Monday is Byron Maxwell's 27th birthday, and it's a good bet that the start of his 28th year will be unlike any other for the Seahawks' cornerback.
That's because he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 10, and the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Maxwell figures to generate plenty of attention once he hits the open market as not only one of the best cornerbacks available but one who has grown into a starter for the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense after being a sixth-round draft choice in 2011.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider touched on Maxwell's impending status, and the likely interest he'll generate in free agency, during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week.
"Byron is one of ours. It would be hard to see him leave," Schneider said. "But I think his market would be pretty strong. He's a heck of a kid and a heck of a player."
Maxwell stepped into the starting lineup on the right side – opposite All-Pro corner Richard Sherman – for the final five games of the 2013 season. All Maxwell did was intercept four passes in his first NFL starts, and he also forced a fumble in the Seahawks' 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
In the 2014 season, Maxwell started 12 games during the regular season and two of the three playoff games. He intercepted two passes and had a career-high 39 tackles during the regular season and added a third interception in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.
Maxwell has the size and length that more teams are looking for in cornerbacks because of the success the Seahawks have had in using them the past three seasons – when they've led the NFL in average points allowed.
Schneider said that retaining Maxwell is a priority, but he also recognizes the obvious.
"Those are tough decisions," Schneider said. "We're not going to change what we do. So if Byron does move on, we'll be hopefully having another young Byron Maxwell out there. He's a great guy."
So on his special day to begin what will be a special year – one way or the other – we send great-guy birthday wishes to Byron Maxwell.