Ahkello Witherspoon

Seahawks Trade Ahkello Witherspoon To Steelers

The Seahawks are trading cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to the Steelers (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). In exchange, the Steelers will send a 2023 fifth-round choice to Seattle.

Witherspoon left the rival 49ers to join the Seahawks in March. A third-round pick in the 2017 draft, Witherspoon turned in a strong rookie campaign for SF. Then, he regressed in his second pro season. He was benched several times in 2018, and he ultimately graded out as the worst full-time corner that year, per Pro Football Focus’ metrics.

He did show some signs of life in his platform season, however. Though he started just four games and appeared in only 32% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps in 2020 — both career-low marks — PFF considered him a top-10 corner in terms of coverage ability. In addition to the Seahawks, the Jets, Broncos, and Panthers also showed interest in Witherspoon. Now, he’ll try to fortify the Steelers’ secondary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DB Rumors: Mills, Panthers, Seahawks, Colts

The Eagles moved Jalen Mills from cornerback to safety ahead of the 2020 offseason, when they re-signed him to a one-year contract. Mills began his first Patriots offseason at safety, but his new team has shuttled him back to his old job. Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips‘ early OTAs absences prompted the Pats to use Mills alongside Kyle Dugger at safety. But he spent the team’s final week of OTAs back at corner, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. With Stephon Gilmore holding out, Mills played opposite J.C. Jackson at corner Monday, per Jeff Howe of The Athletic (subscription required). Thirty-four of Mills’ 49 NFL starts have come at corner, including 15 in the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl-winning season. Gilmore and the Pats are not believed to be close on an extension, clouding his future with the team and complicating New England’s cornerback outlook.

Here are some additional updates from NFL secondaries:

  • A.J. Bouye broke out as an outside corner with the Texans and made the Pro Bowl as a boundary defender with the Jaguars. The Broncos used Bouye on the outside as well last season. The Panthers have a different plan. Carolina DC Phil Snow told Bouye the team needs him in the slot, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). After signing Bouye to a two-year, $7MM deal, the Panthers picked Jaycee Horn eighth overall. Horn and Donte Jackson are on track to be Carolina’s outside corners this season.
  • Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn underwent surgery for an injury that has bothered him since college. The second-year defender had what Matt Rhule described as a minor knee operation this offseason, but Carolina’s HC said the injury Chinn dealt with in 2020 had bothered him dating back to his Southern Illinois days (Twitter links via Person). Despite the injury, Chinn proved to be one of the NFL’s top rookies last season.
  • Richard Sherman surfaced on the Seahawks‘ radar recently, but he is taking his time on deciding his next team. The three-year 49ers corner did advise ex-teammate Ahkello Witherspoon to move to Seattle, however. The former Legion of Boom member told Witherspoon he would fit in well with the Seahawks, Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic notes. Witherspoon signed a one-year, $4MM contract with the Seahawks in March. A third-round 49ers pick in 2017, Witherspoon made a 30 visit to Seattle ahead of the draft four years ago.
  • The Cowboys did not use Reggie Robinson on defense in his rookie season, but they moved the 2020 fourth-round pick from cornerback to safety during training camp last year. While that change did not end up mattering during regular-season games, Robinson is now back at corner, Jon Machota of The Athletic notes.
  • Marvell Tell opted out of the 2020 season, but the former fifth-round pick is back at work with the Colts. Tell has joined the run of secondary position changes this offseason; the Colts have moved him from safety to corner, Stephen Holder of The Athletic writes. As a safety in 2019, Tell played 252 snaps and started one game. The Colts have crowded their cornerback contingent this offseason, re-signing both Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie. Both veterans are on one-year contracts. Tell’s rookie deal tolled from the COVID-19 opt-out; he is under contract through 2023.

Seahawks To Sign CB Ahkello Witherspoon

The 49ers have brought back two members of their huge class of free agent cornerbacks, but another appears headed to one of their top rivals. Ahkello Witherspoon is expected to sign with the Seahawks, according to veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson (on Twitter). Per Matt Barrows of The Athletic, it will be a one-year pact for the Colorado product (Twitter link). Witherspoon will join a Seattle team that just lost Shaquill Griffin.

A third-round pick in the 2017 draft, Witherspoon turned in a strong rookie campaign, but he regressed in his second professional season. He was benched several times in 2018, and he ultimately graded out as the worst full-time corner that year, per Pro Football Focus’ metrics.

He did show some signs of life in his platform season, however. Though he started just four games and appeared in only 32% of San Francisco’s defensive snaps in 2020 — both career-low marks — PFF considered him a top-10 corner in terms of coverage ability. He is not a perfect replacement for Griffin, who agreed to a three-year, $40MM deal with the Jaguars earlier today, but he will come much cheaper.

