Bradley McDougald came to Seattle with two years' worth of starting experience with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coach Pete Carroll believes he'll be a solid fill-in for Earl Thomas at free safety this weekend.

Share story

When Bradley McDougald was shopping for his next team back in March, the 26-year-old free agent safety had several viable options.

He was on the open market as a starting caliber safety who could play both safety positions and cornerback, and he had started 31 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ last 32 games, tallying a career-high 91 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions in his final season with the Buccaneers in 2016.

McDougald attracted interest from a handful of teams, but Seattle and Cleveland pursued him hardest.

The Seahawks wanted McDougald to back up Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, play on special teams and fill in wherever he was needed.

The Browns told McDougald the situation in their defensive secondary was fluid, and that he could compete for a starting role.

But even though McDougald grew up in Dublin, Ohio, about two hours southwest of Cleveland, Cleveland, joining the Browns “just wasn’t an appealing situation,” McDougald said.

McDougald took his chances and signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Seahawks in March. He says he respected the organization, got a good vibe from coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, and liked their vision for his role in with the franchise.

This Sunday against Washington, McDougald will likely start his first game for Seattle at free safety in place of the injured Earl Thomas, who tweaked his hamstring in last Sunday’s win over the Texans.

Thomas has rebounded well this year after a broken tibia put a premature end to his 2016 season. The Seahawks’ star free safety is tied with Richard Sherman for the team lead in interceptions, with two this season. He’s also the team’s third-leading tackler, with 38 tackles, and earned his first career NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor last month after the Seahawks beat the Los Angeles Rams.

His hamstring injury doesn’t appear serious – Thomas said after the Texans game that he could have gone re-joined the defense after he was injured, but that the coaches told him to shut it down – so it’s likely that McDougald will return to his reserve role after this Sunday.

But it’s a chance for McDougald to show the Seahawks what he can do in a featured role.

“I’m very eager,” McDougald said. “It’s everybody’s dream to just go out there and be a starter.”

McDougald played at Kansas and signed with Kansas City as a free agent after the 2013 NFL Draft, but signed with Tampa Bay after the Chiefs cut him twice. He played a backup role in his first season with the Buccaneers before earning a full-time starting role in 2015.

His road back to the starting lineup has been tough at times.

“It was an adjustment period at one point. It was definitely humbling,” said McDougald. “And for good reason, if you look at the guys in front of me. But it’s kinda what I signed up for. I knew what I was getting myself into, I told them I’d play where they need me and plug in here and there on defense.

“My spirits have been high since I’ve been here and I’m happy to be a part of this and working to be a starter.”

McDougald has played mostly on special teams this season, but saw a season-high 20 percent of defensive snaps last week when he replaced Thomas on the final two drives against Houston.

With Thomas unable to practice until Friday, McDougald has been taking first team defensive reps in practice this week.

“Bradley has been a starter in the league for years. He has the experience and savvy, he’s a playmaker, he’s really tough and a good tackler and we have spotted him all over the place to do things in coverage as well as the running game,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “We don’t have any hesitation in him playing or keeping the plan, principles intact or anything like that.

“This is a guy we were very fortunate to get in the offseason … he’s been a great addition to our team and now he is ready to go. He’s excited about it and I’m anxious to see him play.”