RENTON, Wash. -- Byron Maxwell was watching from home when the Seattle Seahawks' season took an unfortunate turn. He had been a free agent for two weeks after being released by the Miami Dolphins and was starting to wonder why more teams weren't showing interest. But when he saw Richard Sherman go down Thursday night, he knew what it could mean.
Maxwell had spent his first four seasons with the Seahawks and started 17 games for them from 2013-14, which made it pretty much a no-brainer for Seattle to bring him back as a reinforcement at cornerback after losing Sherman to a season-ending Achilles injury.
"I was hoping they would call," Maxwell said Tuesday after his deal with the Seahawks for the remainder of the season became official. "I know the system, I know the coaches, so yeah, I was hoping for that call."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed that Jeremy Lane will get the first shot to replace Sherman at left cornerback -- that comes against Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. Rookie Shaquill Griffin has played well enough to keep his job on the right side as has Justin Coleman at nickelback -- two positions Maxwell played during his first stint with Seattle. Neiko Thorpe, who has mainly been a special teams player, is the other cornerback on Seattle's roster. DeShawn Shead, a former starter, is still at least a few more weeks away from coming off the physically unable to perform list.
Maxwell's role isn't immediately clear. For now, the Seahawks are just glad to have him back given the circumstances.
"We're very fortunate," Carroll said. "We'll see how he does and how he fits in and all of that. He'll have to compete his way through it, but it's great to get a guy back that does have kind of the heritage and the background of the way we coach and techniques and principles and stuff like that. I'm anxious to see how he does."
Carroll also has touted the Seahawks' good fortune in getting back Lane, albeit under unusual circumstances. He began the season as the starter on the right side before going down in Week 4 with a groin injury, which allowed Griffin to take hold of that job in his absence.
The Seahawks felt comfortable enough with what they were seeing from Griffin that they agreed to send Lane to the Houston Texans as part of the Duane Brown trade, but he returned when a thigh bruise led to a failed physical. Lane said it never completely felt like he left because not even 24 hours passed from the time he was traded to when Texans general manager Rick Smith informed him that his inclusion in the deal had been nixed.
Lane figured his return would be awkward, but when he walked back into the Seahawks' locker room for the first time, teammates greeted him with a round of applause and hugs.
"It's crazy how things worked out, me being traded, coming back and to get an opportunity to start now," he said. "So I'm excited."
Lane (2012) and Maxwell (2011) were drafted by Seattle in the sixth round one year apart. Maxwell's rookie contract expired after the 2014 season, the same time that quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner became eligible for extensions that made them among the NFL's highest-paid players at their positions.
So it wasn't at all surprising when Seattle let Maxwell walk in free agency. He signed a six-year, $63 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded him to Miami after a disappointing debut season. His time with the Dolphins ended unceremoniously when he was released in late October, three weeks after he was benched in favor of rookie Cordrea Tankersley.
Maxwell didn't care to talk about what went wrong in Miami. Carroll thought the time off served him well.
"Early indications are that he's really ready," Carroll said. "I think sitting out for a couple weeks helped him a little bit, kind of get his mind straight, and he's really anxious to get back and he's grateful to be coming back here."
On the surface, it may seem like a dire situation to have to replace one of the game's elite cornerbacks with either of two players who were each deemed expendable by one team or another over the past three weeks. But Lane wasn't playing poorly before he was injured and Maxwell is returning to a system that may be a better fit for his skills than the ones he played in the past two seasons.
There will be a drop-off from Sherman. But as far as replacement options go, the Seahawks could do much worse.
"We're just very fortunate that we have the depth that we have and I'm going to count on them to play really well and I'm not counting on anything taking a backward step," Carroll said. "I think we're going to keep moving forward."