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Clayton: Seahawks have fixed their safety position — without Earl Thomas

Earl Thomas is a free agent while the Seahawks have solidified their secondary. (Getty)

What a difference a year makes. A year ago, the Seahawks were going through their first Pete Carroll training camp without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks’ rise to the Super Bowl started with the drafting of Thomas and Russell Okung in 2010. As camp progressed, it was difficult to see where the Seahawks were at safety.

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Bradley McDougald gave the Seahawks the flexibility of playing free safety or strong safety. He was not only a good safety, but he offered leadership to the young group of Seahawk safeties.

The Seahawks had Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill and second-round choice Marquise Blair. Thompson struggled. Hill was behind because of an injury. Then, out of the blue, general manager John Schneider grabbed safety Quandre Diggs midseason from the Detroit Lions for a fifth-round pick.

Once Diggs healed from some leg injuries, the play at safety became more consistent. Turnovers increased. Diggs and McDougald gelled. Were it not for injuries that affected the Seahawks’ final two losses at the end of the season, the Seahawks might have ended up as the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

In the meantime, Thomas seemed to be a major gain for the Ravens’ defense. He went to the Pro Bowl and was part of a 14-win Ravens team that had a great defense. What we didn’t know is that Thomas wasn’t fitting in with his team and his teammates. He was late for meetings. He had a fight with defensive lineman Brandon Williams.

Things got so bad that last week, Thomas got into a fight with safety Chuck Clark and was sent home. Clark ripped off his helmet after Thomas had a missed assignment. Thomas said, “It’s cool.” Clark countered by saying, “It’s not cool.” He criticized Thomas for not being at all the walkthroughs and not studying the defense.

At that point, Thomas answered with his fist. After being sent home, a council of Ravens players said it wanted him to be cut or traded. He got cut.

Bringing Thomas back to Seattle wouldn’t have been a good idea, particularly because of how bad Thomas left the Seahawks. He had a holdout, a bad leg injury and flashed an obscene gesture to Pete Carroll.

Now, you look at the Seahawks and it’s amazing how well they have fixed the safety position. Diggs is a two-time Pro Bowl alternate and a player so respected by the Lions that he was a team captain. Schneider traded a fifth-round pick for cornerback Quinton Dunbar and made the big move to acquire safety Jamal Adams, though it did cost McDougald as part of the deal.

Although the Legion of Boom had Thomas and Kam Chancellor, now the Seahawks have a safety duo that might be considered the best in the league. It ranks up there with the Minnesota Vikings. Adams is considered the best safety in football. At the age of 24, he is at the beginning of a possible Hall of Fame run.

Adams likes it here and you can see that the Seahawks will likely try to sign him to a long-term contract next year. Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker just signed a four-year, $59 million contract. Unless Adams demands too much, he should get a deal in the $15 million a year range.

And then you talk about timing. Thomas won’t be back with the Seahawks, but in the same week of his release, the Seahawks bring in Justin Britt and Paul Richardson. They are going through COVID-19 testing with the possibility of getting back with the team.

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