In the month of February, the NFL Scouting Combine takes center stage of the football world. Understandably, this is due in part to the assembly of over 300 top draft prospects in one place. However, just as important are the back-channel conversations that take place between teams and soon-to-be free agents.
In that vein, the biggest news of combine week was Tony Pauline's report that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell could be on the verge of a $10 million per year offer. As arguably the top free agent at his position (though that would change if the New England Patriots decline Darrelle Revis' 2015 option and fail to agree on a new deal), Maxwell's price ultimately sets the market for all other corners. That's of great significance to the Green Bay Packers, who face losing Davon House.
House compares favorably to Maxwell in terms of size, ability and age. Both stand over 6 feet tall and possess good, functional speed. Each excels in coverage, especially in press. Last season, House held quarterbacks to a 76.6 passer rating when throwing in his direction, slightly better than Maxwell's 78.5. House is also younger, turning 26 in July while the Seattle corner just celebrated his 27 birthday. As for availability, both have missed three games over the last two seasons.
Where Maxwell separates himself is his role in Seattle's defense. He starts opposite Richard Sherman, making him the most heavily targeted member of the "Legion of Boom" secondary. Despite the extra attention, Maxwell allowed only one touchdown in 2014, counting playoffs. House gave up three despite playing in fewer games.
Even so, House's market shouldn't fall too far below Maxwell's. Our free agency primer from January forecasted $5-7 million per year for the Packers corner. If Maxwell indeed receives $10 million annually this offseason, House will find himself at the top of that range.
But how realistic is $10 million annually for Maxwell? One agent speaking on the condition of anonymity believes that projection to be inflated. "It's pretty wild," the agent said, predicting Maxwell's next deal would fall in the $7-8 million per year range with House trailing by $1-2 million annually.
Still, even the most conservative estimation for House would peg him at $5 million per season. A year after the Packers made Sam Shields one of the 10 highest paid cornerbacks in the NFL and with big extensions potentially looming for Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga, it's easy to see House getting lost in the shuffle.
Nearly two weeks remain before the legal tampering period begins on March 7. That's how long the Packers have to figure out House's market and decide if the talented but oft-injured corner is worth a new deal.