RENTON – Kam Chancellor returned to practice this week, and that is unquestionably good news for the Seattle Seahawks.
With the Pro Bowl safety sidelined throughout offseason workouts and the start of training camp, however, the Seahawks got a good reminder of just how good they have it when it comes to depth behind their starting safeties.
Jeron Johnson, who is heading into his fourth season with Seattle, has spent his past three seasons as a backup to Chancellor and a specials teams standout. With Chancellor recovering from offseason hip surgery, Johnson has been working with the first-team defense alongside All-Pro Earl Thomas, and the Boise State product has more than held his own as part of the league’s best secondary.
“Awesome, awesome,” Rocky Seto, the Seahawks’ defensive passing game coordinator said when asked about Johnson. “He’s done a great job while Kam was out. The coaches want to make sure he understands how well he’s done. He’s done a tremendous job, he’s elevated his game and just really gained the confidence of the whole team.”
Johnson appeared in only seven games last season because of a pair of hamstring injuries, the second of which landed him on injured reserve. Despite those injuries, as well as his status as a backup behind two of the NFL’s best safeties, Johnson will be an option to back up Earl Thomas at free safety.
Johnson was a restricted free agent heading into the offseason, and to make sure he didn’t eventually hit the open market, the Seahawks slapped the second-round tender on the undrafted player, which came with a $2.187 million price tag, a hefty salary for a backup. Eventually the Seahawks and Johnson agreed to a $1.5 million deal. The Seahawks could have let Johnson test the open market and perhaps signed him for less, but they know his value. He has played well in preseason games, and on special teams, so they realized that letting him test free agency could backfire.
“That goes to show you how much (general manager John Schneider) and Coach Carroll value him,” Seto said. “…He’s invaluable without any question. He’s been great, because he can fill in at either safety spot, he can play in nickel packages if we want him to be a bigger nickel for us. He’s just invaluable.”
“I definitely have confidence in myself to be a starter in this league,” Johnson said. “My time will come. Right now I’m playing my role, which is special teams and be ready if they put a defensive package in for me. Just be ready to go and do what I can do to contribute.”
And Carroll has an equally high opinion about Johnson: “He’s fit in beautifully. He’s a great communicator back there now; he can take charge, make the calls, works with Earl really well. He’s been in the rotation for a couple years now so it’s not new for him. But he’s handled it really well. We feel like the system as really been able to flourish and keep going and growing and all that so he’s done a great job.”
The Seahawks waived/injured undrafted rookie safety Dion Bailey, who suffered a serious ankle sprain in Saturday’s mock game. If unclaimed on waivers, Bailey will revert to injured reserve. To fill the open roster spot, Seattle signed DB Trey Wolfe, who spent rookie minicamp with the Seahawks.