According to Barrows, Witherspoon also generated interest from the Jets, Broncos, and Panthers, among other clubs. The ‘Hawks did get to see him up close quite a bit over the last four seasons, and they clearly liked what they saw.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

49ers’ Ahkello Witherspoon To Miss Time

The 49ers’ cornerback shuffle continues. In addition to placing Richard Sherman on injured reserve with a leg injury, the Niners also announced that fellow corner Ahkello Witherspoon has entered the concussion protocol. To replenish the group, the Niners have promoted Dontae Johnson from the practice squad to the active roster. And, to replace Johnson on the practice squad, they’ve signed former Steelers fifth-round pick Brian Allen

[RELATED: 49ers Place Richard Sherman On IR]

Now, the Niners are without their leading outside cornerback and one of their top reserve CBs. Jason Verrett figures to start opposite of Emmanuel Moseley for the time being with K’Waun Williams continuing to serve as the slot man. Beyond that, the Niners will lean on Dontae Johnson as the first corner off the bench and hope that they won’t be hit with any more CB injuries.

In other Niners news, they’ve added veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu on a one-year deal. On the other side of the ball, they’ve decided to pass on Ezekiel Ansah yet again after their second meeting with the defensive lineman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Ramsey, 49ers, Seahawks

The 49ers have been accustomed to dealing with running back unavailability during Kyle Shanahan‘s tenure, but Jerick McKinnon is on track to make his 49er debut at long last. However, Tevin Coleman‘s status is now uncertain. The second-year 49ers back did not practice Friday because of the poor air quality in San Francisco, which has been affected by the recent wildfires raging in many west coast areas. Coleman, who has a sickle cell trait, also did not finish a practice earlier in training camp due to poor air quality, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. Although the 49ers traded Matt Breida, they still have McKinnon, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson on their active roster.

Here is the latest from the NFC West, moving first to the Rams’ resetting of the cornerback market.

  • The Rams were slightly over the 2020 salary cap earlier this week, but their Jalen Ramsey extension solved that problem. They created $7.5MM through the Ramsey deal, Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets. Ramsey’s cornerback-record five-year, $105MM contract calls for only a $1.2MM base salary in 2020 — down from $13.7MM. The ensuing years, however, include base salaries of $17.5MM (2021), $15MM (’22), $17MM (’23), $14.5MM (’24) and $15.5MM (’25), Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. This contract’s rolling guarantee structure will convert injury guarantees to full guarantees the year before, essentially tying Ramsey to Los Angeles’ payroll through at least 2024, Garafolo adds (via Twitter).
  • Rams free agent signing A’Shawn Robinson qualified for the high-risk $350K stipend as an opt-out player, but his agent and the team reached a compromise that allowed the defensive lineman to avoid the opt-out list. The Rams instead placed Robinson on the non-football injury list and are paying him $500K this year, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Robinson was on track to opt out. Even though he did not officially do so, his two-year contract will toll to 2021 if he does not play this season. Robinson will keep his $6MM signing bonus, but his $3MM 2020 base salary will toll to 2021, Breer adds. Robinson could, however, come off the NFI list and play by Week 10.
  • Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider took a leave of absence this week, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times tweets. Larry Izzo will take over in that role during his absence. Schneider has been with the Seahawks throughout Pete Carroll‘s tenure, following Carroll from USC to Seattle in 2010. Izzo is in his third season with the team.
  • Prior to roster cutdown day, the 49ers considered trading Ahkello Witherspoon, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Witherspoon was aware of the team’s effort, which did not end up producing a deal. The 49ers are set to be without Jason Verrett, who missed all of last season and has dealt with injuries throughout his career, Sunday due to a hamstring injury. Witherspoon is in line to serve as a key depth player to start the season. Emmanuel Moseley replaced him in the starting lineup during the playoffs. A fourth-year player, Witherspoon is set for unrestricted free agency in 2021.
  • The 49ers did not restructure Dee Ford‘s deal to set up a big move, John Lynch said (via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, on Twitter). The move, however, did create $9.5MM in cap space. That gave the team some breathing room; it holds $10.9MM in cap space as of Saturday. The move does, however, make Ford a more difficult cut in 2021. It would now cost the 49ers $14MM-plus in dead money to release the defensive end next year.

Bay Area Notes: Witherspoon, Lee, Verrett, Joyner

49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was expected to be active for Monday Night’s contest against the Seahawks for the first time since Week 3. However, Witherspoon remained on the team’s inactive list. According to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, Witherspoon feels 100%, but he did not get to participate in a full practice this week. Thus, the team plans to give him a full week of practice before rejoining the starting lineup next week against the Cardinals.

Rookie undrafted free agent Emmanuel Mosley has been fantastic in place of Witherspoon and surely made the decision to play it safe with Witherspoon easier. At 8-0, San Francisco has a fantastic opportunity to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the number one seed in the NFC with a win tonight.

