Carroll: Lane gives Seattle's secondary 'best flexibility'

In the first days of free agency, many big-name, high-priced players flew off the board, creating splashy headlines. Often it's signings that flew under the radar -- propping up niche corners of the internet -- that can have the biggest influence on the following season.

One re-signing that will have a large impact for an NFC powerhouse is corner Jeremy Lane re-upping with the Seattle Seahawks.

"I was really happy to get Jeremy back," coach Pete Carroll said last week during the NFL Annual Meeting. "That's a big deal for us because his best play is ahead of him. He's done great stuff for us, but that solidifies the corner spot going into the draft, which was really important."

Lane signed a four-year contract worth $23 million with $11 million guaranteed, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Had Lane not missed the majority of the 2015 season due to an ACL and severe arm injury suffered in Super Bowl XLIX, his market would have been much larger.

The 6-foot, 25-year-old corner provides versatility to play the slot as well as cover the outside against shiftier receivers. Despite playing in just six regular season games in 2015, Lane earned two interceptions, six passes defensed and 13 tackles.

It's not a coincidence that as Lane's role increased over the last five games of the 2015 season, the Seahawks ranked No. 1 in points per game allowed (11.0), passing yards per game allowed (162.4), yards per game allowed (218.8) and rush yards per game allowed (56.4).

Carroll believes the combination of Lane and DeShawn Shead opposite Richard Sherman provides the Seahawks the best flexibility they've ever had in the secondary. Shead would cover the outside against bigger receivers with Lane in the slot, while the two can flip against a team with a smaller, shifty receiver on the outside -- i.e. New England or Pittsburgh.

"The combination of Jeremy and DeShawn gives us two different style corners and both those guys played the nickel spot and that allows us to flip guys around matchup-wise," Carroll said. "Richard as well, as we did last year, so we have all the flexibility -- the best flexibility we've ever had -- and it allows us to go into the draft and not have to be concerned about having to get a guy."

That is some high praise from Carroll, considering the trio of Sherman, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond was once studly.

The Seahawks have been searching for a partner to pair with Sherman since parting with Browner and Thurmond. Byron Maxwell was always overrated and last season's Band-Aid of Cary Williams was never going to work out.

If Lane can stay healthy, the Seahawks will once again boast one of the top secondaries in the NFL: Sherman blankets one side, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas bring the boom from the safety spots, with Lane and Shead providing versatility at the other corner spots.

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