Without Richard Sherman, Seahawks will turn back to Jeremy Lane and wait for DeShawn Shead

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — When cornerback Jeremy Lane returned to the Seattle Seahawks last week, the first word to come to mind might have been “awkward.”

How could it not have been? The Seahawks had agreed to send Lane to the Houston Texans in the Duane Brown trade, but his inclusion in the deal fell through when he failed his physical. So back he went to a team that had just decided to trade him.

Awkward indeed. But the word that coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard used repeatedly to describe having Lane back was “fortunate,” and the Seahawks feel especially fortunate for that now that Richard Sherman will miss the remainder of the season with a ruptured Achilles.

“It’s hugely important,” Carroll said Thursday night of having Lane back in the mix in light of Sherman’s injury.

The plan to replace Sherman seems pretty clear, for now at least. Lane will take over at left cornerback opposite rookie Shaquill Griffin, while Justin Coleman remains the nickelback.

Lane began the season as the starter on the right side, but an injury allowed Griffin to take hold of that that job. The Seahawks liked enough of what they say from Griffin in a starting role that they felt comfortable trading away Lane, only to welcome him back a few days later.

“He’s shown he’s a starter,” Carroll said of Lane. “Shaq has shown that he’s a starter, too. We’re very fortunate to have players of that caliber ready to step up. They’ll be challenged, but we’re fortunate to have guys like that.”

The Seahawks have Neiko Thorpe on their bench and another former starter, DeShawn Shead, waiting to come off the physically unable to perform list. Shead has yet to start practicing, so in all likelihood, he’s still at least two weeks away.

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In the meantime, one free agent the Seahawks will almost certainly consider is Byron Maxwell, who started 17 games for Seattle from 2013-14 before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was traded after one season to the Miami Dolphins and was released in October.

Maxwell, 29, is still making his $8.5 million 2017 base salary from Miami, but any new team could sign him for the veteran minimum. He makes too much sense for the Seahawks not to at least bring him in for a tryout.

For now, though, here’s a closer look at what Seattle’s cornerback situation looks like without Sherman:

Jeremy Lane — All-Pros like Sherman aren’t easily replaced, but the Seahawks could do much worse than Lane, even if he’s much more experienced in the slot than he is on the outside. A 2012 sixth-round pick, Lane has played a primary role in the Seahawks’ secondary since he became their nickelback in 2014. He didn’t have a particularly strong 2016 season after signing a contract extension in March of that year. Lane hadn’t played poorly before losing his starting job to Griffin this season; Griffin was just playing better. Lane said it was a little awkward when he first returned to Seattle following his failed physical in Houston, “but my teammates embraced me like I never left.” With Sherman out, Lane becomes the veteran among Seattle’s cornerbacks. “The last couple weeks have been crazy, an emotional roller coaster,” he said, “but I think I handled it well, stayed positive and put it in God’s hands.”

Shaquill Griffin — As a third-round pick, Griffin is Seattle’s highest-drafted cornerback under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, and he’s the only one to begin his rookie season in a prominent role. Griffin entered the season as Seattle’s No. 3 cornerback, but he filled the No. 2 role for much of the opener after Lane was ejected in the first quarter and has done so ever since Lane was injured in Week 4. A down moment in what’s been an otherwise strong rookie season came last week, when Griffin was beat deep for a 38-yard completion that set up the Washington Redskins’ winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Aside from that, the Seahawks have to be thrilled about what they’ve gotten from Griffin and his long-term potential.

Justin Coleman — He was something of an unsung hero in the first half of the season for how well he played when pressed into action at nickelback, first when Lane was ejected in Week 1 and then when Lane was hurt. Coleman had a pick-six after replacing Lane in Week 4 vs. the Indianapolis Colts and has been solid in that role. The Seahawks acquired Coleman in a trade before the start of the season, giving up a seventh-round pick to get him from the New England Patriots. That move has paid off big time.

Neiko Thorpe — Signed early last season after his release from the Oakland Raiders, Thorpe saw extensive action for two games in 2016 when Shead hurt his hamstring. Aside from that, he’s mostly played special teams Thorpe led Seattle in special teams tackles last season with nine and has again been one of the Seahawks’ better players there this season.

DeShawn Shead — If Shead was healthy and ready to play right now, he’d likely be the team’s choice to replace Sherman in the starting lineup. But he’s still on the PUP list, in the finishing stages of his recovery from an ACL tear he suffered in the playoffs in January. Shead has played every position in the Seahawks’ secondary since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He had been their starter at right cornerback for a season and a half before he was hurt. With Sherman out, the sooner Shead comes back the better.

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