Implications of Thurmond's suspension

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks hoped to get through the bye week without any controversy. They didn’t make it.

Cornerback Walter Thurmond is facing a four-game suspension for non-PED substance abuse, a league source confirmed Sunday to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

On Monday, Nov. 18, when the bye week began, Seattle coach Pete Carroll gave the players a little warning about doing the right thing and realizing what a rare opportunity they have for a special season by getting to the break at 10-1.

Whatever happened with Thurmond likely took place before that speech was given, but they shouldn't need to hear it. Isn't it obvious?

And this is one player the Seahawks can ill-afford to lose. Thurmond is starting for injured cornerback Brandon Browner, who is out with a severe groin pull and probably won’t return until the end of the regular season or the first playoff game.

Byron Maxwell, who would start for Thurmond, is another capable backup who plays that spot when the Seahawks go to their nickel defense and move Thurmond to the slot. This would change the dynamic on how the Seahawks line up in obvious passing situations.

Jeremy Lane, a second-year player from Northwestern State (La.) will get more playing time. Lane started the final three games of the regular season last year when Browner was suspended for PEDs. But Maxwell has played well this season, so Lane probably will move to the slot in the nickel package and Maxwell will stay outside at corner.

The Seahawks also could make a roster move now to add depth to the secondary. If so, the likely addition is cornerback DeShawn Shead, who is on the practice squad. Like Browner, Shead (in his second year out of Portland State) is a big corner at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. The coaches are high on his athletic ability.

So even without Thurmond, the Seahawks could be OK. But it doesn't address the bigger picture of a player making such a senseless mistake at a critical time for a team that has so much to gain. Seattle has two of its biggest games of the season coming up -- Dec. 2 at home against 9-2 New Orleans, followed by the 49ers at San Francisco.

This situation for Thurmond also could have contract implications for next season. Both Thurmond and Browner are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year.

It’s unlikely, if not financially impossible in salary-cap terms, for the Seahawks to keep both of them. Thurmond could have played his way into Seattle’s decision about whom to keep. This didn't help his chances.