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Seattle Seahawks fire DC Ken Norton Jr., defensive assistant Andre Curtis

The Seattle Seahawks have fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive passing game coordinator Andre Curtis, a significant shake-up to Pete Carroll’s coaching staff on the heels of the team’s worst campaign in more than a decade.

The Seahawks revealed the moves Tuesday.

Seattle has already started its search for a new defensive coordinator, requesting permission to speak with Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Donatell, 64, has coordinated and coached NFL secondaries for decades — a Seattle soft spot in recent years — and has history with Carroll at multiple spots.

The 55-year-old Norton, a longtime Carroll assistant, was the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator for the past four seasons. The 2021 season typified the mixed-bag nature of his tenure, with the Seahawks concluding fifth worst in yards allowed (379.1 per game) and tied for 11th best in points allowed (21.53).

For the second straight season, Seattle’s defense was gashed at a historic rate early on before rebounding with a strong finish. Carroll mentioned that trend last week while citing several things that went wrong for the Seahawks during a 7-10 season in which they suffered their most losses since 2009, the year before he and general manager John Schneider arrived.

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“Defensively, we didn’t start fast enough in this season again,” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle a day after the Seahawks’ season finale. “That’s two times in a row we didn’t start fast enough, and we found ourselves and put up some good numbers that indicate how you’re playing. Just all of that just didn’t happen soon enough.”

The 2021 team permitted at least 450 yards in four consecutive games (Weeks 2 through 5), a franchise record and tied for the longest streak in NFL history. The defense got on track after a shake-up at cornerback in which Tre Flowers was benched (he was later released) and D.J. Reed moved back to the right side.

The 2020 team allowed the most passing yards through nine games in league history and topped the previous mark in only eight games. It allowed the fewest points in the NFL over the final seven weeks of that season.

Curtis joined Carroll’s staff in 2015 as an assistant secondary coach in charge of safeties.

He was elevated to defensive passing game coordinator in 2018.

Norton, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, played for Carroll in 1994 and 1995 when Carroll was the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator. Norton coached under Carroll for 15 of the previous 18 seasons dating back to their time together at USC.

One question now is whether Carroll will again hire one of his past assistants to run his defense or go outside of his own coaching tree. Dan Quinn, Kris Richard and Norton had all previously worked under Carroll or were already doing so when they became Seattle’s defensive coordinators. Gus Bradley, a holdover from Jim L. Mora’s 2009 staff, was the lone exception among the four defensive coordinators Carroll has had in Seattle.

Clint Hurtt, Seattle’s defensive line coach and assistant head coach, is the highest-ranking defensive assistant on Carroll’s staff.

Carroll brought Norton with him to Seattle from USC in 2010 as the Seahawks’ linebackers coach, the same role he held for the previous six seasons with the Trojans. The Raiders hired Norton as their defensive coordinator in 2015 and fired him midway through the 2017 season. Carroll brought him back to Seattle in 2018 as defensive coordinator after parting with Richard.

That change coincided with the transitioning away from the famed Legion of Boom secondary. Kam Chancellor suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2017 and Richard Sherman was released after that season. Earl Thomas held out during the 2018 offseason and returned only to suffer a broken leg in the fourth game. He then left in free agency.

In four seasons under Norton, the Seahawks ranked 11th, 22nd, 15th and tied for 11th in points allowed. They were 16th, 26th, 22nd and 28th in yards allowed.

The 2021 Seahawks finished 25th in takeaways and tied for 22nd in sacks despite the expectancy that their loaded pass rush would be among their biggest strengths. Strong safety Jamal Adams, who set the NFL sack record for a defensive back with 9.5 in 2020, didn’t record a sack this past season while blitzing less often. He landed on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 13.

Norton made three Pro Bowls and was once named a first-team All-Pro during his 13-year NFL playing career. He holds the distinction of being the only player in NFL history to play for three straight Super Bowl winners: the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and ’93 and the 49ers in ’94.

