DeShawn Shead is through the first step in a long road back to the Seahawks.
Seattle’s starting cornerback this past season posted on Twitter that he had successful surgery on Friday to reconstruct the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Shead tore his ACL in a non-contact injury trying to make a sharp cut outside covering a Falcons receiver in the second half of the Seahawks’ playoff loss at Atlanta on Jan. 14. He crumpled to the Georgia Dome turf and left the game, his season over and his Seattle future in doubt.
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Shead, 27, is the former decathlete the Seahawks signed in 2012 as an undrafted rookie from Portland State. He’s been a special-teams mainstay. He’s played at both safety positions. And, in 2016 after free-agent Cary Williams failed there the year before, he’s been the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.
Coach Pete Carroll has praised Shead numerous times for being selfless and coming up through the coach’s program doing unsung roles before earning his starting chance this past season.
He is due to become a restricted free agent this offseason. The Seahawks need to decide by the first week of March whether to make Shead a tender offer for 2017. If they do not, he becomes an unrestricted free agent -- but one with very little bargaining power when the market opens March 9. No potential signing team knows when he will be able to play again and exactly how he will recover from the knee reconstruction.
That’s true of Shead’s restricted free-agent market, too.
Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, Seattle would have three options if it decides to tender Shead. The lowest level tender would give Shead an offer of around $1.75 million (the league will set the exact amounts for tender offers just before the league year begins March 9) and would provide the Seahawks the right of first refusal to any offer Shead would receive from another team. The second-round tender would be a 2017 contract for what is expected to be about $2.6 million and the Seahawks the compensation of a second-round pick should another team sign him. A first-round tender would be a contract for 2017 of about $3.7 million or so, with Seattle getting a first-round choice as compensation should another team sign him.
Garry Gilliam, the Seahawks’ starting right tackle the last two seasons, also could become a restricted free agent. He’s in the same situation as Shead.
Because of Shead’s injury, the Seahawks aren’t likely to need to use the top level tender on him.
The Seahawks got insurance against Shead’s injury this month when it signed 30-year-old veteran Perrish Cox for one year and $855,000. None of that money is guaranteed. So if Shead returns more quickly than expected or if Seattle drafts or signs another cornerback it likes better, Cox may not even make the team this fall.
"Yeah, that's a significant injury, you know, coach Pete Carroll said this month of Shead, before the Seahawks signed Cox. “For a guy out there on the edge, you know, to have your legs you've got to have them.
“It's going to be all the way until next season before he really gets to start seeing how far along he is and if he can come back so we have to think like we got to pull from the ranks of the guys and see how they do. I thought (undrafted rookie) DeAndre Elliott (who replaced Shead for the final part of the loss at Atlanta) did a nice job in the bits that he played. Neiko (Thorpe) did some nice stuff for us too. There's a couple other guys there on the roster that have looked good and looked competitive. But we're going to have to do a really good job of coaching in the case that DeShawn doesn't make it back ready to go.
“I thought he had a very, very good year. He was challenged a ton. Being on the other side of Sherman can wear anybody out and he hung in there tough throughout the season, made a considerable amount of plays and all that. He's a terrific team guy so if he is not available, we're going to really miss him but we've got to go for it with the other guys. Obviously, there will be a chance to address that in the draft, too. There will be plenty of chances, but right now we're excited about some of the guys coming up.”