You have heard about Paul Richardson. His return from the PUP list seems imminent. But what about Jeremy Lane? He is on that same list, eligible to come back at the same time, and yet Pete Carroll seems to dodge questions about him. This is a guy who could actually change the trajectory of this season for Seattle. Their cornerback depth is thin, and Lane would almost certainly rise to the top of the nickel depth chart if healthy. We know it. Lane knows it. The team knows it. That can only mean this tapdance is about one thing—nobody is sure if he will be healthy enough to play this year. There is a way for the Seahawks to give Lane a lot more time to rehab, and keep the possibility open that he could be a late season shot in the arm.
Step 1: Stretching the PUP limits
If you already read my post on Richardson, and the mechanics of the PUP list, this first part will be review. Still, the rules take on a different meaning when you have a player like Lane who may need the maximum amount of time to come back from injury.
Lane’s injuries were gruesome (I do not advise looking at pictures) and recovery time has been unclear. They happened in the Super Bowl, and there were reported to be some complications during recovery. Still, the Seahawks had to think Lane could come back this season or they would have just placed him on injured reserve and been done with it. The PUP designation indicated they have some hope.
Let’s max out the PUP to give Lane the most amount of time to rehab. The last week a player on the PUP can come back to practice is week eleven. November 20th would be the Friday before the Seahawks week eleven game against the 49ers. All Lane would have to do is go through walk throughs to keep his 2015 eligibility on the table. The team would then have 21 days from the day of first practice to make a final decision about whether to bring Lane onto the 53 man roster. That would be December 11th, the Friday before the Seahawks play in Baltimore. Note, these dates may be a little off depending on the fine print of the NFL rules, but you get the gist.
If Lane shows enough promise to be brought aboard, the team would have to make a roster move. Speculating about who that would be this far ahead is a waste of time. The important thing is the team could have until mid-December to make the decision.
Lane does not need to play just because he is on the roster. Remember that Percy Harvin character? Seattle played this roster shell game with him all the way through to the Super Bowl. The team could stash Lane away on the roster and not activate him for game day. That could happen for as long as they felt he was making progress and the team did not need his roster spot for another player.
It would be fantastic if he is healthy enough to come back and contribute during the regular season, but he does not have to. He could sit out all the way until the Super Bowl, should the team find a way to get there again.
Step 3: Finding a spot
This is the easy part. Unlike Richardson, there is a clear need for Lane’s skill set as soon as the team can safely access it. Lane is built like an edge corner, long and lanky, but his best contributions so far have come at the nickel corner spot.
He would likely take over for Marcus Burley or Deshawn Shead or whoever is filling that role at the time. Burley has been a decent nickel corner, but his lack of height has been exploited at times. Shead has the great size, but is not quick enough to stick with the shifty slot receivers. Lane is the perfect in-between. He is not a shutdown nickel corner by any means, but he is a step up from what Seattle has deployed thus far.
It is possible that he could be used on the outside in place of Cary Williams. That would seem less likely at the moment.
Lane has also been a special teams ace. He was a terrific gunner on punt coverage. It may be too much to ask for him to take on that task this season. His value to the team is much greater as a corner right now than as a special teams contributor.
Watch and wait
Lane does not represent a supercharge addition. He would strengthen one of the weaker units on the team, and would upgrade the ceiling of the secondary in terms of talent. The team has every reason to try and stretch the window as far as it can to try and get Lane back in the fold. Lane has every reason to try and come back and play, given that he is a free agent next year.
The NFL got this part of the CBA right. Everybody wants the best players on the field. The structure of the PUP gives the team a chance to do right by Lane and let him recover, and gives Lane the chance to do right by his body.
Seattle will be a better team with Lane in the mix. They just need to be a good enough team for it to matter late in the year.