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Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner hopes he plays Sunday, optimistic he stays with team next season

A week after acknowledging his unclear future with the Seahawks, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner struck a more hopeful tune Wednesday, saying he has “a lot of optimism” that he’ll be back in 2022 for an 11th season in Seattle.

Wagner stated he hasn’t given up on the chance of playing in the team’s season finale either, saying he’s going to get “as much treatment as I possibly can” on his sprained knee in the hopes of suiting up Sunday versus the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

“I’m going to take it one day at a time,” said Wagner, who hurt his knee on the opening play of the Seahawks’ blowout win last week over the Detroit Lions and didn’t return. “I have a lot of days before Sunday and we’re going to see what happens.”

Last week, Wagner answered in the affirmative when asked if he has wondered whether he’ll be back with the Seahawks next season given his huge cap number.

The Seahawks’ defensive captain and longest-tenured player (along with quarterback Russell Wilson) said there’s “obviously” going to be some changes on the heels of Seattle suffering double-digit losses for the first time since 2009 and added, “Whether or not I’m part of those changes, I don’t know.”

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On Wednesday, Wagner was asked if that insecurity has given him any more incentive to play Sunday.

“Not really, because in my mind I don’t feel like this is my last time,” he said. “I don’t feel like this is my last time putting on a Seahawks uniform. I don’t feel like this is my last time doing that. I understand there is a business side to this, but there is a lot of optimism on my end that I’ll be back. So I’m not worried about it. Obviously, I can’t control everything. I can only control my part. And my part on this is I feel like I love this city. I love this team. I love the Seahawks. So I always wanted to be a part of a franchise’s good times and bad times and every time. So this is a team that I would love to be able to be a part of for a very, very long time.

“So on my end, that’s where I’m at, that I’m a Seahawk until they tell me I’m not. So that’s my mindset. So I don’t see it as that was my last game or this next game could be my next game.”

Wagner, 31, serves as his own agent and negotiated his three-year, $54 million extension in 2019, then a record for off-the-ball linebackers in terms of annual average.

He’s arranged to count $20.35 million against the salary cap next season — second on the team to Wilson’s $37 million cap hit for 2022 — in what’s scheduled to be the final year of that deal. None of the $16.6 million Wagner could earn next season is guaranteed.

Wagner was asked what gives him optimism that he’ll be back next year.

“I would like to say that I’m a pretty good businessman and I would like to say I have a lot of respect here,” Wagner said. “So I’m just going to go into my businessman mentality and work some stuff out.”

Asked whether that means he’d be amenable to working out a different contract with Seattle, Wagner said with a smile: “I didn’t say that. … I said I’m a businessman. That’s all I said. Put my business cap on. I did not say I’m doing all that.”

Wagner was named to the Pro Bowl for an eight consecutive season last month, and he could be a first-team All-Pro for the seventh time.

Wagner is the Seahawks’ all-time tackles leader and broke his own franchise record for tackles in a season two weeks ago. His 170 tackles were leading the league until last week, when he was overtaken by the Atlanta Falcons’ Foyesade Oluokun (179).

Wagner hadn’t missed a snap this season until he was hurt versus Detroit when his foot slipped as he tried to plant on the wet turf at Lumen Field. He tried to return for the next snap following the injury timeout but had to miss at least one play per NFL rules. That’s when the Seahawks decided to take him to the locker room for evaluation and ultimately kept him there for the remainder of the game.

Coach Pete Carroll called it a sprained knee capsule and said the injury wouldn’t require surgery. He said the team is keeping its fingers crossed that he can play Sunday.

As expected, Wagner didn’t practice Wednesday.

“I just want to thank everybody that reached out,” he said. “I’m good. Ain’t got to worry about nothing. It’s not serious. I’m grateful that I do yoga. I just learned that I can do the splits if I want to.”

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Seattle Seahawks’ Jamal Adams needs season-ending shoulder surgery

Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams needs season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder, coach Pete Carroll confirmed Wednesday.

Carroll stated he believed Adams’ surgery would take place Thursday and that this labrum tear isn’t as bad as last year’s, which was in the same shoulder and also required surgery.