Here’s more from around the Bay Area:

  • Raiders linebacker Marquel Lee has rejoined the team’s practices, according to Howard Balzer. Lee was placed on injured reserve in September with an ankle injury, however, the team designated him for a possible return. Balzer’s report signals the beginning of a 21-day practice period for Lee to practice with the team before Oakland must decide to reactivate him or leave him on IR for the rest of the season.
  • Cornerback Jason Verrett was among the 49ers on the field for warm-ups on Monday Night before their matchup with Seattle, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. While normally a player warming up before a game wouldn’t be newsworthy, Verrett is currently on the injured reserve with a designation to potentially return later in the season. Per Barrows, he has not been on the field since his injury two months ago. Since Verrett is not eligible to return until December 1, it is a very good sign for the team to see him making progress.
  • Jon Gruden told reporters that Raiders slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner is questionable with a hamstring injury, according to Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. Gruden went on to say that Nevin Lawson will get the first opportunity to replace Joyner. Rookie fourth round pick Isaiah Johnson, recently activated from the injured reserve, will get an opportunity to receive snaps at the outside cornerback position and possibly move veteran Daryl Worley inside to the slot as well, per Bair.

NFC West Notes: Goff, Seahawks, 49ers

While the Eagles and Carson Wentz are negotiating an extension that is expected to be finalized before the season, the Rams and Jared Goff have not made similar progress. It is not clear if they have begun re-up talks. But the notion the team is toying with the idea of using the two-time Pro Bowler during his rookie deal and moving in is not rooted in reality, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Rams are committed to building a roster around a franchise-level Goff contract, per Bonsignore. Goff stands to make more than $20MM in 2020 on his fifth-year option but is tethered to merely an $8.89MM cap number this season. Sean McVay has not said if the Rams plan to extend Goff this year, mentioning the possibility of a deal being tabled until 2020.

Shifting to another quarterback’s contract, here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • Geno Smith landed with a fourth team in four years recently, linking up with the Seahawks. His one-year deal is for the minimum salary, according to Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). He’ll receive just $25K guaranteed on the $895K deal as he competes with Paxton Lynch to serve as Russell Wilson‘s backup. Lynch is making $645K this year. Neither is a lock to be on Seattle’s roster when the regular season begins. Despite these two high picks’ struggles as NFLers, each profiles as a bigger name than the Seahawks have employed behind Russell Wilson over the past two seasons.
  • More Seahawks details: Al Woodsdeal points to the veteran defensive tackle having a slightly better chance to make the 53-man roster. But the 10th-year lineman’s pact is worth slightly less than originally reported, as is often the case. Woods can earn up to $2.25MM, but the base value of this pact is $1.25MM, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. A five-team veteran who played two games with 2011 Seahawks, Woods received $400K guaranteed. The deal will count $2.215MM against Seattle’s cap. This deal is similar to those given to Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen last year. Both made the team, though Johnson was cut midway through the season.
  • Ahkello Witherspoon‘s 2018 season did not go well. The young cornerback graded as, by far, the worst full-time corner in the view of Pro Football Focus. But the 49ers signing Jason Verrett does not mean he will be the starter. Witherspoon will still be the man to beat at right cornerback, Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Verrett is unlikely to be ready to go until training camp, Barrows adds.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

49ers To Send Ahkello Witherspoon To IR

Ahkello Witherspoon left early during the 49ers’ upset win over the Seahawks, and his Week 15 action will be his last of the season.

The 49ers will place Witherspoon on injured reserve, Kyle Shanahan said Monday. This will wrap up the former third-round pick’s second NFL season. Witherspoon left Sunday’s game with a sprained right PCL.

San Francisco’s starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, Witherspoon struggled this season. Only one corner (Denver’s Jamar Taylor) has a lower grade, per Pro Football Focus, exiting Week 15. Witherspoon has started 21 games since coming to the 49ers out of Colorado.

Two seasons remain on his rookie contract, so he’ll have a chance to bounce back in 2019. The mid-round pick enjoyed a more promising rookie season and will presumably be part of San Francisco’s corner rotation next season. Rookie third-rounder Tarvarius Moore will start in Witherspoon’s place, Shanahan said.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Notes: Foster, Mack, Goodwin

We know that soon-to-be-former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested on a domestic violence charge last night following an incident at the team’s hotel in Tampa Bay, and that the team is going to put Foster on the waiver wire tomorrow. GM John Lynch has since given an interview on the situation, and he indicated that the decision to cut Foster was made because Foster failed to uphold the standards set for him after the issues he had earlier this year (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com). Lynch added that he and team ownership agreed on the move.

