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Limited supply of free-agent cornerbacks could lead to big deals, sources say

Limited supply of free-agent cornerbacks could lead to big deals, sources say
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell during a game against the Packers. (Ted S. Warren, Associated Press)

The supply of cornerbacks in free agency isn't expected to meet the demand around the NFL, which could lead to inflation in the price of defensive backs, according to league sources.

The market ceiling will probably be established by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, with an annual average salary of $8 million to $10 million predicted.

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That could boost contract offers for teams that don't land Maxwell, helping the Houston Texans' Kareem Jackson, San Diego Chargers' Brandon Flowers, Cleveland Browns' Buster Skrine and Green Bay Packers' Davon House. Those players could be in line for deals ranging between $5 million and $7 million annually.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider acknowledged that Maxwell could be leaving.

"Byron is one of ours — it would be hard to see him leave — but I would think his market will be very strong," Schneider during the NFL scouting combine. "He's a heck of a kid, a heck of a player,, but we are going to keep doing things the way we started here. Just keep drafting people and playing young people and trying to keep the players that we can keep.

"Try to identify the players that we have to reward and make those tough decisions about players that are under contract that you may have to let go to create some cap room. Those are just tough decisions as you go. We are not going to change anything we do, and so if Byron does move on, we'll hopefully have another young Byron Maxwell out there."

Depending on whether the Ravens and veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb are able to agree on a restructured contract that would reduce his $12 million salary cap figure, there are scenarios under which he could hit the open market and capitalize on the lack of quality corners available.

Although Webb dealt with a herniated disk in his back that affected him throughout the season, he was healthy by the end of the year and was starting to regain his old form. Cutting Webb would save just $2 million against the salary cap and would result in $10 million in dead money.

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