“Unfortunately he got hit just the wrong way and he’s going to have to get fixed up. He’s been through this before. He’s really rocked by it, of course. We’re all pulling for him to come out and get out of this thing, get back as soon as possible. But really disappointed for him as well as us,” Carroll said.

Carroll said Adams “was really emotional about it last night because it means so much to him to keep playing and he’s been through this before and to have to go through it again. He was much more forward-thinking, I think, this morning in the note that I got from him. So he’s going to make the most of it.”

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Adams suffered the injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30-23 victory versus the San Francisco 49ers.

When he returned to the sideline wearing street clothes in the third quarter, he shared a long embrace with his position coach, Andre Curtis.

Carroll initially referred to the injury as a “sprain” after Sunday’s game. Adams suffered a similar injury to his left labrum last season but continued to play through the postseason prior to having offseason surgery.

Adams, 26, had yet to record a sack in 2021 after setting an NFL record for a defensive back last season with 9.5 in 12 games. He had two interceptions in a three-game span this season, including one off Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 10 that was his first with the Seahawks.

His 87 total tackles are third on the team, while his four tackles for loss are tied for second.

The Seahawks got Adams in July 2020 in a blockbuster trade with the New York Jets, giving up a package of picks that included their next two first-rounders in arguably the boldest personnel move the franchise has made under Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

They signed Adams to a four-year, $70 million extension this August that made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety.

The package of picks the Seahawks sent to New York included their 2021 and ’22 first-rounders. Seattle also gave up its 2021 third-rounder, threw in veteran safety Bradley McDougald and got a 2022 fourth-rounder along with Adams.

In defending the early returns the teams has gotten from the trade, Carroll noted that Adams made an immediate impact last season and was continuing to do so this year, whereas a 2021 draft pick would have been an unproven player finding his way. With the Seahawks at 4-8, the 2022 first-round pick they gave the Jets is currently No. 5 overall.

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Russell Wilson not being limited in Seattle Seahawks’ practice this week, and ‘looks pretty good’

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll stated quarterback Russell Wilson is not being limited in practice this week in his return from an injury to his right middle finger.

Wilson practiced on Monday for the first time since his Oct. 8 surgery.

“I’ve just seen him in the walk-through since then and you would never have known,” Carroll said before Wednesday’s practice. “So I don’t know what that means yet, but he looks pretty good.”

Carroll stated earlier in the week that the plan was for Wilson to play Sunday versus the Green Bay Packers assuming all goes well this week. The Seahawks would need to activate Wilson off injured reserve by Saturday to make him eligible.

Because he is not on the active roster, the Seahawks aren’t required to include Wilson’s level of participation on their daily practice reports. But Carroll answered in the affirmative when asked whether Wilson is a full participant. Wilson was not seen wearing a glove during the portion of Monday’s practice that was open to reporters.

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“He doesn’t have to wear anything unless he chooses to,” Carroll said. “He has been experimenting with some stuff just to see what’s out there for him.”

The Seahawks on Wednesday designated running back Chris Carson for a return to practice.

Carson has missed the past four matches with a neck injury and was placed on IR the same day as Wilson, making both players eligible to return for the Green Bay game.

“He’s got to make it through the week of work and like we always talk about, it’s a one-day-at-a-time thing,” Carroll said.

“He’ll get banged around a little bit tomorrow, but just see how he responds to it. It’s pretty important to get a good bead on this one. He’ll feel good physically running around and all that because he’s in great shape and he’s been working really hard, so it’s just how he responds — same old thing — and how his body reacts to the workload.”

Carroll said Carson has gotten through the discomfort he was dealing with in his neck.

“That’s why he’s back and hopefully it’ll stay that way,” the coach said. He said he didn’t know whether Carson would have to be on a so-called pitch count whenever he returns.

The Seahawks designated rookie receiver Dee Eskridge for a return to practice on Monday. Seattle’s second-round pick hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in the opener.

