Now that the 2021 season has officially come to an end with Super Bowl LVI in the books, it's time to look ahead to an offseason that will help shape the Seahawks' fortunes in 2022. With free agency kicking off later this month and the draft following in April, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands. So far we've covered the offensive line, the defensive line, tight end, linebacker and receiver, and today we turn our attention to the defensive backs. Check back Wednesday for a look at where things stand at running back.
Cornerback was one of the more intriguing position groups in 2021, with the Seahawks needing some time to settle on a preferred starting lineup.
The Seahawks started the year with D.J. Reed at left cornerback and Tre Flowers at right corner, and the results were mixed, but a change that saw Reed move to the right side and insert Sidney Jones IV into the starting lineup on the left side, led to better play out of that position group. Rookie Tre Brown eventually moved into the starting spot on the left side, but unfortunately his season was cut short by a knee injury, leading to Jones moving back into that role. And while it took the Seahawks time to settle in at cornerback, the play of Reed, Brown and Jones was very good as the season went along.
At safety, the Seahawks got another outstanding season out of Quandre Diggs, who was named to his second straight Pro Bowl after leading the team with five interceptions for the second consecutive season. Jamal Adams didn't repeat his pass-rush production from 2020, but was still playing really well before injuring his shoulder in Week 13, recording 87 tackles in just 12 games. As new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt noted last month, Adams was asked to do some things that were new to him in 2021, and as a result his play improved throughout the season, as was evident in his play in the final month leading up to the injury when he had 38 tackles and two interceptions in his final four full games.
Question to answer this offseason: Are Quandre Diggs, D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones IV back in 2022?
A positive that emerged from what was an up-and-down season for Seattle's defense was the improvement shown by the secondary, and at cornerback in particular, as the season went along. But heading into the offseason, the big question now is whether or not that improved secondary can return, at least mostly intact, with three key players—Diggs, Reed and Jones—all headed for free agency.
Diggs, who has been one of the best trade acquisitions of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, will get his first crack at unrestricted free agency unless the Seahawks can work out a deal with him prior to the start of the new league year, and while both sides have expressed a desire for him to continue in Seattle, there are always business decisions that have to be made by both parties.
Both Reed and Jones are also set to become free agents later this month, and even with Brown looking to have a bright future, losing one or both of the players who spent much of the season as starters would be a blow for the defense considering how much that position group was able to improve with Reed and Jones on the field. The ability to re-sign those three players will no doubt make an impact on what the Seahawks do moving forward in free agency and the draft.
Outside of free agency, the biggest question facing the secondary might be how Adams is used in Clint Hurtt's new defense. As mentioned earlier, Adams was productive last year, but he didn't put up the pass-rush numbers he has in the past. Hurtt is promising a more aggressive defense in 2022, and he knows one of his priorities will be figuring out how to get the most out of one of the league's most unique and talented defensive playmakers.
Another question will be what happens at the nickel spot, which began the year as a competition between Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi, but ended up being Amadi's job for much of the season after Blair suffered a season-ending knee injury—his second in as many seasons—in Week 7. The Seahawks had very high hopes for Blair heading into the 2020 season after he moved into the nickel spot, but injuries have derailed his past two seasons. If Blair can get back and stay healthy, he's another intriguing player to add the mix in the secondary.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2022: The growth at cornerback.
As mentioned above, the Seahawks got much better play at cornerback as the season went along, both because Reed seems to be more comfortable and play better on the right side, and because both Jones and Brown played well on the left side. If the Seahawks can keep Reed and pair him with either a re-signed Jones or a healthy Brown, they'll be in a much better place heading into the season than they were a year ago.
But even if one or both of their free agent cornerbacks were to leave, they could still head into the season with Brown, who looked poised for a big rookie season prior to his injury, as well as Bless Austin and John Reid, who both came on strong late in the season when injuries and COVID-19 cases were affecting cornerback depth, not to mention whatever players they would add to replace those who left. Austin will be a restricted free agent when the league year begins, and Reid an exclusive rights free agent, so technically neither are under contract in 2022, but the Seahawks should be able to bring both back.