Seattle Seahawks

Is CB Byron Maxwell Worth Top Dollar on 2015 Free-Agent Market?

Byron Maxwell is the top cornerback available in free agency. He’s listed at 6’1″, 207 pounds, he’s got speed and athleticism and plays aggressive man coverage with strength and physicality. He’s racked up six interceptions and 27 passes defensed in two seasons as a major contributor to the Seattle Seahawks‘ “Legion of Boom” secondary.

Unless and until Darrelle Revis hits the market, NFL teams in need of a starting cornerback will be lining up to bid for Maxwell’s services.

But will the winner of the auction end up with buyer’s remorse?

Unlike the prospects coming up in the draft, it’s easy to project how Maxwell will do as a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL. When you play on the other side of the field from the least-targeted cornerback in football, you’re going to get picked on—and when that cornerback rarely flips sides, you’re going to line up against top receivers an awful lot.

Maxwell had to hold down the side of the field Richard Sherman didn’t throughout most of 2014, and Pro Football Focus charted him as the 20th-most targeted of 73 qualifying cornerbacks. It’s no surprise Maxwell allowed receptions the 21st-most frequently.

In the Seahawks’ Cover 1/Cover 3 system, Maxwell plays a lot of tight man, and some off-man or zone. Generally, Seahawks corners cover tightly and close quickly. After dividing Pro Football Focus’ yards-after-catch allowed by charted targets, Seahawks corners finished 13th (Tharold Simon), 14th (Sherman) and 18th (Maxwell) in average per-target YAC.

Maxwell finished in the middle of the pack in overall PFF grades, neither above plus-0.9 or below minus-0.9 in any of PFF‘s grades. Tellingly, his best single-game grade of 2014 was a plus-3.3 in Week 14 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

What was special about that game? Maxwell played almost exclusively in the slot, lining up against big, talented rookie Jordan Matthews. Per Pro Football Focus, Maxwell draped himself all over Matthews, allowing just two receptions for 23 yards on five targets.

Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn seemed to be more afraid of Matthews in the slot than Riley Cooper outside; his gambit of putting his better cover corner inside and trusting Simon to cover Cooper paid off.

But whichever team pays Maxwell big free-agent dollars won’t want him in the slot. They’ll be paying him big bucks to shut down top receivers. Can he do it?

Let’s take a look at how Maxwell did against the Denver Broncos‘ Emmanuel Sanders.

Sanders is going to run a deep out against Maxwell’s single coverage. He’s lined up inside of the numbers, which often means he’s going to break to the outside. Maxwell is lined up relatively tight:

Here’s one big problem with Maxwell’s deep-coverage game: He’s a side-straddler, rather than a backpedaler. This limits his ability to react to a double move, or even a crisply-run route by a speedy receiver:

Here, he’s lined himself up to the outside of Sanders, ready to deny the expected outside move. Sanders feints inside, drawing Maxwell in to try to come over his back to make the play. Then boom:

Sanders cuts back to the outside, and Maxwell isn’t just caught flat-footed—he ends up getting completely turned around! It’s a credit to his athleticism that he got back around and recovered in time to make the tackle:

All that having been said, the end result of the play is a 17-yard gain. Sanders did this to Maxwell over and over again, beating Maxwell for six catches and 95 yards on eight targets. Again, to Maxwell’s credit, he broke up one of the two incomplete passes. He held Sanders to just 13 yards after the catch, and no touchdowns.

Whichever team ponies up top free-agent money for Maxwell is going to hope for a little bit better than “bend, but don’t break” against the game’s top receivers and offenses. But Maxwell can be left on an island with a receiver of Sanders’ ability for an entire game, and keep him from blowing the game wide-open.

There aren’t a lot of cornerbacks in the NFL for whom that’s true—and very few whose bags are packed and ready to go to whichever team is most willing to pay:

Comparing Maxwell to the other top free agents makes it very clear, very quickly that there aren’t a lot of quality corners, and even fewer on the right side of 30.

Sherman and Patrick Peterson have set the top of the cornerback market at $14 million a year, per Spotrac.com, and Revis’ payday—whether it comes from the New England Patriots or another squad—may well top that mark.

Maxwell will come much, much cheaper. But if he approaches the top cornerback free-agent contracts of recent years, such as Alterraun Verner‘s four-year, $25.8 million deal from 2014, teams will be paying a steep premium for scarcity.

There isn’t a cornerback as big, good and young as Maxwell on the 2015 market, but if he ends up earning more than $6 million per year, he’ll be approaching the salaries of Verner, Lardarius Webb, Brent Grimes, Chris Harris—players who, flatly, are both better and more proven than Maxwell.

Of course, players have benefited from changes of scenery in the past. Yet, Maxwell seemed ideally suited to his role in Seattle. A lesser team paying $6-7 million per year and asking him to play a different role could be deeply disappointed—just as the Patriots were when they signed Brandon Browner, the last Legion of Boom member to hit the open market.

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Who Should Seahawks Target to Replace Byron Maxwell in Legion of Boom?

The Seattle Seahawks will look to restock their secondary in the 2015 offseason.

Which players should they target? Who could be the newest member of the Legion of Boom?

Watch as Adam Lefkoe and Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms discuss Seattle’s offseason in the video above. 

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Top 10 Defensive Linemen in Seattle Seahawks History

Here’s a look at some of the best men to ever take a three-point stance on the defensive side of the ball in Seattle since 1976.

Some stayed only a few years, some played their whole careers in the Emerald City and one rose to the rank of legend.

