Now that the 2022 NFL season is over, it's time to look ahead to an offseason that will help shape the Seahawks' fortunes in 2023 and beyond. With free agency kicking off next month and the draft following in April, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands prior to the start of the new league year. On Monday, we kicked things off with quarterback, and today we focus on safety. Check back Wednesday when we turn our attention to running back.
The Seahawks spent training camp preparing to unveil a three-safety look that would become, if not their base defense, a regular package that would, among other things, help maximize Jamal Adams' playmaking ability.
Unfortunately for Adams and the Seahawks, however, Adams suffered a season-ending injury in the first half of Seattle's opener against the Broncos, scrapping those plans. Josh Jones, who had a strong camp and preseason, took over a starting spot as Ryan Neal recovered from an ankle injury, then Neal eventually took over that role, playing the best football of his career, though a knee injury did sideline him again late in the season. In all, the Seahawks started five different players at safety alongside Quandre Diggs, who started every game at free safety: Adams, Jones, Neal, Teez Tabor and Johnathan Abraham.
"It did affect us, because we had a real plan in how we wanted to utilize him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Adams' injury. "He's a terrific ball player and he would be a big factor. That's the design of the scheme, it was all set up with that in mind. I'm not blaming anything on that, we will take advantage of that when we have him again. He will make the most of it."
Diggs, meanwhile, played every defensive snap during the 2022 season, a remarkable feat considering he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg in the final game of the 2021 season, leading to offseason surgery. And while Diggs wasn't one to make excuses, it was clear he was not at his best until later in the season when he once again looked like one of the NFL's top safeties, helping him earn Pro Bowl honors for the third straight season.
"That's a remarkable turnaround for him to get back," Carroll said. "He had a bad injury right at the end of the season. Just to get back out there and to be playing is one thing, but to have the confidence that you can hit it, plant, drive, and do all of the things that you need to do is another thing. It took him a while, I think, for him to gain the confidence and return. He was in a return mode for some time during the season. I don't even know if he would have sensed that, but I think that is the reality of it. Once he got really going, he cranked it up, was all over the place, and played really well."
Question to answer this offseason: Will Ryan Neal be back?
If the Seahawks want to try once again to get their three-safety look going, they'll of course need Adams to return to health—Carroll said last month that Adams still has a ways to go in his recovery—they'll also need to re-sign Neal, who is set to become a restricted free agent when the new league year begins.
In filling in for Adams the past three seasons, Neal has shown he is a starting-caliber safety—he was even named to Pro Football Focus' All-Pro team this year—so while the Seahawks have some level of control with Neal a restricted free agent, he very well could have suitors. Neal made it clear the day after Seattle's playoff loss that he plans on being back, but as always there are business decisions to be made by both the player and the team, particularly with the Seahawks already employing two of the league's best—and as a result, highly-compensated—safeties in Diggs and Adams.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2023: Diggs Fully Healthy & Adams On The Mend
As Carroll noted in the quote above, Diggs was a different and better player by the end of the season than he was early on. It's not that Diggs wasn't healthy enough to play, but it's nearly impossible for a player to be at his very best only six months removed from a significant surgery on his leg.
Diggs goes into this offseason healthy, however, and if his play late in the season was any indication, the Seahawks should be getting the best best version of the three-time Pro-Bowler when the 2023 season gets underway.
Adams, meanwhile, is still making his way back—his Instagram stories provide regular progress resorts—but assuming he is back for the start of the season, the hope for him and the team is that this is the year he can put a healthy season together and get back to being one of the NFL's top defensive playmakers. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but to see the passion Adams displayed while visiting the team during practices and games this season, no one will be more motivated to have a big 2023 than Adams.
And if the Seahawks can indeed retain Neal, that would give them a great safety trio that hopefully can show what coaches were hoping to do with the defense in 2022.