He made two trips to a concussion specialist in Florida to work through issues he was having with his vision. Eskridge practiced Monday and was feeling good enough to practice again Wednesday, per Carroll.

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Washington DE Montez Sweat has broken jaw, could miss a month

Washington defensive end Montez Sweat suffered a broken jaw in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos and will miss perhaps a month – or more.

The loss deals a serious blow to Washington, which has lost four consecutive matches and entered its bye week with a 2-6 record. It’s the same record it had a year ago after eight games en route to a 5-3 finish and NFC East title.

Repeating that won-loss success will be difficult minus Sweat, whose injury was first reported by Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan. He hurt his jaw late in Sunday’s 17-10 beating, with his final snap of the game occurring at the 6:54 mark of the fourth quarter.

Sweat could be seen grabbing the side of his face after the play had concluded. It wasn’t until he got an X-Ray that the fracture was discovered. He can’t have any physical contact for a month. That means he’ll miss upcoming games vs. Tampa Bay, Carolina and Seattle.

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Washington had high hopes for Sweat and fellow end Chase Young this season.

But, so far, the two have combined for 5.5 sacks, with four by Sweat. Both have forced two fumbles this season. They had a combined 16.5 sacks a year ago in Young’s rookie season and stated they had discussed trying to break sack records by a tandem pass rush. The record is 39 by Minnesota’s Chris Doleman and Keith Millard in 1989.

Sweat had started 40 consecutive matches since entering the NFL in 2019. His size, length and athleticism made him difficult for offenses to always handle one-on-one in the run or pass game.

Washington also was thin at backup defensive end, having allowed veteran Ryan Kerrigan to leave via free agency in the offseason. Their backups are Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams, who has played nearly three times as many snaps as Toohill. Rookie Shaka Toney also can help as a situational pass rusher.

Washington’s offense has been hit hard by injuries this season; at the end of Sunday’s game of the original 11 expected starters only three were on the field. But, defensively, they’ve been healthier with only linebacker Jon Bostic lost for the season after four games. Corner William Jackson III has missed two games.

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Pittsburgh Steelers acquire CB Ahkello Witherspoon from Seattle Seahawks

After an initial 53-man roster that was short on cornerbacks, the Steelers have fortified the position by obtaining Ahkello Witherspoon in a trade with the Seahawks for a 2023 fifth-round pick, the teams revealed.

Witherspoon, 26, signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Seahawks in March and was expected to compete for the starting job at left cornerback, but Seattle moved D.J. Reed over to the left side and Tre Flowers into the starting role at right cornerback, making Witherspoon a trade candidate. A day earlier, Seattle traded a 2022 sixth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Sidney Jones.

Witherspoon was unsatisfied by being relegated to a backup role, a source told ESPN’s Brady Henderson. The Steelers will take on $1.5 million of Witherspoon’s salary, while the Seahawks save that amount against their cap. However, Seattle is still on the hook for $1.25 million in dead money in 2021 and 2022 from his signing bonus.

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Witherspoon was taken in the third round by San Francisco in 2017 and started 33 of 47 career games with the 49ers in four seasons. He recorded 116 tackles and four interceptions and had 24 passes defended.

The Steelers initially had just four cornerbacks on the 53-man roster following cuts: Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne and Joe Haden. They added one more a day later, signing Arthur Maulet after moving three other players to injured reserve.

Before adding Maulet, defensive coordinator Keith Butler expressed apprehension about entering the season with so few cornerbacks.

“I don’t think anybody’s comfortable with four cornerbacks,” Butler said. “We’ve got guys who can play different positions. Cam can play different positions. He can play the nickel. Forty-two [Pierre] has shown that he can play in preseason.

“We think we’re OK right now to play them in different positions. If somebody becomes available out there in never-never land, we’ll see what happens.”

Witherspoon gives the Steelers depth at cornerback behind veterans Haden and Sutton, who emerged late in training camp as the likely slot cornerback after Mike Hilton’s departure. With Sutton in the slot, undrafted free agent Pierre was slated to be the outside cornerback opposite Haden.

