What reduced role could mean for Jeremy Lane and Seahawks' secondary

A tweet from Jeremy Lane on Tuesday suggested that the veteran cornerback will not resume his usual role in the Seattle Seahawks' secondary once he returns from an injury.

That is indeed the case.

Lane, who began the season as the starter at right cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, has missed the past two games and most of a third due to a groin injury he suffered in the first quarter of the team's win over Indianapolis in Week 4. Rookie Shaquill Griffin has replaced him in the starting lineup and Justin Coleman has taken over in the slot, where Lane moves in nickel situations.

Lane's absence has coincided with a dominant stretch of football from Seattle's defense. That unit has allowed only 33 points total in the Seahawks' wins over the Colts, Rams and Giants. Quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett, Jared Goff and Eli Manning have combined for two touchdowns, three interceptions and an average of just 182 passing yards per game, and Brissett's 67.7 passer rating was the highest of the three. All of this goes to show how Seattle's pass defense hasn't missed a beat without Lane.

It's not clear Seattle will stick with Coleman as the nickelback, but it seems that Griffin is here to stay in the starting lineup.

It's a move that was bound to happen at some point given how impressive Griffin has been since the Seahawks drafted him in the third round out of Central Florida. Coaches and teammates have raved about his poise, especially after Lane's ejection in the first quarter of the season opener against the Packers at Lambeau Field forced him into an every-down role. Griffin stood tall while under constant fire from Aaron Rodgers in that game, which was as difficult of a test as a cornerback can face in his NFL debut.

Coach Pete Carroll likes how Griffin has been playing aggressively since then and isn't "just out there surviving it."

"He’s done great. He's played game after game and he just keeps doing things right, play after play after play, and he keeps getting checked out and keeps getting tested and he doesn’t change," Carroll said. "That’s the best thing that he’s doing. He’s got the confidence and he believes in what he’s doing and he’s doing things right, so he’s really consistent."

Coleman, acquired in a trade with New England at the end of the preseason, has also drawn positive reviews for his play in the slot. He had a pick-six in the Colts game and has more than held his own in that role since then. Neiko Thorpe, the fifth cornerback on Seattle's roster, has played only special teams.

Lane is expected benching casts even more uncertainty onto what was already an uncertain future in Seattle. A 2012 sixth-round pick, he had an underwhelming 2016 season right after signing a four-year, $23 million extension. That contract includes cap charges of $7.25 million in both 2018 and 2019, which has led to speculation that Seattle could move on from the 27-year-old Lane after this season, particularly in light of how Griffin and Coleman have emerged.

The remainder of Lane's $4 million base salary this season is guaranteed, which gives Seattle no financial incentive to release him now. But his benching could be a precursor to a trade, or at least an attempt at a trade, before the Oct. 31 deadline.

It wouldn't be easy. Any trade talks would be complicated by Lane's salary and the fact he's coming off an injury. But he has experience -- 19 starts over six seasons -- and was playing fine before he was injured, so he could have a market as long as he's healthy. And John Schneider is as aggressive in the trade market as any general manager in the NFL. He showed that again by making five trades while setting Seattle's initial 53-man roster.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Lane is part of another one.