As Earl Thomas posts video indicating his eventual return, the return of another Seahawks starting defensive back is much trickier.
Cornerback DeShawn Shead is beginning his long recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He is a restricted free agent. The Seahawks have until Thursday at 1 p.m. to give Shead a tender offer. ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia cited a league source Tuesday stating Seattle will not tender Shead. That would make him an unrestricted free agent.
Usually, a team not tendering a restricted free agent an offer signals that player’s exit.
But Shead’s situation is unique.
So unique, when I asked Seahawks general manager John Schneider last week off the podium at the NFL combine in Indianpolis how tricky Shead’s situation is to the decision on whether to tender him an offer, the GM didn’t want to answer.
“Ummm...,” Schneider said.
"The guy’s just had really bad luck.”
Schneider meant with the timing of Shead’s injury trying to make a cut outside while in coverage during the second half of Seattle’s loss at Atlanta Jan. 14 in the divisional playoffs. He had surgery two weeks later.
His marketability in free agency would never be lower than it is right now. He is 28 years old less than two months removed from knee reconstruction. Schneider said last week at the NFL combine Shead isn’t likely to be ready to play again until deep into the 2017, if then.
Because of that, there is a decent chance Shead re-signs with Seattle -- even if it is as an unrestricted free agent for at or not much more than his veteran minimum of $775,000 in 2017. Few teams, if any, are likely to offer Shead much more than that while not knowing when he’ll be able to play again on a reconstructed knee.
So instead of using the lowest, original-round tender offer of $1,797,000 that would provide the Seahawks the right of first refusal for five days after any offer Shead would get from another team after the league’s market opens Thursday, Seattle may be playing free-agent market odds. They seem to be in its favor to keeping Shead, and at a fraction of what the Seahawks’ tender cost would be to retain him.
For Shead, the Seahawks may be his most attractive option, even if he’s not tendered by them. Besides the money he may or may not get elsewhere while recuperating, the Seahawks are the only NFL he’s known. He knows their defensive system, in multiple positions, and they know him. That’s especially true of defensive coordinator Kris Richard, his former position coach. Shead can continue his recovery and knee rehabilitation with the trainers and doctors that started it, in the training room that lately has been his second home. He got married in Seattle last year to Jessica Martinez, whom he met here. They got married at the city’s fancy Four Seasons hotel, where the bride had always dreamed of being wed.
Both coach Pete Carroll and Schneider have said they want to retain Shead. He has gone from an undrafted former decathlete from Portland State just trying to make the Seahawks as a special-teams helper doing everything coaches have asked of him while on the team’s practice squad in 2012 to a free safety and strong safety to first-time, full-time starter opposite Richard Sherman last season.
“DeShawn is a great kid. He’s got really strong faith. You’d want him to be your son, you know what I mean?” Schneider said last week in Indianapolis. “His mindset is like, ‘Hey, I’m going.’
“I say he’s probably not going to be there right away; that’s just me. He’s probably got a different mindset. He’s crushing his rehab right now."
The Seahawks signed 30-year-old cornerback Perrish Cox early this offseason to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for minimal money as insurance behind Shead’s injury. But Seattle isn’t done adding cornerbacks.
When I asked Schneider at the combine if Shead’s situation makes cornerback more of a priority in free agency that begins Thursday at 1 p.m., and in the April’s draft that is loaded with top cornerbacks -- including two from the Seahawks’ backyard, Washington Huskies Sidney Jones and Kevin King, the GM said: "Well, yeah, it pushes it up. We have to…but not at the combine. We are watching everyone.
“It’s just a matter of how free agency goes. We had some young guys that stepped up and did a pretty good job. We had guys that we re-signed and we are excited about, too.”