Why Seahawks officially released DeShawn Shead while saying they’d like to have him back

The Seahawks on Monday officially waived versatile defensive back and special-teams mainstay DeShawn Shead--but want him back as a free agent. How? Why?
The Seahawks on Monday officially waived versatile defensive back and special-teams mainstay DeShawn Shead--but want him back as a free agent. How? Why?

DeShawn Shead is gone. But could be back soon.

The NFL’s official transactions for Monday listed the Seahawks as having waived the versatile, 28-year-old defensive back. He came back from reconstructive knee surgery in January 2017 and a follow-up procedure last summer to play in the final two games of last season.

Shead is the third former starting defensive back the Seahawks have waived since Friday. Richard Sherman, you may have heard, was the first. Jeremy Lane got cut the same day, to save $4.75 million against this year’s salary cap.

Shead is now a free agent, too. Why? Because his contract from last season tolled after he spent almost all of it on the physically-unable-to-perform list. A tolling contract would have required the Seahawks to pay him the same in 2018 as they did in 2017, $1.2 million.

By releasing their one-time special-teams captain into free agency, the Seahawks aren’t bound to that tolling amount and can re-negotiate a new price with Shead for 2018. Of course, Shead can also shop for offers elsewhere. Reportedly, Detroit is interested.

The free-agent market opens Wednesday.

Shead’s agent spoke to ESPN about the Seahawks’ thoughts.

“They called me and they said, ‘Just giving you a heads up that we’re going to release DeShawn on Monday, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want him. That means we are living up to our word and we’re going to release him, otherwise his contract would be required to toll.’” agent Cameron Foster told

“So kudos to the Seahawks for doing the right thing. It’s them living up to their word, letting DeShawn test the free-agent world, but they have said they’d like to have him come back.”

By now, the Seahawks have earned Shead’s trust. And vice versa.

The former decathlete at Portland State had never been off a field until he was strictly in a training room last spring, summer and fall rehabilitating for almost 11 grueling, endless months.

The former undrafted rookie free agent entered the league with the Seahawks in 2012. He scrapped to make a team on its way to consecutive Super Bowls at the end of the 2013 and ‘14 seasons. He dutifully filled every role as a backup in the defensive secondary and a mainstay on every special-teams unit through 2015. Coach Pete Carroll talked throughout those years about how much he appreciated Shead coming up in his program, never complaining, doing all that was asked of him and earning more roles each month of each season. In 2016 the Seahawks rewarded him; he became a full-time starter for the first time, at right cornerback opposite Sherman.

Then he shredded his left knee making a cut outside in pass coverage during Seattle’s playoff loss at Atlanta in January 2017. He became a free agent last spring, talked to Buffalo, then re-signed with Seattle for the $1.2 million. He got back to practice on a limited basis Dec. 6. He played on special teams in the win at Dallas on Christmas Eve and made two special-teams tackles Dec. 31 in the season finale, the loss to Arizona.

Shead becomes yet another decision in free agency for a Seahawks team that had plenty already.