Seahawks release Herndon, who set interception return record in Super Bowl

Updated: June 1, 2007, 8:21 PM ET
By By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Five-year veteran cornerback Kelly Herndon, who started all 16 games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, was released on Friday afternoon as the team opted to move forward with younger players at the position.

The departure of Herndon, who played the past two seasons in Seattle after spending the first three years of his career with the Denver Broncos, opens a spot for second-year cornerback Kelly Jennings to move into the starting lineup. Jennings was the Seahawks' first-round pick in the 2006 draft.

Herndon, 30, recorded a career-high 67 tackles in 2006, and also had one interception and 15 passes defensed.

The former Toledo standout, who entered the NFL as an undrafted college free agent, has played in 73 games and registered 259 tackles, nine interceptions, 56 passes defensed, one sack, eight forced fumbles and three recoveries. In his two seasons with the Seahawks, he appeared in 28 games and started 22 of them.

Seattle signed Herndon as a restricted free agent in 2005, inking him to a five-year, $15 million offer sheet the Broncos declined to match. There were three seasons remaining on his Seattle contract, at base salaries of $2.5 million (2007), $2.9 million (2008) and $3.1 million (2009).

The Seahawks will realize some salary cap relief with the move, between $1.05-$2.5 million, but the amount has yet to be officially determined.

It is likely that Herndon, who is rehabilitating from a broken ankle he sustained in the 2006 season finale, will draw interest from other teams if he is healthy. The Seahawks had said in recent weeks that Herndon's recovery from the ankle injury was on schedule. There may be teams that view Herndon as a solid nickel cornerback.

Herndon owns the Super Bowl record for the longest return of an interception. In a Super Bowl XL loss to Pittsburgh, he intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and then returned it 76 yards.

In addition to creating an opportunity for Jennings to be elevated to the starter's spot opposite veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant, the release of Herndon likely means that rookie Josh Wilson will have a chance to earn significant playing time in 2007.

Wilson was the team's top pick in this year's draft, a second-round selection from Maryland. Jennings played in all 16 games in 2006, and had 40 tackles, one interception and five passes defensed.

Seattle statistically ranked 16th in the league in defense versus the pass in 2006, but allowed too many big plays. With the departure of Herndon, Trufant will be the lone returning starter in the secondary. The Seahawks earlier in the spring signed safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell as unrestricted free agents, and both will start.

The Seahawks on Friday also released offensive tackle Steve Morley, a two-year veteran who was signed in January, and who has appeared in seven games.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.