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Who Seahawks’ safety options could be after cutting Adams, Diggs

Mar 7, 2024, 11:38 AM

The Seattle Seahawks made some tough but necessary decisions to create cap room on Tuesday, releasing their Pro Bowl safety pair of Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs as well as tight end Will Dissly. The moves created about $24 million in cap room, according to OverTheCap.com, but they also left the Seahawks with some holes to fill.

Rost: Four big questions after Seahawks release Diggs, Adams and Dissly

Safety is a position where teams appear to be shedding salary across the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how the Seattle Seahawks handle trying to find value at that spot without sinking so much of their payroll into it. What are some of the options for general manager John Schneider and new head coach Mike Macdonald as they begin to reshape this roster?

Who could Seattle Seahawks get at safety?

Free agency candidates

There are some big names that can be eliminated right away as Antoine Winfield Jr. has been franchise tagged by the Buccaneers, and the Patriots chose to place the transition tag on Kyle Dugger. It’s also safe to assume that Commanders safety Kamren Curl and Giants safety Xavier McKinney are probably going to garner more than the Seahawks are willing to pay after just cutting salary at the position. Both are projected to make over $10 million per year on their new deals.

Ravens free agent Geno Stone is a name that has been floated for the Seahawks ever since Macdonald, who was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named Seattle head coach. Stone, a seventh-round draft pick by the Ravens in 2020, was initially waived but returned to the team, and he started to see some playing time in 2021 and 2022 due to injuries in the Ravens secondary

Last year was Stone’s first season playing more than half of the defensive snaps, and he excelled under Macdonald. Stone started 11 games in place of injured free safety Marcus Williams, racking up the most interceptions by a safety with seven and earning an 84.9 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. He is only 24 years old and should be affordable with Spotrac projecting him for a three-year, $21 million deal with an average annual salary of $7.2 million.

Colts free agent Julian Blackmon is another intriguing option. He was a third-round pick of the Colts in 2020 out of Utah. Blackmon, who spent three years at cornerback before switching to safety, showed some promise with two interceptions, a forced fumble and 42 tackles in 14 starts his rookie season. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL after playing just six games in 2021 and missed a few games down the stretch in 2022 with a shoulder injury.

In 2023, Blackmon made the move from free safety to strong safety. He had already shown solid coverage skills but proved to be an impressive tackler and run blocker in his new role, amassing 88 tackles while still leading the Colts in interceptions with four. A four-year NFL starter, Blackmon is still only 25 years old and Pro Football Talk is projecting a new deal for him at a reasonable $11.5 million for two years.

Draft prospect for Seattle Seahawks safety

One talented safety who won’t be on the market is Baltimore’s Kyle Hamilton, but Brock Huard pointed to the 2023 Pro Bowler as an example of what Macdonald is looking for in his backfield during Wednesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. Hamilton is extremely versatile and it’s a trait that Macdonald counted on in Baltimore, stating that Hamilton is a guy that they expect to “influence the game from multiple positions.”

Is there a safety in the 2024 draft that can bring some of those same qualities? Huard posed that question to NFL Network analyst Charles Davis this week, and Davis noted that it’s difficult to find someone that has the exact mix of unique talents that Hamilton brings. He did come up with a name that brings some of the same qualities to the table, however.

“I guess the closest would probably be Cooper DeJean, the safety out of Iowa,” Davis said. “I can drop him in at the nickel. I can play him outside on the edge. I can bring him back to safety if I want to. I could make him the dime linebacker because of his size and tackling ability and then of course, he can return punts. I’m not even looking for kickoff returners anymore because I don’t know how much longer you’ll have the play anyway, but I want the punt returner because I think that’s going to stay in. This kid, he might be the closest we have (in this draft class to Hamilton).”

DeJean is currently projected to be a late first-round pick in most mock drafts. While he is talented and a strong fit for Mike Macdonald’s defense, the prevailing thought is that the Seahawks need to go with help at the line of scrimmage or take a swing at a quarterback with their first pick in this draft.

Internal options

What about the players at the safety position who the Seattle Seahawks already have? When you look at Macdonald’s Ravens defense, the versatility and physicality of the players stands out. Many of them were not highly regarded heading into the season but posted career years working with Macdonald.

Huard thinks the Seahawks have a couple of guys on their roster in Julian Love and Coby Bryant that may not be an upgrade right away from last year’s starters but do have some upside in this new system.

“It’s not immediately better no, but for the value, yes,” the former NFL quarterback and current FOX football analyst said. “I know Julian Love got some money and we were speaking earlier about Kyle Hamilton. Is Love a poor man’s Kyle Hamilton? I mean, he can play nickel. He can play safety. He was a corner at Notre Dame. He’s one of those interchangeable pieces that’s going to be very appealing because he’s got a high, high football IQ.”

Love saw significantly more playing time in the second half of the 2023 season and showed a knack for creating turnovers, finishing the year with four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Bryant is another Seahawks player that’s shown the ability to be a ballhawk, coming up with four forced fumbles in his 2022 rookie season as a cornerback. Unfortunately for Bryant, he was asked to compete at safety in training camp last season and a toe injury left him on the outside looking in. There was a physicality that stood out from Bryant in the limited sample size that we did see him at safety.

“One thing about Coby Bryant, when he played football in the preseason – and I know it’s preseason and it’s a different speed – but do you remember what he was? He hit people, man,” Huard said. “He was willing to stick his face in there on those over routes and those crossing routes.”

So out of Love and Bryant, who’s the best choice for free safety?

“I don’t think that’s as big of a priority in Mike Macdonald’s system,” Huard said. “It’s a different system on the back end of it. You don’t just need that center fielder that can cover red line to red line. You’re going to see some different looks. You’re going to see some different coverages, and again, when these guys were home all week studying their personnel, studying their system, watching tape on Coby’s preseason, watching all of it, I think it made them even more comfortable to say, ‘Time to move on from all of that money we don’t need to spend at that position right now.’”

More Seahawks coverage

Russell Wilson and more: Check out worst trades in NFL history
Seahawks cut D-tackle Bryan Mone in big money-saving move
Seahawks Draft: Versatile players for Mike Macdonald’s defense
Salk: Do Seahawks’ three releases signal a big change?
Huard: How Seattle Seahawks can still benefit from Russell Wilson trade

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