With Seahawks training camp kicking off next week, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2021 season. Today we focus on Seattle's Pro-Bowl duo at safety, and tomorrow we'll look at what the Seahawks are expecting to be a very good group at tight end.
Unless Jamal Adams and the Seahawks agree to a contract extension between now and the start of camp, that situation will be one of the biggest storylines of camp, even if only briefly—as a point of reference, Bobby Wagner's last contract extension came two days into training camp in 2019, and Wagner and Russell Wilson both signed extensions during the opening week of camp in 2015.
And seeing as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has made it clear last month that Adams is in the team's long-term plans, and hearing the way Adams talked about his first season in Seattle, it seems a matter of when and not if that extension happens.
"It's been ongoing and it's been amicable throughout," Carroll said during last month’s minicamp. "We recognize that he's a fantastic football player. It's a big contract process, but I know he knows he's been treated with a lot of respect, and he's been very respectful towards the club as well. They've been good talks, and just hasn't been able to get settled at this point, but it's coming. We expect him for camp and everything, it should be fine."
Adams, meanwhile, said at the end of last season, "I love being a Seattle Seahawk. I love being a part of this organization, it's a special one."
So assuming that deal Carroll said is coming does indeed get done in the early stages of camp if not before the team hits the field, then the next step is looking ahead to a 2021 season that will see the Seahawks again field one of the NFL's best safety duos in Adams and free safety Quandre Diggs, both of whom were selected to the NFC Pro Bowl roster last year, with Adams also earning second-team All-Pro honors.
Both Diggs and Adams were acquired in trades, Diggs for the absolute bargain price of a fifth-round pick—with Seattle even getting a seventh-rounder back from Detroit in the deal—and Adams for a more substantial package of picks that included a pair of first-rounders. And both players have been everything the Seahawks could have hoped for when general John Schneider orchestrated those trades.
In a season and a half in Seattle, Diggs already has eight interceptions in 21 games, as well as 13 passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 85 tackles. Adams, meanwhile, had 9.5 sacks in his first season with the Seahawks, setting an NFL record for defensive backs, accomplishing that feat in just 12 games. Adams also added 83 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and he provided the type of playmaking, contagious energy and leadership that made him a first-round pick in 2017 and a Pro-Bowler and first-team All-Pro with the Jets before last year's trade.
"Jamal had an incredible role in the season," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the end of the season "The juice that he brough, the competitiveness, the attitude of toughness, you just couldn't miss it."
On Diggs, Carroll said, "He's a great kid. He has a charisma and a magnetism about him that really attracts people to him. He's a natural leader, and it goes along with his attitude and personality and all of that, but he's also such a tough guy too. The guys respect the heck out of him… He's been a great kid in the program and he never hasn't been. He was a captain for the Lions, and I can see why that was the case."
The Seahawks will be counting on Diggs and Adams to once again provide Pro-Bowl level play, and their performance and leadership will be particularly important early in the season as the Seahawks break in a new starting duo at cornerback. While the Seahawks are confident in the players they have at cornerback, the departure of Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar in free agency means the Seahawks will look different at that position, and having the stability of a Pro-Bowl duo at safety should help that transition go as smoothly as possible. Adams, of course, will also be a big part of a pass rush that is looking to pick up where it left off in the second half of last season.
Last season, Seattle's defense was, statistically speaking, one of the worst in the league halfway through the season, and one of the NFL's best in the second half, cutting its opponent scoring average nearly in half. The hope is that this year's defense will more closely resemble the unit that was so good over the final two months of last season, and if the Seahawks are going to live up to their own high standard on defense, Diggs and Adams are sure to be a big part of that success. And seeing as Adams and Diggs only began playing together last year in camp, and didn't have the benefit of offseason workouts or a preseason, they should have a better understanding of each other's games in their second year together. The Seahawks should also have a better feel for how best to use a player as unique as Adams, just as Adams should be that much more comfortable in Seattle's defense.
And while there is little mystery when it comes to Seattle's starters at safety, how the depth behind those two will shake out is less clear. Ryan Neal figures to be part of that depth, having played well while making four starts last season in place of an injured Adams, but it's not as obvious who else will take on those backup roles. Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair are both listed at safety and could be options there should injuries arise, but they are also the top two candidates for the nickel role—Blair won the job out of camp last season, then Amadi took over after Blair tore his ACL in Week 2—and both figure to be used there again this season. So if the Seahawks keep those two at nickel, that leaves Neal as the only reserve safety with any experience, and it could also open the door for an undrafted rookie like Aashari Crosswell or Joshua Moon to fight for a roster spot.
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A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks safety Jamal Adams from the 2020 season.