The roster poaching between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks has become a fascinating subplot of the league’s top rivalry. The poaching can be partially attributed to the longstanding rivalry between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll or the fact that former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan joined the Seahawks as a personnel executive after being fired in 2010. But these two teams are also some of the deepest and most talented in the NFL. Is it partly gamesmanship? Definitely, but there’s at least a sliver of logic in the moves as well.
So after a season that ended in heartbreak for the 49ers and elation for the Seahawks, could we see more poaching between the two NFC West powerhouses? I don’t see why not, and free agent cornerback Walter Thurmond of the Seahawks may be a fit in San Francisco.
Thurmond served a four-game suspension in 2013, and he was beat out by fellow cornerback Byron Maxwell in the battle to fill the vacancy left by Brandon Browner when he returned. Had he not been suspended this was likely his starting role to assume. But with Tarell Brown and Eric Wright hitting free agency and the possibility that the Niners’ front office will drop Carlos Rogers‘ contract that’s set to be an $8 million cap hit in 2014, they need depth at the position.
Richard Sherman, who has become public enemy No. 1 of 49ers fans, raves about Thurmond’s ability. “He has a great energy and enthusiasm for this game. He’s really a committed and intense player. It’s phenomenal to watch him go out and compete,” Sherman said via csnnw.com. Intensity is exactly what the Seahawks’ secondary has become known for, and poaching a player who was next in line to start in the league’s top secondary may not be a bad idea. In 2013, the ‘Hawks allowed the fewest total yards in the NFL while the Niners came in fifth.
The Niners have plenty of options when it comes to filling their defensive backfield next season. They could re-sign their free agents, look elsewhere in free agency or focus on the 2014 NFL Draft. But Thurmond could be a major bargain coming off his suspension, and there’s always the potential that the Niners could develop him into a productive, every-down type of player on defense.
Anytime one of these two teams has a chance to jab the other, they seem to take it. Will Thurmond become the next poached player in this intensifying rivalry?