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Emergence of D.J. Reed sets up Seahawks for success in secondary

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It’s still been less than a week since the 2020 season of the Seattle Seahawks came to a crashing halt in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Hawks claimed the NFC West division title in a 20-9 Week 16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, however, just two weeks later the Rams came to Seattle and left with a 30-20 victory that ended the season for Pete Carroll and company.

That ushered in the start of the offseason for the Seahawks, so on Tuesday I took a look at how the defensive line group looks heading into the offseason, and followed that up by reviewing the linebackers on Wednesday. That, of course, means that it’s time to look at the secondary, where swiping a defensive back off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers, who finished in last place in the division, at the start of training camp proved very fruitful.

Moving right along to the players signed for 2021, the players under contract for next year are:

  • CB Tre Flowers
  • CB D.J. Reed
  • CB Gavin Heslop
  • CB Jordan Miller
  • NCB Ugo Amadi
  • SS Jamal Adams
  • FS Quandre Diggs
  • NCB/SS Marquise Blair

If one considers the nickel cornerback as a starting role, then that’s four of five secondary players who started in the Wild Card loss to the Rams under contract for next season in Adams, Diggs, Reed and Amadi. Only Shaquill Griffin started against the Rams and is not under contract for 2021, so it will be interesting to see how the team approaches the second outside corner spot.

What is of note, however, is that while those four starters from the Wild Card game are under contract for 2021, Adams, Diggs and Reed are all set to be free agents after next year. That could work as just an extra ounce of leverage for Adams in his likely extension negotiations this offseason, but we’ll simply have to wait and see how things play out.

None of the Seahawks members of the secondary will be restricted free agents this offseason, meaning it’s possible to move right along to the exclusive rights free agents. The three ERFAs the team has are:

  • CB Jayson Stanley
  • CB Linden Stephens
  • SS Ryan Neal

Stephens and Stanley both saw limited defensive snaps, playing just 42 snaps between them over the course of the season. However, each of them were not insignificant contributors on special teams where Stanley was on the field for 126 special teams plays and 162 for Stephens. Neal, of course, was a key fill in for Adams during his injury earlier in the season, and it would be a bit of a surprise if these three players are not at least brought back for camp next summer.

Moving on to the unrestricted free agents who are unsigned and are scheduled to hit the market this spring, the team has:

  • SS Lano Hill
  • SS Damarious Randall
  • CB Quinton Dunbar
  • ST/CB Neiko Thorpe
  • CB Shaquill Griffin

Griffin is, undoubtedly, the biggest of those names and the unsigned member of the secondary who will lead to the biggest discussions and debates among fans. A key factor in the discussions could be how the team decides to handle the restricted free agent status of his brother Shaquem Griffin, as the two have only spent a single season playing apart during their lives and a desire to continue to play for the same team could be one of the factors that Shaquill takes into consideration.

Thorpe, who was once again name captain of the special teams units saw the field for just three games during the season, and it’s entirely possible his time with the team may have come to an end. That said, if he’s able to prove his health and is willing to take another veteran minimum benefit contract, it would not be a huge surprise if the team brought him back for another year.

The other defensive back for whom proving healthy will be key for what unfolds during the offseason is Dunbar. Bothered by a knee injury for much of 2020, his playing time was limited and his effectiveness when he did see the field even more limited at times. That said, as will be the case for Bruce Irvin this offseason, whether free agent visits are allowed will likely play a significant role in how Dunbar’s market develops. If free agents are permitted to visit teams, complete tryouts and undergo medical evaluations, Dunbar likely has a far more robust market as a free agent this offseason compared to if free agent visits are shut down due to COVID like they were in 2020.

Beyond that Randall and Hill could potentially be training camp invites on veteran minimum deals, but once again that could depend on whether COVID rules limited training camp to 80 players remain in effect, or whether the league allows teams to return to having 90 players on the roster.

Putting all that together, while there will be questions regarding the second corner spot, the secondary is well set up for 2021, but at some point will need to be addressed in order to remain competitive past next season. There will, undoubtedly be debate on the position group during the offseason, but between the youth that has shown flashes at time and the veterans that make up the starting core, the secondary is a position group into which the Seahawks seem unlikely to make significant investments during the offseason.