Byron Maxwell (41) chases New England tight end Rob Gronkowski in Super Bowl 49 on Sunday. It was Maxwell's final game before he became an unrestricted free agent (Elise Amendola/AP Photo).
Byron Maxwell says "I love it here" with the Seahawks. He appreciates general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll for "giving me a chance."
They drafted him in 2011 in the sixth round out of Clemson, put him on Seattle's special teams that season then gave him Brandon Browner's starting cornerback job opposite All-Pro Richard Sherman when Browner left for New England before the 2014 season.
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Then the Seahawks increased Maxwell's marketability this season when they moved him inside to nickel back on passing downs, after injuries to usual nickel Jeremy Lane.
Now all that Schneider and Carroll have done is about to pay off for Maxwell. Handsomely.
Yesterday, hours after Seattle's stunning loss to the Patriots at the end of Super Bowl 49, Maxwell became an unrestricted free agent for the first time. His rangy build, exceptionally long arms, physical style and experience starting for what has been the NFL's best pass defense the last two seasons will make him a highly valued target around the league. Schneider acknowledged that two weeks ago.
“That quite frankly is one of our first priorities, is to talk to Maxie,” the GM said on Jan. 23. “Now I think he, like a lot of our other unrestricted guys, I think he is going to be highly sought-after. And he should be. But we would at least like to have the opportunity to retain him.”
Maxwell, who turns 27 this month, says the Seahawks will have that opportunity when free agency officially begins next month.
But when I asked him in Phoenix last week days before the Super Bowl if he'd consider giving the Seahawks a "hometown discount" -- the team also has priorities in giving quarterback Russell Wilson a new deal of perhaps $20 million per year, running back Marshawn Lynch perhaps $10 million or more annually and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner some more millions on top of that to extend his rookie deal -- Maxwell shook his head from side to side.
"Hopefully it's not the last game (for the Seahawks). I love it here," he said of the Super Bowl, in which he had five tackles and again played nickel some after Lane broke his arm in the first quarter. "But I've got to think of what's best for my family."
Asked if he thinks his 2014 season as a starting corner and new nickel back indeed increased his value as a free agent, Maxwell said, "I don't see how it could hurt."
If the market for Maxwell, who has all seven of his career interceptions in the last two seasons, is as Schneider thinks it will be the Seahawks may not have the money or cap creativity to keep him with all their other priorities. They have Tharold Simon, a part-time injury fill-in this past season, as a fall-back plan if Maxwell signs elsewhere to take care of that family. Teams targeted and then exposed Simon during his second season, including Tom Brady and the Patriots for two of their four touchdowns in the Super Bowl. It was Simon's first season of playing; foot injuries ruined his 2013 season. So he is at best an unknown at cornerback.
--The players are at team headquarters in Renton today for exit interviews with position coaches, getting offseason plans from trainers and coaches and a team meeting at noon. I'll be there to talk to some of them in the locker room as they are packing up to leave this afternoon.
--Dan Quinn just started his first full day on the job as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. "Fast and physical." Hmmm....sounds familiar.