Seattle and Jacksonville have an interesting relationship - especially right now with two of Seattle’s former offensive coordinators on Urban Meyers’ initial staff - a staff that at one time included four former-Seahawks coaches.
The coaching staff is just one part of the relationship though - there are also the player connections - specifically at cornerback. In March, Jacksonville signed former Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a 3-year, $44.5M contract ($29M guaranteed) shortly after the free agency period opened. Now comes word that the Jaguars may be willing to trade one of their starting cornerbacks from 2020 - last year’s #9 overall pick, C.J. Henderson.
Should Seattle be interested?
College career / scouting report
C.J. Henderson was born on September 30th, 1998. He will be 23 this season.
Henderson spent 3 years with the Florida Gators, two of them as a starter. He got on the field in 9 games as a true freshman in 2017. He had 4 interceptions his freshman year and added two more as a sophomore. An ankle injury and his decision to enter the NFL Draft impacted his final season at Florida.
Worth noting: Florida Gators Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham called C.J. Henderson the “best corner I’ve ever coached.”
Per PFF, courtesy of SI.com’s 2020 scouting report, Henderson allowed catches on only 52.7% of targets and 2018 was his best season (50% catch-rate against, 19.1 snaps per reception allowed, no touchdowns given up).
Note: The Sports Illustrated scouting report has a clip of him covering Ja’Marr Chase on a pass from Joe Burrow and Henderson acquits himself quite well.
Prior to last year, there were certain things that
all most Seattle cornerbacks (under the current regime) had in common:
- Over 6-foot tall
- Arms at least 32” long
- Wingspan of 77.5” or more
- Vertical jump of at least 33”
- Broad jump over 120”
- 3-cone time under 7 seconds
- Short-shuttle time under 4.35
Shaquill Griffin’s wingspan was 74-1/8. Tre Flowers’ 3-cone time was 7.17. So, yes, there were exceptions to the rule.
Then D.J. Reed shattered the rules.
And Seattle doubled down on April 30th by drafting Tre Brown.
Which brings us to C.J. Henderson and how he compares to the prototypical “Seattle corner.”
- Height/weight: 6-1, 204
- Hands/arms: 9”, 31-5/8”
- Wingspan: 75-7/8”
- Bench press: 20 reps at 225
- Vertical: 37.5”
- Broad jump: 127”
- 3-cone: N/A
- Short-shuttle: N/A
Henderson comes up short on arm length (by 3/8”) and wingspan (by 1-5/8”), but he hits the rest of the marks (that we have measurements for).
Oh, and he is very, very fast.
In high school, Henderson ran a 4.35 forty.
At the NFL Combine, 25 pounds heavier than he was in high school ... he ran 4.39.
As an FYI, 4.39 was the second-fastest time for a cornerback at the 2020 combine (behind Javelin K. Guidry who is 3 inches shorter and 14 pounds lighter).
For reference, here are the four fastest Defensive Backs on Seattle’s current roster (safeties and slot corners included):
- Tre Brown: 4.42 (2021)
- Ryan Neal: 4.44 (2018)
- Ahkello Witherspoon: 4.45 (2017)
- Tre Flowers: 4.45 (2018)
2020 season summary
Henderson was a Week 1 starter as a rookie and started every game he played. Unfortunately, he only played in 8 games, ending the season on IR with a groin injury.
Pro Football Reference credits him with 33 completions allowed on 51 targets (64.7%) for 443 yards (8.7 per target, 13.4 per completion). PFR says he allowed 4 touchdowns and gave up a quarterback rating of 110.2.
Not great, but certainly not terrible for a rookie playing only half a season for the league’s worst team.
Note: PFR’s advanced stats only go back to 2018 which was Shaquill Griffin’s 2nd year in Seattle. That season, Griff allowed 57 completions on 86 targets (66.3%) for 781 yards (9.1 per target, 13.7 per completion) with 5 TDs and a QB rating against of 104.8.
Reason(s) Henderson is (maybe) available
Depending on the report you read, there could be several reasons that Henderson is available. But there are two nearly universal themes among them.
- C.J. Henderson was expected to start opposite Shaquill Griffin this year.
- Urban Meyer doesn’t “like” him as much as the old regime did.
Given that both of those are speculative in nature, let’s try to uncover some facts:
- As mentioned, Henderson suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for the back half of his rookie season.
- During the offseason, he had labrum surgery.
- He started training camp on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
- The team signed Shaquill Griffin in free agency and then drafted Georgia CB Tyson Campbell with their first pick in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft (#33 overall)
At the end of the day, it reads like a common case of the new regime wanting “their” guys - Griffin and Campbell - in the starting roles and Henderson having enough question marks that they’re willing to “listen to offers.”
Will they trade him? Time will tell. But reports indicate that they might.
Expected compensation and net benefit
On September 16th, 2019, the Miami Dolphins sent Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers (along with a 2020 R4 and a 2021 R7) in return for a 2020 R1, a 2020 R5, and a 2021 R6.
In theory, that’s probably the target compensation in any trade discussion for C.J. Henderson.
Yes, Safety and Corner are different positions, but they’re both DBs. Fitzpatrick was the 11th overall pick a year before he was traded; Henderson was the #9 pick last year.
Fitzpatrick appeared in all 16 games his rookie season (11 starts) and had far better overall stats: 39 completions allowed on 69 targets (56.5%) for 456 yards (6.6 per target, 11.7 per catch) with zero touchdowns allowed and an insanely low 64.6 QB rating allowed.
My expectation is that Jacksonville will be fortunate to get a mid-round R2.
Should Seattle be interested?
John Schneider “routinely” makes bold trades and a trade for C.J. Henderson would certainly qualify.
Fans and media alike view this year’s outside cornerback group as the team’s most glaring weakness. The coaches seem to disagree - at least publicly.
Personally, Seattle’s outside corners scare me, but there is a “core four” that I can talk myself into being comfortable with: D.J. Reed, Ahkello Witherspoon, Tre Brown, and Damarious Randall.
Here’s the problem with that group - and with the outside cornerback group in general:
- Signed past this season: Tre Brown (2021 R4), Bryan Mills (2021 UDFA)
- Free agents in 2022: Everyone else
Obviously Seattle can extend (or re-sign) any of their corners at any point, but as of right now, there are only 2 outside cornerbacks under contract for the 2022 season and only one of them (Tre Brown) is likely to survive final cuts this season.
Enter C.J. Henderson?
By virtue of being a top-10 pick last season, C.J. Henderson has a fully-guaranteed 4-year contract worth $20,516,188.
His remaining cap hits are:
- 2021: $4,662,770
- 2022: $5,595,324
- 2023: $6,527,878
- Total: $16,785,972
His rookie contract came with a $12,480,864 signing bonus which means those are the cap hits if he stays with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If he gets traded to another team, his cap hits with THAT team would be:
- 2021: $1,542,554
- 2022: $2,475,108
- 2023: $3,407,662
- Total: $7,425,324
As an R1, there’s a 5th-year option available for him.
Jacksonville has only ever selected two cornerbacks with a top-10 pick. The other one plays in our division and is pretty darn good.
Given their historical tendencies, I would expect that John and Pete will be “in on this” like they seemingly are with everything else.
With no R1 next season, I would be reluctant to trade our 2022 R2, but ...
I think it might be worth it for a player who is a year removed from being a top-10 pick and would come with 4 years of club-control at arguably our biggest “position of need.”
Bottom line: Unlike the idea of trading for Stephon Gilmore (31 + expensive) or Xavien Howard (28 + crazy expensive), trading for C.J. Henderson would seem to be something that makes sense.