If you’ve been following along over the past week with this series of Seahawks position reviews, you’ve probably recognized a common thread.
At just about every position, we’ve posed a similar question about a particular key player: Will (insert player name) be back with the Seahawks in 2022?
The question has applied, so far, to notable free agents Rashaad Penny, Duane Brown, Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Rasheem Green and Al Woods — and even to franchise legend Bobby Wagner.
The pattern continues here as we go deep on Seattle’s safeties.
And one could make a strong case that the question is most relevant here because of Quandre Diggs, the Seahawks’ most valuable player on defense in 2021 … who is now a free-agent free safety.
So, yes, we have to ask: Will Diggs be back with the Seahawks in 2022?
Diggs has been everything — and more, really — that the Seahawks could have hoped for when they acquired him from Detroit before the 2019 trade deadline. He suffered a ghastly injury — a broken fibula and dislocated ankle — in the last game of the season at Arizona last month, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
Coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks want Diggs back, and Diggs has expressed interest in returning. But he’s also hitting free agency for the first time at age 29, and this could be his last chance at a big payday. He’s earned that right.
“No question (I want to be back),” Diggs said in an interview last week with John Boyle of Seahawks.com. “If we can make it work and it works out for both sides, and I feel fairly compensated knowing that I’m a two-time Pro-Bowler, (received) All-Pro votes, and one of the best, if not the best free safety in the NFL — I have to be compensated as well, and I feel like I did everything the right way to be compensated as well. If it works out and they say they want to do it, let’s get it done.”
An overview of where things stand with the Seahawks safeties:
Free safety Quandre Diggs
Snaps played in regular season: 1,228
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent.
Strong safety Jamal Adams
Snaps played in regular season: 872
Contract situation: A four-year, $70 million contract kicks in this year, which includes a $9.1 million cap hit.
Snaps played in regular season: 691 (plus 227 on special teams)
Contract situation: Enters final year of his four-year rookie deal; set to earn a base of $2.5 million in 2022 with a $2.7 million cap hit.
Snaps played in regular season: 433 (plus 288 on special teams)
Contract situation: Unrestricted free agent
Snaps played in regular season: 119
Contract situation: Enters final year of his four-year rookie deal; set to earn a base of $1.3 million in 2022 with a cap hit of just under $2 million.
Others on the roster
As injuries piled up in the secondary, the Seahawks signed Josh Jones to the practice squad on Dec. 15. He wound up playing in four games and started the finale at Arizona.
Again, Diggs was terrific. He started all 17 games, finished with a career-high 94 tackles and had a team-high five interceptions.
Things weren’t as smooth for Adams. Over the past six months, no Seahawks player — fair or not — has been harangued more in print and on local airwaves than Adams. That comes with the territory, of course, after the Seahawks’ blockbuster acquisition of Adams in 2020, and after he signed his record-setting $70 million contract last August.
That contract kicks in this year, and Adams is now recovering from his second major surgery on his left shoulder, 11 months apart.
A year after posting 9.5 sacks in his first season in Seattle — an NFL record for a defensive back — Adams had zero in 2021. His blitzing opportunities were cut in half as he was asked to play more as a traditional drop-back safety.
Say what you will about the trade and about his contract, but going forward Adams has to be a focal point of the Seahawks’ defensive schemes. The Seahawks have to make it work. They have to. They have to continue to move him around the field — make him, and the defense, more unpredictable — and not try force him to be something he’s not.
It can work, and Adams will no doubt come back this summer motivated to prove he’s worth the contract he’s signed.
How much are the Seahawks willing to invest in the safety position?
We’re about to find out. Pro Football Focus projects Diggs will sign a free-agent deal for three years and $24 million — so $8 million annually. That, frankly, feels low.
More likely, Diggs will seek something in the neighborhood of $10-12 million per season, if not more, which would put him closer to some of the NFL’s highest-paid free safeties. There ought to be some NFL teams willing to go there; will the Seahawks be one of them?
Diggs isn’t the Seahawks’ only free agent safety. Neal proved to be a valuable piece throughout the secondary (and on special teams), subbing in during nickel and dime time, and taking over at strong safety for the final five weeks after Adams’ injury. Neal will be an unrestricted free agent in March too, and the Seahawks like his versatility.
It will be interesting to monitor how things shake out for Blair and Amadi, Seattle’s second- and fourth-round picks in 2019, respectively. Amadi, as the regular nickelback, graded out poorly in PFF’s evaluation this season — he was 119th out of 120 cornerbacks — and Blair, for all his potential, is coming off his second major knee injury in as many years.
Both are entering the final year of their rookie deals.