RENTON — Whether it’s been injury or underperformance, Artie Burns has never quite matched the expectations that followed him coming out of college.
But he still has the talent that made him a first-round selection six years ago. And coming off a promising 2021 season in Chicago, Burns is hoping his move to Seattle and the likelihood he will become a starting cornerback for the Seahawks will continue his upward path.
“To have the opportunity to bring him here, it’s hard to find a kid with those kind of measurables and talent,” defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. “We still feel like he is an ascending player.”
Burns’ coming to the Seahawks was the conclusion of a process that started during the offseason of 2020 that was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He had narrowed his choices to Seattle or Chicago and eventually chose the Bears due to the proximity to his family.
Moving across the country in the midst of a pandemic was not the strain he wanted to put on his kids, who were 6 and 3 at the time.
“They are super clingy. They don’t want me to be too far away,” Burns said.
But the opportunity and the situation were different this time. His kids are older and his family was more comfortable moving to the Pacific Northwest. He was offered a healthy contract, signing for $2 million for this season. He was given the chance to follow Sean Desai from Chicago after he was hired as Seattle’s new associate head coach.
Burns also arrived knowing he’s likely to be a starter even with two promising rookies pushing for playing time.
“We all can run. That’s an upside,” Burns said. “Everybody is challenging. That’s a good environment for everybody to get better.”
Those rookies pushing for opportunity are fourth-round pick Coby Bryant and fifth-rounder Tariq Woolen. Bryant is polished and looks ready to step into a prominent role. He was overshadowed at Cincinnati by Sauce Gardner, but Bryant was the one named the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the top defensive back in the country.
Woolen is raw but his 6-foot-4 frame is awfully reminiscent of the big, physical cornerbacks Seattle has had in the past.
“The creativity and the playmaking ability that Coby brings is obvious. He’s got incredible hands and playmaking ability on the ball. You can already see that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We have not had a guy more physically able than Tariq. He’s long and tall and really fast. He’s a natural mover. He’s smart and gets it. We’ll see what happens.”
Bryant and Woolen clearly represent Seattle’s hopes for the future. But the expected starters — Burns and Sidney Jones — are both coming off seasons during which their careers were revitalized.
Jones, a former college standout at Washington, returned to the Pacific Northwest last season and thrived once he moved into a starting role.
Burns started six of the final seven games last season for Chicago after missing the entire 2020 season following a torn ACL. The injury gave him time to study Chicago’s defense and he was able to translate that to the field last season.
It’s a very similar defense to what the Seahawks intend to run this year and had Desai in charge.
“Sure enough, he has familiarity with the scheme from being in Chicago last year. You’ve seen that benefit pay off since he has been here,” Hurtt said. “He has great command, helps out the young guys, and I see the arrow going up on Artie on where he’s going.”