The outside cornerback depth is young and relatively unproven, and Witherspoon’s experience elevates the position group.

The Steelers released defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux to make room on the roster for Witherspoon.

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Cleveland Indians send RHP Triston McKenzie back to minors after wild outing

The Indians hope another trip to the minors helps Triston McKenzie eventually stick in the majors.

Cleveland optioned McKenzie to Triple-A Columbus for the fourth time this season on Sunday after the right-hander failed to get out of the first inning against Seattle a day earlier.

President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona met with McKenzie on Sunday morning.

“Like any player, we want to make sure we understand what’s going through their mind and what’s getting in their way of having the results they want,” Antonetti stated.

McKenzie had been called up from Columbus before the match. He issued four walks, including one with the bases loaded, and retired two of the six batters he faced.

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McKenzie, who started the season in the rotation, leads the AL with 39 walks.

He struck out 10 in 5⅓ innings versus the Chicago White Sox, including a club record eight in a row, on May 31 but followed that with Saturday’s short outing.

“We’ve seen he’s capable of pitching really successfully up here, so we know it’s possible,” Antonetti said.

McKenzie, 23, is 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA in 11 games and has struck out 59 in 42⅓ innings. He was a first-round selection in the 2015 draft and pitched in eight games for the Indians last season.

Cleveland used seven relievers Saturday and rallied for a 5-4 win in 10 innings.

The Indians’ rotation has struggled behind Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale. Zach Plesac broke his right thumb when he angrily pulled off his shirt after a poor outing last month. He started playing catch last week, but there’s no timetable for his return.

McKenzie, Logan Allen, J.C. Mejia, Sam Hentges, Cal Quantrill and Eli Morgan have been used as starters, but no one has pitched well enough to secure a rotation spot. Mejia and Quantrill will start the first two games in Cleveland’s upcoming series versus Baltimore. The starter for Thursday is undetermined.

“I don’t think we have any other choice but to look at it creatively,” Antonetti said. “We know we’re going to have to rely on a number of different players. It’s not gonna be able to just, ‘Hey, we’re gonna run the same five guys out there every five days.'”

Infielder Ernie Clement was called up from Columbus.

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Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons discuss Julio Jones trade

As the Falcons continue to field calls from teams interested in trading for Julio Jones, the Seahawks have had conversations about a possible trade with Atlanta for the wide receiver, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Jones have been in touch, having phone conversations to discuss the option of playing together, Russini reported.

Seattle already boasts a talented wide receiver corps led by DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who each had 10 touchdown receptions and more than 1,000 yards receiving last season.

Sources told Russini on Thursday that the Falcons have an offer of a future first-round draft pick on the table for Jones. Atlanta has asked teams that have inquired about Jones for a first-round draft pick in return, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter last Monday.

The Seahawks do not have a first-round pick in 2022 after sending it to the New York Jets last year to get safety Jamal Adams.

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The rumor mill around Jones started last month when general manager Terry Fontenot told reporters his team would be taking calls about the All-Pro receiver.

Then, on Monday, Jones said “I’m outta there,” when asked about the Falcons in a telephone call with FS1’s Shannon Sharpe on the network’s “Undisputed” show. It is unclear whether Jones knew the phone call was being televised.

Jones, 32, requested a trade from the Falcons at the beginning of the offseason in March, but the organization was trying to protect him and work quietly behind the scenes, a source told Schefter, and has been talking to other teams for weeks. The Falcons prefer not to trade him in the NFC but would do so for the right price, the source said.

The Tennessee Titans have also discussed a trade with the Falcons, but a source described the Titans’ probabilities of landing Jones as a “long shot” to Russini on Thursday.

It is likely that Jones will not be traded until after June 1 because of the salary-cap benefits for the Falcons. Jones, whose base salary of $15.3 million is fully guaranteed for this season, is scheduled to cost the Falcons $23.05 million against the cap in 2021 and has cap hits of $19.263 million in 2022 and 2023.

