SEATTLE – The Seahawks made a few more quick moves Thursday as NFL free agency entered a new phase, signing a trio of veterans – cornerback Jamar Taylor, fullback Nick Bellore and guard Marcus Martin.
The team officially announced all the signings Thursday afternoon. No financial terms were immediately available, nor were corresponding moves to make room on the roster revealed.
The signings came a day after Seattle agreed to a deal with free-agent defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
Of the three signings already announced, Taylor’s may be the most significant. The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder figures to step into the competition at the nickel cornerback position, or the inside cornerback defending the slot, a spot where Seattle last year used Justin Coleman, who signed with the Lions in free agency.
Bellore, 29, becomes the only fullback on the team’s roster, a position at which Seattle has had at least one player on its 53-man roster for almost all of Pete Carroll’s tenure. Bellore entered the league as a linebacker in 2011 but switched to fullback with Detroit in 2017 and was solely a fullback for the Lions last year, playing all 118 of his snaps at that position. He also had 238 snaps on special teams, according to Pro Football Reference. He had four receptions for 15 yards last season and one carry for no yards.
The 25-year-old Martin played at USC and was a third-round pick of the 49ers in 2014 and has played in 26 games in his career with 24 starts. But he has not played in an NFL game since 2016 and spent last year on Injured Reserve with Dallas after suffering a torn ligament in his right big toe in a preseason game.
Taylor, who will turn 29 on Sept. 29, played at Boise State and was a Dolphins second-round pick in 2013. He has 41 career starts, most with the Browns – a combined 27 in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
He played 14 games overall last season for Arizona and Denver, with three starts with the Cardinals in the first three games of the season before being released in December and then signed by the Broncos.
Taylor then became an unrestricted free agent, and as the Seahawks did with Ansah, they waited to sign Taylor until after the deadline when signings of unrestricted free agents count against the formula for determining 2020 compensatory draft picks.
Taylor and Bellore both visited the Seahawks in late March.
Taylor played just 10 of 305 snaps last season in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.
But the slot is where he is expected to play for Seattle, a spot that is wide open with Coleman’s departure. Seattle has three veteran candidates on its roster in Akeem King, Kalan Reed and Jeremy Boykins and also could use 2019 draft pick Ugo Amadi there.
Amadi, a fourth-round pick out of Oregon, was tried in the slot quite a bit during last weekend’s rookie minicamp, with coach Pete Carroll saying afterward he played more than the team had anticipated.
Now Taylor gets thrown into the mix – with the timing of his signing almost certainly due to the comp pick formula and not thoughts on what they saw out of Amadi – to fill what is an increasingly key spot in today’s NFL, with teams in a nickel defense generally around two-thirds of the time.
“It’s going to be a wide-open comp and we’ll see how it goes,” Carroll said of the nickel spot in March.
The Seahawks will be hoping that Taylor can regain the form he showed in 2016 when he was named as the most improved cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, which stated at the time: “Taylor was sent from Miami to Cleveland via swapping seventh-rounders during the 2016 NFL draft. A key reason why he showed such drastic improvement had to do with how he was deployed. With the Dolphins, Taylor played only 5 percent of snaps in the slot. In Cleveland, he spent 32 percent of his snaps there. Because of this, he found more success shutting down out routes (51.3 passer rating allowed), slants (62.5), and crossing routes (48.8). After finding himself ranked 106th overall among CBs in 2015, Taylor emerged as our 19th-ranked CB in 2016.”
At the NFL league meetings in March, Carroll also talked of the chances of Reed, King and Boykins to win the job.
King played some slot corner in a six-defensive back scheme last year, while Seattle kept Reed on the 53-man roster at the end of the year with the idea that he might be needed to help replace Coleman.
“He’s going to be in the competition of it,” Carroll said of King. “He did a really nice job. He’s going to have a shot at the nickel spot as well. We played him in there in the dime situation and moved him in and out of there. He’s bigger than other guys; got big, solid frame and over 200 pounds. He’s been really consistent, he’s really fast and we like the heck out of him. From what he did last year we expand his role, see where he can take it and expect him to play for us on a regular basis.”
King, though, is 6-1, 215, which doesn’t really fit the traditional mold of a slot corner. Reed, who is 5-11, 199, does.
“Lots of times that’s where a smaller guy gets his chance,“ Carroll agreed. “But it doesn’t have to be a smaller guy. But we’ll see how he does. We’ll have to check him out against all different types in there. We have enough information to feel good about it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. He’ll have some good competition. We have a couple other guys who will battle for the spot as well.”
One of those other guys, Carroll said, is the 6-2, 183-pound Boykins, who caught Seattle’s eye during training camp last year and spent much of the season on the practice squad.
“I want to see what he does in there,” Carroll said. “He’s real quick guy that did a really nice job for us. You guys don’t know much about him. He’s longer, he’s more like Akeem is. Really feisty, really challenging guy. Kalan Reed will get a shot in there, too. We like what he does. He’s played there before. We know that he looks good there as well.”