MIKE SALK

Salk: Do Seahawks’ 3 releases signal a big change?

Mar 6, 2024, 12:32 AM

Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll Quandre Diggs Jamal Adams...

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks to safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

Pete Carroll’s dismissal by the Seattle Seahawks was shocking. Mike Macdonald’s hiring was exciting. Both events will be remembered for what I imagine will be a massive effect on the history of the franchise.

What stands out after Seattle Seahawks’ three big cuts

It might not have the impact of the American Revolution, but if the coaching changes were the battles of Lexington and Concord, the decision to release Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs and Will Dissly could be the Declaration of Independence. To move on from those three players offers us a potential glimpse into the strategy of what is to come and the depth of change necessary for this franchise.

For quite some time, I have been arguing that the biggest problem with the Seahawks roster was not the amount of talent on it but in how it was dispersed. Essentially, the team has had lots of quality players, but at sub-optimal positions.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in a cursory look at their salary cap figures. According to Over The Cap, three of their top eight players (by cap hit) were safeties. Given that most teams only start two safeties, that seems pretty out of the ordinary. Of the other six players, two were wide receivers, plus one tight end, a quarterback and a defensive lineman.

For a team that hasn’t been paying its quarterback top dollar, the Seahawks should have been in prime position to take advantage of free agency. But those high numbers on low-value positions made them only minor players in the market.

How did it happen? There is no one reason, but the Jamal Adams trade sure seems like a good place to start. The team went all in on a position (safety) that the league generally reduces to the margins. Honestly, I loved it at the time and I do believe safeties were undervalued. But to take advantage of an undervalued position, you need to a) not overpay for it; and b) find the right player!

Unfortunately, they struck out on both counts with Adams. He wasn’t particularly productive (especially in coverage), they overpaid him, and then he caused unrest with his erratic behavior.

That was bad. But it wasn’t the whole story.

In order to make up for Jamal’s shortcomings (both in production and availability), they needed to spend more resources at the position. Acquiring Quandre Diggs (and a seventh-round pick) in exchange for just a fifth-rounder was a stroke of genius. Signing him to a deal in 2021 and prorating his bonuses, on the other hand… maybe not so great. It tied up a lot of money in a non-premier position group. And as Adams continued to struggle to stay on the field, they went back to the trough with another contract for Julian Love.

Yikes.

Safeties can be big-time playmakers, but at their core, they are dependent on the guys up front. While the Seahawks continued to invest in the back end of the defense, the front end was subpar. Defensive linemen were blown off the ball. Edge players failed to set an edge and struggled to put consistent pressure on the quarterback. It’s no wonder this defense finished 30th and 31st against the run the last two seasons. It’s hard to stop the run when three of your four highest-paid defenders play safety – when they play at all.

The Seahawks could have built themselves differently. The Adams trade prevented them from spending big money on the line of scrimmage, but that wasn’t all. The two first-round picks they gave up sure could have helped them with that problem. What could they have done with the 23rd and 10th picks in successive drafts?

Hopefully, all of that starts to change with the three cuts made on Tuesday. The Adams and Dissly decisions were widely expected and necessary steps for this team to get back under the cap. But taken as a group, they may represent more than just an accounting move. This could be a significant shift in philosophy.

This is their chance to build the team better. To invest in the positions that move the needle. To improve the line of scrimmage. To follow their stated goals of what matters most on the field.

But is it also a signal of more changes to come?

As I said, the three players cut weren’t necessarily bad players. In the case of Diggs especially, he still has plenty of good football left. As much as they had to make these moves, it leaves the team without clear-cut starters at safety and tight end, not to mention linebacker and on the interior of their offensive line.

I don’t see those holes as a problem – quite the contrary. This allows them to improve upon what they had. But it also could be seen as an opportunity to “rebuild.”

Oh, now we’ve hit on a polarizing word. Rebuilding in the NFL isn’t quite the same process as in baseball. You don’t need to strip everything down to the studs and wait years for your draft pick lottery ticket prospects to pay off. But with a new coach and this many changes at the top of the roster pay scale, it wouldn’t be out of the question to suggest that we are in for a setback before a step forward.

And if that is happening, it might open up a few more possibilities. If they aren’t expecting to win big right away, could the team be more bold in drafting a quarterback who could take a year or two to marinate? Could they deal DK Metcalf at the top of his value, hoping to bring in more talent up front to protect that quarterback and improve a lagging run game? Could more changes be in store for this defense which still has under-performing veterans who may not fit the new scheme or philosophy?

Tuesday’s cuts don’t offer a clear view of what’s next. But they clearly open some interesting paths available to a team that is shedding some of its past mistakes and readying itself for the future.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

AP Mock NFL Draft: D-lineman to Seahawks in first round?
Huard: How Seahawks can still benefit from Russell Wilson trade
The one UW Huskies player Seahawks shouldn’t pass on in draft
Seahawks legend K.J. Wright lands job with NFC West rival
Huard: Seattle Seahawks staff must get ‘a whole lot more’ from Derick Hall

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