If the Falcons move Jones after June 1, the move would offer Atlanta relief against the cap this season because the dead money owed to him would be split between this season and next.

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Baltimore Orioles’ John Means pitches no-hitter vs. Seattle Mariners, misses perfect game with wild pitch on strikeout

John Means was almost perfect for the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, but he will happily settle for a no-hitter and one of the greatest pitching performances in team history.

Means retired all 27 batters he faced in a 6-0 triumph over the Mariners at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, but he did allow a baserunner when Sam Haggerty reached on a third-strike wild pitch in the third inning. The Orioles then caught Haggerty attempting to steal second base, but the wild pitch nullifies the perfect game bid.

Means is believed to be the first pitcher in major league history to lose a perfect game on a third-strike wild pitch. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, he is the first pitcher to throw a non-perfect no-hitter with no walks, no hit batters and no errors. Instead, Means pitched the first individual no-hitter for the Orioles since Jim Palmer in 1969 — the longest stretch for any team in the majors without an individual no-hitter (the Orioles had a four-pitcher combined no-hitter in 1991).

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Means had never pitched more than seven innings in a match, but he had the Mariners confused all day with his arsenal of a low-90s mph sinker, a curveball and a terrific changeup.

He struck out 12 and induced 26 swings and misses. He threw first-pitch strikes to a remarkable 26 of the 27 batters he faced — the highest percentage of first-pitch strikes in a complete game in the pitch-tracking era (since 1988).

Means stated his biggest pitch on Wednesday was his inside fastball.

“I have to be able to do that to get the changeup working. Sevvy (catcher Pedro Severino) called a great game. Those fastballs saved me,” he said.

The closest ball to a hit was J.P. Crawford’s flare to center field with two outs in the sixth inning, but Cedric Mullins made a sliding grab. That blooper had a chance to drop with a .480 expected batting average via Statcast measurements, but Mullins got a good jump and handled it easily.

Means ended with a game score of 99, the highest in Orioles history for a nine-inning game. Erik Bedard and Mike Mussina shared the record at 98, both in 15-strikeout shutouts.

Means improved to 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 2021. It’s the first time since 1969 there have been three complete game no-hitters this early in the season.

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Seattle Seahawks talk to Richard Sherman, but no reunion imminent as DB mulls future

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed that he’s been in communication with Richard Sherman, but stated a reunion with the former All-Pro cornerback isn’t currently in the works.

“That’s not one of our thoughts right now that we’re going out and getting another guy at that spot, but we’re going to keep looking,” Carroll said Saturday, after the Seahawks took Oklahoma CB Tre Brown with one of their three draft picks.

“We’re not going to stop looking and we’re going to compete. So in that sense, I leave everything open and that’s just one of them.”

The 33-year-old Sherman is a free agent after spending the past three campaigns with the San Francisco 49ers.

In an interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Friday, he said a return to San Francisco isn’t out of the question and listed the Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders as other teams with which he’s had communication.

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“I’ve got to wait through this draft process,” he told Smith. “Obviously, the first round, a lot of teams got corners, some teams didn’t get the corners they wanted and I think once this draft process completes my phone will ring a little more with people who expected to get a guy and didn’t get the guy they wanted. I’m not as in control as I was. At 33, it’s just like, it doesn’t matter what you put on tape.”

Sherman suggested that his age is the reason he’s unsigned

“It doesn’t matter accolades you have, what you put on tape, the numbers — it’s just age sometimes. So I’ve just got to continue to stay in shape, continue to stay ready … I’m being patient and doing everything I can.”

Sherman made four Pro Bowls and was named a First Team All-Pro in three of his seven seasons with Seattle, rising from a fifth-round pick in 2011 to become a key member of the defense that led the Seahawks to their lone Super Bowl championship and a close repeat the next year.

He suffered a torn Achilles in 2017 and was released that offseason with one year left on his contract. The 49ers then signed him to a three-year deal that just expired.

Sherman made his fifth career Pro Bowl in 2019 but missed 11 matches last year with a calf injury.

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