Players had to have spent at least three seasons with the Seahawks in order to be considered for inclusion. Stats from pro-football-reference.com.

 

Antonio Cochran (1999-2004)

A Georgia product, Cochran spent six seasons in Seattle after being drafted in the fourth round in 1999. In 85 games, he made 131 tackles to go with 15.5 sacks, and also recovered five fumbles while picking off two passes. He had a career-high 36 tackles in 2002, and a personal-best 6.5 sacks in 2004 before closing out his career the next season with Arizona.

 

Tony Woods (1987-1992)

A six-year Seahawk, Woods notched 543 tackles and 16 sacks in 89 career games with Seattle. A first-round draft choice in 1987 out of Pittsburgh, his best campaign came in 1988, when he collected 141 tackles and five sacks while helping the Seahawks to their first AFC West division title. He played one year with the Los Angeles Rams and three with Washington before retiring.

 

Brandon Mebane (2007-Present)

Mebane, who missed the last 10 games of the 2014 campaign due to injury, has recorded 214 tackles and 14 sacks in 116 career games with Seattle after being drafted in the third round from California in 2007. He was also a member of Seattle’s Super Bowl XLVIII championship squad and made three tackles in the title tilt.

 

Rocky Bernard (2002-2008) 

A member of Seattle’s first Super Bowl team, Bernard was the roadblock in the middle of Qwest Field, recording 203 tackles and 29 sacks in seven seasons with the Seahawks to go with 13 passes defended and five fumbles recovered. The Texas A&M alumnus posted 42 tackles and a career-high 8.5 sacks during the 2005 Super Bowl season, and finished his NFL career by playing three campaigns with the New York Giants.

 

Jeff Bryant (1982-1993)

A career Seahawk, Bryant came to the Pacific Northwest as a first-round draft choice out of Clemson and didn’t disappoint. A member of Seattle’s first NFL playoff squad in 1983, he played before tackles were an official statistic, but still managed 63 sacks in 175 contests, including 14.5 sacks during the 1984 campaign as the Seahawks again advanced to the postseason. He also recovered 11 fumbles and registered an interception and a safety in his tenure before retiring.

 

Sam Adams (1994-1999)

The Texas A&M product spent six seasons of his 14-year NFL career in Seattle, collecting 167 tackles and 23 sacks in 89 appearances in blue and green. He also recovered three fumbles, recorded a safety and returned his lone interception in a Seahawks uniform for a touchdown, while also being named to three Pro Bowls.

 

Joe Nash (1982-1996)“Air Nash” managed to block a team-record 10 kick attempts over his 15-year Seahawks career. The former Boston College Eagle also recorded a total of 743 tackles, 47.5 sacks and seven recovered fumbles in Seattle while playing in a franchise-high 218 games, and he also recorded one touchdown and one Pro Bowl selection in his tenure.

 

Michael Sinclair (1992-2001)

Sinclair was another anchor on the Seahawks defensive line in the late Kingdome years and was named to three Pro Bowls. The Eastern New Mexico alumnus recorded 273 tackles and 73.5 sacks to go with nine fumble recoveries and two touchdowns in 144 contests with Seattle. He led the NFL in 1998 with 16.5 sacks, and he ended his career playing four games with Philadelphia in 2002.

 

Jacob Green (1980-1991)

Nearly 25 years after he played his final game, Green remains the Seahawks’ greatest sack-master. In 10 seasons in Seattle, he registered a franchise-best 97.5 sacks in 180 games. He also picked up 17 opponent fumbles and intercepted three passes before finishing his career in 1992 with two games with San Francisco. Tackles, unfortunately, weren’t kept as an NFL statistic until 1994, after the Texas A&M alumnus and two-time Pro Bowler had retired.

 

Cortez Kennedy (1990-2000)

Tez Rex” was such a dominant defender, he was named the 1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year even as the Seahawks finished 2-14 and set records for offensive futility. By the time Kennedy was finished, he had notched 586 tackles and 58 sacks in 167 outings, and garnered eight Pro Bowl selections. The University of Miami alumnus closed his playing career with his first and only NFL playoff game, the 20-17 setback to the Miami Dolphins in 2000 that closed the Kingdome. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, the second full-time Seahawk so honored.

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Mister Alexander to Seahawks: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Looking to bolster their depth at linebacker, the Seattle Seahawks have signed Mister Alexander

ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported the news on Monday.       

Alexander, an outside linebacker who attended Florida State, went undrafted in 2011 before landing with the Houston Texans, where he played mostly special teams in 2011 and 2012. He then spent some time in the CFL and, most recently, was a practice-squad player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys in 2014.      

It’s worth noting that Michael Barrow, Seattle’s new linebackers coach, was at Miami when Alexander was at FSU, so there is likely some familiarity there.  

The 26-year-old is listed at 6’3″ and 252 pounds, per NFL.com. According to his SPARQ rating (a measure of athleticism), via 3SigmaAthlete.com’s Zach Whitman (h/t FieldGulls.com’s Danny Kelly), he compares to St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree.

As Davis Hsu suggested, he’ll likely have to compete for a roster spot near the back of the depth chart: 

 This is mostly an insurance pickup for Seattle, which will see both Malcolm Smith (unrestricted) and Mike Morgan (restricted) test free agency when it begins next week. Even if they both leave, he’s not guaranteed to make an impact.     

Still, the ‘Hawks have uncovered plenty of diamonds in the rough the past couple of years, so it will be interesting to see if Pete Carroll and Co. can get something out of Alexander that others haven’t. 

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