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Pierre Desir supposedly declined NFL roster spot in 2016 to stay with Seahawks practice squad

John Schneider hints at a late developing future for the versatile backup defensive back

Cleveland Browns v San Diego Chargers Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Slipping under the radar among other comments by Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider at the NFL owners’ meetings Tuesday was an interesting story about a player who opted for less money to stay with the Seattle organization rather than accept a big league contract and a genuine roster spot elsewhere in the league. Speaking about the competition for cornerback opposite Richard Sherman while DeShawn Shead recuperates, Schneider gave praise to Pierre Desir, the former Cleveland Brown and San Diego Charger who joined the Seahawks’ practice squad in November, and whom Schneider offered a futures contract in January (basically a non-guaranteed one-year deal). But Schneider also mentioned how Desir received an offer from the Detroit Lions late in the 2016 season, and apparently declined it to stay outside the roster bubble in Seattle.

This seems like an incredible choice. I know fans regularly hope players feel such loyalty to the franchise/unity with teammates/commitment to playing for a contender that they should make this kind of sacrifice to remain with the team that just so happens to be the we also embrace so unconditionally. But it simply never happens like that—certainly not in the case of a player barely hanging on in the NFL.

The difference between salary for a typical practice squad player and the league minimum contracts for legit roster members is a full order of magnitude. Last year, the Seahawks paid Desir $62,100 according to Spotrac, which is less than they paid in dead signing bonus to Obum Gwacham ($67,863) a sixth round pick from 2015 who never made Seattle’s 53-man group. By comparison, the NFL rookie minimum was $450,000 in 2016. Of course Desir would have only gotten a slice of that in the form of a few game checks had he joined the Lions in December, but even for the minimum three weeks (for players signed off other teams’ practice squads) it would have been a significant raise. Of course Desir had already made half a season’s worth of game checks in San Diego, but perhaps even more important than the cash is how the Detroit deal would have meant a slightly firmer foothold on continuing his professional career.

So it showed a serious commitment to the Seahawks for Desir to forgo that short-term windfall, a gesture the club reciprocated when it handed him his provisional deal this offseason.

Last month I highlighted a few below-roster candidates in the mix to make the 2017 team at cornerback, including Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Mohammed Seisay who had been stashed as injury reserves, but it’s telling that so far Desir is the only one of those names Seattle has bothered to retain. Schneider mentioning him in the same breath as Neiko Thorpe, who spent all of 2016 on the Seahawks 53-man list, suggests he views the Division II product has a real shot to make the full squad in September.

Seattle has listed Desir as a free safety since it acquired him to the practice squad, perhaps because they considered him a distant emergency backup following Earl Thomas’s broken leg. But Desir mostly has played cornerback in the pros since being drafted in the fourth round by the Browns in 2014. After a brief stretch as a starter in 2015, Cleveland tried to move Desir to safety in camp last year before waiving him in September. Desir spent two months with the Chargers before they too released him. Having been cut so many times in a span of a few months makes it all the more surprising that Desir wasn’t desperate to jump at another contract offer when the Lions called. And it’s not like he had some longstanding relationship with the Seahawks, after joining them just weeks earlier.

Desir will likely be competing at corner with several rookies following the draft and UDFA signing period, so it’s way too early to predict his chances of making it through roster cuts. However, a nod from the GM even in March means he must have shown something during his practice squad opportunities late in 2016. In February Keith Myers took an intriguing look at Desir’s prospective future in Seattle. He’s got decent height (6-foot-1) and long arms (33 inches) with big hands (9.75 inches), so he fills the prototype. And the highly unusual news that he passed up a better job to remain in a developmental spot with the Seahawks makes for an outstanding wrinkle in Desir’s unfolding story.