Q&A series: We take a look at some big questions about the Seahawks’ salary cap situation and roster.
Today’s question: Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are the highest-paid safety tandem in the NFL and have the largest cap hits on the team in 2023. How is that hurting the team? And how long will that continue?
Recent salary guarantees for Seattle’s top-paid players served as the latest occasion for some fans to grouse about the team’s overinvestment in its safeties.
The Seahawks having the highest-paid safety duo in the NFL is nothing new. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor once held that distinction, too.
But Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are no Chancellor and Thomas, and plenty of fans are understandably irked over Seattle’s waste of resources at the position – they have the highest cap hits on the team in 2023 at $18.1 million each, ahead of star receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
Some who don’t understand capology – or the way the Seahawks operate — want the rehabbing Adams to be cut. That won’t happen, especially after part of his salary was guaranteed on Feb. 17. But you can bet 2024 will be a different conversation, if he does not play up to his $70 million contract in 2023.
Can Adams be ‘a big factor’?
Adams has been a huge disappointment since John Schneider decided in 2020 to give up two first-round picks, a third and Bradley McDougald for the Jets’ two-time Pro Bowl safety and a fourth-rounder.
Adams has played just 25 games in three Seattle seasons. After he had a largely disappointing first two years (despite 9.5 sacks in 2020), Clint Hurtt had big plans for him in Seattle’s new 3-4 in 2022. But he suffered a torn quadriceps in the opener and they never got the chance to see whether he could become the impact player his $70 million deal said he was.
The Hawks are not going to cut him because they want to see him as a centerpiece in their scheme — a hybrid linebacker/safety controlling the middle of the field.
As Pete Carroll said after the season: “He’s a terrific ballplayer. He would be a big factor, and the design of the scheme was all set up with that in mind. … We’ll take advantage of it when we have him again, and he’ll make the most of it.”
If he doesn’t, the Hawks will have to strongly consider letting him go in 2024. It’s a make-or-break year, without question.
Safeties 18% of cap?
Diggs, meanwhile, earned a three-year, $39 million deal last year. It put him in the top 10 for average salary among safeties (Adams is third).
Diggs’ quick return from the leg injury he suffered in January 2022 seemed to come at the expense of some of his playmaking ability: He had a very quiet first half of the season before playing better in the second half and making his third straight Pro Bowl.
He should be much better from the start in 2023, with no rehab needed this offseason.
The Hawks also have a solid insurance policy for Adams in the form of Ryan Neal, who figures to get the second-round RFA tender of $4.3 million. If that happens, Seattle’s top three safeties will account for 18% of Seattle’s cap. And they will need to stay healthy. (The Hawks probably would be smart to draft a safety.)
Lockett ($16.75 million), Metcalf ($13.7 million), Uchenna Nwosu ($13 million), Shelby Harris ($12.2 million) and Gabe Jackson ($11.3 million) are the other guys who take up double-digit cap space in 2023. Harris and Jackson should not be back at their high numbers (Seattle can recoup over $15 million in cap space by letting them go).
As for 2024, Geno Smith’s expected deal is likely to create a $35 million cap hit next year. That would overtake Metcalf ($24.5 million) for the team high. Lockett ($24 million) and Adams ($23.6 million) are right behind, and Diggs ($15.1 million) and Will Dissly ($10.1 million) are the only other ones in double digits.
Yeah, it is frustrating to see the Seahawks overpay guys like Adams and Dissly rather than bring in better free agents. But the addition of Nwosu to a two-year, $19 million deal last year might be a sign that they are now open to paying a little more to good players in their primes. Nwosu’s $9.5 million average is the most Schneider has ever paid in a multi-year deal to an outside free agent.
Despite the oversized outlay to the safeties and Dissly, the Hawks have enough in 2023 to do that again — adding a much-needed veteran inside linebacker, a better center and/or a new nose tackle, if possible.
Then, next season we will see whether Adams plays up to his contract or forces the team to find a better use for that money in 2024.