As we’ve covered throughout this series, uncertainty looms over many key position groups along the Seahawks’ roster. But as we approach the end of our 2021 offseason position preview, we find ourselves looking at a safety group that presents very few immediate question marks moving forward.
What a difference a year makes. At this time last season, the Seahawks were looking at one established starter in Quandre Diggs while banking on a breakout season from Marquise Blair with Lano Hill serving as the tertiary piece behind them. Tedric Thompson was also still a member of the roster at this time, though the writing was on the wall in regards to his future in Seattle well before the team cut him in late March.
Some months later, the Seahawks made their big blockbuster trade with the Jets to acquire Jamal Adams. Both he and Diggs combined for an excellent season in Seattle’s secondary, each earning Pro Bowl honors for their efforts in 2020. Barring injury, the duo of Adams and Diggs - along with a healthy Blair - should be a scary sight for opposing offenses this fall.
With the possibility of extensions and some depth moves to be made there’s still a little bit to talk about with Seattle’s safeties, so let’s get into what we know, what we don’t know, and what to expect over the coming months.
What We Know
Adams and Diggs are currently on the last year of their respective contracts, though it seems unlikely the Seahawks will let either one test the open market this time next year. Extending both has its benefits beyond the simple fact of keeping two of the best safeties in the NFL; for the cap-strapped Seahawks, it would also pave the way to substantially reduce the $9.6 million cap hit of Adams and the $6.1 million hit of Diggs. Over the Cap currently projects a total of $11.1 million in cap savings if both sign extensions this offseason, though that’s obviously subject to change depending on contract structure.
Depth-wise, the Seahawks are also in a pretty good spot. Following his breakout season in 2020, Ryan Neal is an exclusive rights free agent but there is little-to-no doubt he won’t be back in Seattle this year. Marquise Blair is expected to make his return at some point after suffering a torn ACL versus the Patriots in Week 2 and should be in line to take on a big role in the defense, much like he was supposed to this past season before it came to an abrupt end out of the gate.
The Seahawks have two safeties set to become unrestricted free agents in March: Lano Hill and Damarious Randall. The former had a solid season as a rotational defensive back for Seattle and made a key play in their game-winning goal-line stand in the aforementioned matchup with the Patriots, but a back injury forced him onto injured reserve for the remainder of the year. The latter was exclusively a special teams player last year, appearing in just three percent of the team’s defensive snaps. One or both could return for competition purposes, but there may not even be a spot to earn behind the big four of Adams, Diggs, Neal, and Blair.
What We Don’t Know
How long will the Adams negotiations play out? We’ve seen time and time again in the NFL where big-name extensions often don’t come together very quickly. This seems like it has the potential to follow suit because Adams is in a very unique position. On one hand, the All-Pro safety set the NFL single-season record for most sacks by a defensive back (9.5) while playing through groin, finger, and shoulder injuries. On the other, he didn’t play a full season, struggled in pass coverage at times, and didn’t log a single interception. While a bit nit-picky, these things ultimately matter in contract negotiations and could set the two sides apart at the beginning. However, there should be very little doubt this doesn’t end with Adams sticking in Seattle for the long haul as the highest-paid safety in the game.
How high is a Diggs extension on the Seahawks’ to-do list? It seems like a no-brainer to also lock up the Texas alum for the future, but with all the attention on Adams’ situation as of now, it’s hard to know what the team’s timeline is for addressing all of this. Of course, these discussions may very well be going on between the team and their Pro Bowl safety as of this writing; there just hasn’t been any sort of public indication that we’re nearing a resolution.
When will Blair be ready to go? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has said he expects his third-year safety to be fully healthy to participate in training camp. ACL recoveries, however, are always tricky to predict and timelines can always change, though Blair suffered the injury early enough in the season to realistically get back to action by the summer. If so, the Seahawks should be all but set at the position aside from some minor depth moves.
What to Expect
Although negotiations may be prolonged, Adams - and most likely Diggs - should be extended prior to the start of the season. If (when) that happens, the Seahawks will have two of the best safeties in the league under contract for the mid 2020s with a pair of quality players behind them as well.
Looking around the league, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded unit than the one Seattle is set to have in 2021. Because of that, don’t expect them to do much at the position other than with the players they already have this offseason. They could select a safety or a safety/corner hybrid in the later rounds of the draft or bring back Hill or Randall for depth, but that’s likely to be as significant as it gets in terms of adding to the position.