Cornerback Cary Williams was a free-agent the Seahawks had to have this offseason.
That's because Byron Maxwell - the team's starting right cornerback since the tail-end of the 2013 season - commanded more on the NFL's open market than Seattle could afford. He signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team Williams played 32 games for the past two seasons.
Also in play in the Seahawks' acquisition of Williams was the fact that nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane (arm, knee) and backup cornerback Tharold Simon (shoulder) saw their 2015 season-opening status in doubt. The pair continues to recover from setbacks suffered in 2014, but head coach Pete Carroll recently said both players could return in time for training camp, emphasizing the club would be extra-cautious with Lane, who broke his forearm and tore his ACL during an interception return in Super Bowl XLIX.
The first of Seattle's 10 Organized Team Activities (OTAs) took place this past Tuesday at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center and the non-contact workouts offered Williams his initial taste of Seahawks football.
"It's a great environment," Williams said. "It's an environment that's fun. You're going to play around fast, fly around the ball. You're encouraged to compete at the top of the routes, be as aggressive as possible, and just go out there and have fun."
Williams fits the profile of a Seahawks defensive back. At 6-foot-1 and 190-pounds he has the size and length Seattle's coaching staff covets.
"Cary's doing everything," Carroll said. "He looks very much the part of the kind of play that we anticipate on his first day against somebody. But still, he gets it. He's smart, he's really dedicated, he hasn't missed a trick. He's been on everything. He's really assumed the responsibility of trying to take over that position on a defense that he seems proud to be part of, too."
Despite his head coach's endorsement, Williams hasn't been handed the job opposite Richard Sherman just yet. He'll compete for those starting snaps alongside Simon, fellow free-agent addition Will Blackmon, and 2015 fifth-round draft pick Tye Smith, all while picking up a new defense that requires "more attention to detail," in Williams' eyes.
"They talk about being more patient," Williams said of Seattle's approach. "There's a lot of intricate things that are different than other places. They're more focused on the details, like I said, and it's an emphasis on those things and making sure you're focused on those small details on every snap."
Sherman, the two-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, was quick to take time to touch up Williams on the Seahawks' technique during the team's first OTA. Williams called it an "awesome" gesture from one of the game's bigger stars.
"He's a guy that's reliable each and every Sunday, a guy that comes out and makes plays and backs up what he talks," Williams said of Sherman. "You could see all those things that you see on television actually coming to fruition, and why? It's because of his practice habits. He's a great practice guy, he's a great leader, and I think everybody leans heavily on that guy to encourage them and try to get bits and pieces from his game and try to apply them in yours. I think it's humbling, and a great honor."
Seahawks continue offseason workouts at Virginia Mason Athletic Center during day two of OTAs.
Kris Richard, Seattle's former secondary coach who was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason after Dan Quinn accepted the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons, took notice of Sherman's one-on-one time with Williams.
"That's the 'each one, teach one' - where you're so comfortable with who you are that you're willing to give and teach another guy to be his best," Richard said. "Because we're only as strong as our weakest link. But how about no weak links? So you take it upon yourself to teach the next guy so we all can be our best."
Prior to his two-year stint with the Eagles (2013-14), Williams was a starter on the Baltimore Ravens team that won the Super Bowl in 2012, a year that saw him record a career-high four interceptions. Seattle marks Williams' fourth stop in the NFL, with the 30-year-old veteran originally entering the League as a seventh-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans. Williams said his new surroundings remind him of what he experienced through his four seasons with the Ravens.
"The great leadership we had in that locker room, it's the same thing here," said Williams. "Great coaching, great guys in the locker room, great atmosphere, and guys just coming out here competing each and every day and trying to get better."
Executive VP/General Manager John Schneider has said part of what made Williams so intriguing for the Seahawks was his ability to match up with some of the NFL's more physical wideouts. Playing for the Eagles in the NFC East the past two years, Schneider said he witnessed Williams play "star coverage" against players like Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys and Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants. The Seahawks are hoping Williams can carry that success to the Pacific Northwest.
"We're off to a really good start," said Carroll. "It's early and all that, but I anticipate he's going to play like we saw on film, if not better. That would be good enough to help us play winning football."