The Case For and Against Extending Seahawks S Bradley McDougald
The Seahawks signed safety Bradley McDougald as a free agent before the 2017 season. Future Ring of Honor inductees Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor still roamed the defensive backfield for Seattle and it was thought the veteran would just be a depth piece and participate in certain packages as a "big nickel" defender.
As is life in the NFL, things changed rapidly for Seattle that season due to injuries. Chancellor didn't finish the season after what turned out to be a career-ending neck injury, playing in just nine games. Thomas missed a pair of games as well, while Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles tendon, leaving the secondary ravaged.
This presented McDougald with a chance to be a significant contributor thrust into the starting lineup and he didn't disappoint. Over the past three seasons, the former Kansas standout has turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of the post-Legion of Boom era, playing valuable snaps at both safety spots.
But as he approaches his 30th birthday, does McDougald's performance warrant another contract from the Seahawks? Let's examine the evidence for and against extending him.
Why Seattle Should Extend McDougald
Recently, McDougald has taken more of a leadership role as Seattles defense got younger and less experienced, starting in all but two contests over the last two seasons. Now, paired with fifth-year veteran Quandre Diggs, the Seahawks have one of the most experienced safety tandems in football, with a combined 12 seasons between them.
In 2018, the ex-Jayhawk earned a 76.6 grade from Pro Football Focus, better than Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins. McDougald punctuated that strong season with a solid performance in the Wild Card round loss to the Cowboys, amassing 10 tackles while playing with a torn MCL.
Last season, McDougald's play dipped slightly in effectiveness but he still remained a solid veteran presence on Seattle's defense. In Seattle's playoff victory over the Eagles, McDougald notched a sack, two tackles for loss, and 11 total tackles.
In 47 games with Seattle, while making 39 starts over the past three seasons, the 6-foot-1 safety has racked up 223 tackles, five interceptions, 0.5 sacks, and eight tackles for loss. Since 2017, the Ohio native has 19 passes defended, better than former Pro Bowlers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Devin McCourty.
With all the turmoil the Seahawks have experienced over the last three seasons, especially on defense, McDougald has been a steady presence and an underrated leader. Keeping him around for that reason alone makes a ton of sense.
Why Seattle Should Not Extend McDougald
Extending McDougald likely will depend on Marquise Blair's growth behind him and the depth at the safety position exiting the 2020 season.
If Blair shows progress in a second season in a limited role, Seattle might want to roll with him as McDougald’s replacement after this season. Letting the seasoned veteran walk after the season likely ensures the 2019 second round pick will get a long, hard look at strong safety in 2021.
As previously mentioned, there was a drop off between McDougald's strong 2018 campaign and last season, though he did finish strong in the playoffs. His Pro Football Focus grade plummeted from 76.6 to 62.0, his missed tackles jumped from seven to 12, and he played through more injuries in 2019.
It's a tough call to say whether or not this is the start of wear-and-tear accumulated during McDougald's seven-year career setting in or just a minor bump in the road. But given his age, diminishing athleticism, and the fact he's had numerous injuries the last few years, giving him an extension could be risky.
McDougald has been a valuable asset to the defense amid a myriad of changes, but Blair looks to be the future at strong safety, so long as he can continue to improve and prove deserving of more significant reps. If Seattle does feel they need to extend the veteran, it should only be of the one-year variety, set to expire after 2021.
Set to turn 30 in November, McDougald's contract could look a lot like the annual salary he is due this season, which is around $5.4 million including bonuses. If he's to be re-signed, Seattle should consider a one-year, $4 million extension for their versatile safety after the 2020 season has concluded.