Now for more from San Francisco, starting with more Foster fallout:

  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic provides a series of tweets with more detail on the Foster incident and Lynch’s reaction to it.
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry notes that the 49ers will carry roughly $2.35MM in dead money for Foster on the 2019 cap (Twitter link). Foster’s two-game suspension that he served at the beginning of this season wiped out his base salary guarantees, so the dead money figure stems entirely from signing bonus proration.
  • In two separate pieces, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examines Foster’s chances of being picked up by another club. Florio notes that any team interested in Foster’s services would first want to know if the league plans to place Foster on the Commissioner Exempt list, which is a device for keeping players off the field when those players face certain types of criminal charges, including allegations of domestic violence. A player cannot be placed on the list unless he is on a team, but he would be eligible to be paid during his stay on the list. Any team is free to call the league office to determine what its intentions are with respect to Foster, but unless the league is able to definitively say that Foster is not a candidate for the list — which seems unlikely — it does not appear that Foster will be claimed on waivers. It also seems that no one will be interested in signing Foster even when he clears waivers until his status with the league is determined.
  • We knew that the 49ers were interested in trading for Khalil Mack before he was dealt to the Bears, but we also heard that San Francisco had simply been outbid by Chicago. However, Lynch indicated during a radio interview with 95.7 The Game on Friday that he continues to believe that the 49ers had a better offer on the table for Mack (audio link). To get Mack, the Bears gave up two first-round picks, a 2019 sixth-rounder, and a 2020 third-rounder (though some draft capital came back to Chicago as well), so Lynch is apparently suggesting that he was prepared to give more than that to land the elite defender.
  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin traveled with the team to Tampa Bay, but he is not present for San Francisco’s matchup with the Bucs, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Goodwin was reportedly excused from the team to address a personal matter, and he was also excused from practice earlier this week due to a personal matter, though it is presently unclear whether it is the same issue.
  • Ahkello Witherspoon, who was selected two rounds after Foster in the 2017 draft, is at something of a crossroads with the 49ers, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Witherspoon has been benched twice this year and has regressed in coverage and tackling after a strong rookie campaign, and while it seems unlikely the 49ers would cut him at the end of the season, his play over the course of the team’s final six games will have a big impact on how aggressively the 49ers pursue cornerback upgrades in the offseason.

NFC West Rumors: Rams, 49ers, Thomas

Despite the Rams‘ dominance through four games, they haven’t deployed much in the way of name talent at linebacker. They traded Alec Ogletree to the Giants and shipped Robert Quinn to the Dolphins. Los Angeles is in line to have its top current ‘backer back in Week 5, however. Sean McVay expects Barron to make his season debut against the Seahawks after missing the first four games due to a lingering Achilles injury that caused him to miss all of Los Angeles’ offseason program.

We’ve kind of got a plan in place where we’re anticipating him being able to go. And that’s subject to change based on how he responds. But he’s feeling good up to this point,” McVay said, via Myles Simmons of TheRams.com. “We’re hopeful to be able to get him back and if that’s the case we’ll be excited to get Mark out there.”

Barron started 44 games for the Rams the past four seasons and is in the third season of a five-year, $45MM contract. The Rams have started Cory Littleton and Ramik Wilson at inside linebacker this season.

Here’s the latest from this division, one that features a clear-cut favorite at the quarter pole.

  • Although McVay said earlier this week Greg Zuerlein had a chance to return Sunday, that probably remains at least a week away. The second-year Rams coach said the signing of Cairo Santos likely indicates Zuerlein is still a bit way from resuming his season. He’s been sidelined since Week 2 warmups after sustaining a groin injury.
  • Richard Sherman‘s per-game bonus-laden contract makes it critical he stay on the field as much as possible, and the veteran cornerback has a chance to play this week. The 49ers defender participated in a limited practice on Thursday and would be in line to start upon returning. However, not much else is known about the 49ers’ corner situation, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward and Greg Mabin could continue a rotation on the outside, Robert Saleh said, adding this is a product of Mabin’s progress rather than the coaching staff having issues with Ward or Witherspoon’s play.
  • Don’t look for D.J. Reed to usurp the rehabbing Adrian Colbert. Kyle Shanahan confirmed, via Maiocco, the original San Francisco free safety starter will get his job back once he returns from a hip contusion. Shanahan would be “surprised” if Colbert isn’t ready to return this week. The second-year player did not start last week but got in two full practices this week.
  • The Seahawks could franchise Earl Thomas for $12.48MM, but the three-time All-Pro could well hit the market. If he’s not franchised, it’s incredibly hard to envision Thomas back with the Seahawks. And if he is, another long holdout almost certainly commences. Despite having a broken leg end his season, Thomas may see a robust market come March, with Joel Corry of CBS Sports citing big deals given to Allen Robinson (coming off an ACL tear) and Matt Kalil (off a hip injury) as why Thomas can be expected to be a coveted commodity. Thomas has already surmounted a significant leg injury; he returned from that season-ending malady to be a 2017 Pro Bowler. He should have immense incentive to get cleared by the time free agency opens.