The Seahawks bought an insurance policy they decided they didn’t need.
They said as much by trading cornerback Kelly Jennings to the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday for Clinton McDonald, a backup defensive tackle.
Before anyone lumps Jennings, a 2006 first-round choice, alongside the botched draft picks of former president Tim Ruskell, remember that Seattle re-signed Jennings less than a month ago. Not only that, but the Seahawks paid a six-figure signing bonus for the privilege of doing so.
Jennings, 28, had something that Seattle largely lacked in its secondary: experience.
The Seahawks didn’t see Jennings as a long-term solution at the position, so they re-signed him to a one-year deal. They didn’t even see him as a starter with second-year corner Walter Thurmond poised to start at right cornerback and Marcus Trufant remaining on the left side after reducing his salary to $3 million this season.
The rest of the depth chart at cornerback was a bit of a mystery when the Seahawks opened training camp. The Seahawks drafted Richard Sherman of Stanford in the fifth round and Byron Maxwell of Clemson in the sixth round in addition to bringing in Brandon Browner from the Canadian Football League.
The secondary is green. Of the 15 defensive backs on the roster, 11 are in their first or second season.
And for all the criticism leveled at Jennings in his five seasons in Seattle, he was a serviceable cornerback. He possessed above-average speed even by cornerback standards, started 44 games in his five seasons, and when the Seahawks shipped out one of their undersized cornerbacks a year ago, it was Josh Wilson – and not Jennings – whom they traded to Baltimore.
So why trade Jennings now?
The Seahawks said there wasn’t room for a security blanket in the secondary. Not with the way Browner has played the past month. Browner started in Denver with Jennings out because of a tight hamstring.
Sherman has played well and at 6 feet 3. He’s the tall, physical cornerback that Seattle covets, while Maxwell has been a key special-teams contributor during exhibition games. Kennard Cox is part of the equation for the 53-man roster, too. It’s possible Jennings simply wasn’t going to fit.
The Seahawks didn’t give Jennings away. They received McDonald, a former seventh-round pick who played his way from the Bengals’ practice squad to the regular roster and appeared in eight games.
But the motivation for trading Jennings wasn’t just about whom they acquired, but the players Seattle has stocked in its secondary.
Jennings’ experience was insurance, which the Seahawks no longer felt they needed in the secondary.
Hawks cut eight
The Seahawks announced the release of eight players: WR Chris Carter, CB Jesse Hoffman, LB Neal Howey, OT Zach Hurd, WR Brandon Smith, FB Ryan Travis, DT Teryl White and WR Patrick Williams. Seattle has 82 players on the roster, which must be trimmed to 80 by this afternoon.
Hoffman attended Shorecrest High School and went to Eastern Washington as a running back before moving to the secondary.