that it likes and hopes to develop such as Tye Smith. But with Lane back in the fold, the Seahawks could play a game tomorrow and feel confident about the secondary they'd be putting on the field.