Monday, December 10, 2012

On secondary thought

There was a lot to digest in Seattle's 58-0 drubbing of the Cardinals. One element stood out with potential long and short-term implications. Walter Thurmond III does not look like an occasional fill-in. He looks like a starter, and one that may be better than Brandon Browner. Byron Maxwell looked like a more than capable fill-in, and occasional starter. Those two developments together could lead to Marcus Trufant making an early exit from the roster and Browner exiting the team's long-term plans.

Any sensible reader will start by saying, "Calm down, buddy. It was one game." As a matter of fact, it has been nearly twenty games for Thurmond. He played a fair amount his rookie season, and blossomed last year before his injury. He also showed last week that he was going to be an immediate factor in the slot. It may have been difficult to appreciate on TV, but Thurmond was like white on rice all day. He can do things Browner simply cannot. That's not a knock on Browner, who is a legitimate Pro Bowl player. Thurmond was a first or second round talent that fell to the fourth because of an injury.

He turned 25 in August, and enters the final year of his rookie contract next year. Browner turns 29 next year, and also becomes a free agent in 2014. He also just tested positive for a PED. He has a very specific skill set that fits wonderfully into this system, but won't travel well to a number of defenses. Still, he will have at least one Pro Bowl under his belt, and should command a hefty salary on the open market. This front office has a lot of young player to lock up in the next few years, and very well could turn to Thurmond over Browner. The wise bet might be to try and extend Thurmond this off-season. The club would take a chance on his injury history, and Thurmond would take a chance on missing a big payday in free agency. If he stays healthy the rest of the year, it is a bet I would make without hesitation. It would not guarantee Browner would be off the team in 2014, but the front office could operate from a position of extreme leverage.

Maxwell's strong performance begs the question, what exactly is Trufant's value to this team? Thurmond is a better slot corner without question. We already know Trufant will be a back-up the rest of the year if he gets healthy. There was some question about whether the team would want him to help out if Sherman and Browner were out at the same time. The coaches and front office will get to see whether they are better off with youthful mistakes from Jeremy Lane and Maxwell or physical limitations from Trufant. They also signed DeShawn Shead and Ron Parker to the active roster. Parker is a player the coaching staff is pretty high on.

The place the team is a little thin is nickel corner. My question is whether Trufant offers more than Roy Lewis. Set aside the Husky-Cougar prejudices for a second, and remember that Lewis was a special teams captain, quality slot corner and part-time safety for this defense before getting injured. He tried out for the team last week, and is likely waiting on Sherman's suspension news. If Trufant's hamstring is not responding, maybe it is time for a graceful injured reserve end to his illustrious Seahawks career so the team can sign a player who can add more value to the stretch run.

I would expect the team to find some way, like IR, to keep Trufant on the team so he could be part of any playoff run, but the facts are rather clear about his ability to help the team on the field. If Malcolm Smith can hold onto that starting weakside linebacker spot, this could finally mark the end of the 2005 Seahawks on the field. A sad, but necessary, transition to an exciting future.


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