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Key questions to keep an eye on as the Seahawks return for NFL training camp

UPDATED: Sun., July 25, 2021

Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams reacts on the field against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jamal Adams reacts on the field against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Another NFL training camp – a back-to-mostly-normal one after the fanless workouts of a year ago – is almost here.

The Seahawks will report on Tuesday and hold their first workout on Wednesday at the VMAC in Renton, with fans again allowed to watch – their first of 12 practices held in front of spectators.

And as another season gets underway, the Seahawks will start getting the answers to some of the key questions that await in 2021.

Here are five that stand out as camp begins.

Will Jamal Adams sign before practices start?

The assumption all along is that Adams WILL be signed before the season, and likely before too deep into camp.

Seattle gave up so much for Adams – including its 2021 and 2022 first-round picks – that the thought from the beginning has been there’s no way the Seahawks won’t keep Adams in the fold long-term.

He’s still just 25, and the Seahawks were clear at the time of the trade that they considered Adams a big part of their future.

But that doesn’t mean a deal gets done easily.

Business is business, and Adams, who is entering the final year of his contract in which he is due $9.6 million, wants to be the highest-paid safety in NFL history. That would mean topping the $15.25 million that Denver gave Justin Simmons, if not paid even more to reflect his pass-rushing ability – maybe somewhere in the $17-18 million range.

An NFL Network report Friday stated the Seahawks have no problem paying Adams more than Simmons to make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL, but would like to keep Bobby Wagner as their highest-paid defensive player – Wagner makes an average of $18 million a year.

But for those getting anxious, Seattle has often taken these things to the last minute and then gotten a deal done – when it’s someone with whom they were in active negotiations (which they never were with Kam Chancellor in 2015 since he had three years remaining on his deal at the time, or in 2018 with Earl Thomas, who they were content to let play out his deal).

Recall Bobby Wagner’s “nonholdout holdout’’ in 2019, when he showed up to camp but didn’t take part in on-field drills until his contract was signed. The deal got done six days into camp.

No one expects Adams to take the field until his contract is completed – recall that he did not attend the team’s offseason program with the team saying he had an excused absence for the technically mandatory minicamp. So maybe he will conduct a nonholdout holdout, as well, or even a real holdout until the ink is dry.

But despite what will likely be some moments of angst the next week or so, most around the league will still be surprised if this lingers too long.

Will Duane Brown also get a new contract?

It may be easy to forget now that one of the bigger stories of the team’s June minicamp was the revelation that Brown – the team’s starting left tackle the last three years – also wants a new deal. Brown is entering the final season of his contract, due to make a base salary of $10 million.

Brown is 35 and some had wondered how long he wanted to keep playing. But the reports that he wanted a new deal, which were confirmed by coach Pete Carroll, make clear he thinks he still has some years of good football left. Carroll hinted in June that something would get done with Brown.

“We’re always talking about the business stuff, so that’s always something that’s topical because he is in his last year coming up,’’ Carroll said.

While Adams did not attend the offseason program, Brown did, but did not take part in on-field drills. That might be his likely stance again as camp begins until he has a new deal.

Which is the biggest position battle to watch in camp?

Maybe 1A, 1B and 1C is the battle at cornerback, where there are leaders at each of the three spots (left, right and nickel), but nothing that feels like a sure thing.

It’s been a while since that’s been the case in Seattle – while the right corner spot has had some uncertainty over the years, the left side went from Richard Sherman from 2011-17 and then Shaquill Griffin from 2018-20.

Seattle’s defense has been at its best when it has shutdown corners (though in reality, whose isn’t?).

Whether the Seahawks can get back to that is wide open for debate.

The first task, though, is simply settling on the starters.

It’ll start out as a crowded competition with 11 players listed as cornerbacks on its roster.

But as camp begins, the leaders appear to be D.J. Reed on the right side and free agent signee Ahkello Witherspoon on the left. Should either falter, then players such as former starter Tre Flowers (who may not be a fan favorite but who Carroll praised in June and said is a legitimate candidate to start) and fourth-round pick Tre Brown could emerge, as well as veterans such as Pierre Desir and Damarious Randall, each signed in the offseason.

Seattle also has a fight on its hands for the nickel spot. Marquise Blair, who won the job last year, appears to be the leader heading into camp. But Ugo Amadi, who played there most of last year after Blair was injured, and former Husky Jordan Miller, who was signed in January, will also factor in.

While the bevy of corners might lead to the idea of using multiple players at each spot, the Seahawks have been at their best when they’ve had set starters throughout the secondary who rarely come off the field.

Are the Seahawks done adding to the roster?

The easy and obvious answer is no, because no team is ever done tinkering, especially once injuries inevitably creep in.

But in terms of a significant addition, Carroll indicated in the spring the Seahawks liked their current roster and want to give it a long look before making any moves.

“Until we get on the field and can see how things are starting to come together there won’t be major changes in what’s going on because we’re pretty committed at this point,’’ Carroll said last spring.

That answer was to a question about linebacker K.J. Wright and whether there was a chance he might return. Wright remains unsigned, and for now, neither side is ruling out that him coming back at some point.

But as Carroll noted, the Seahawks would likely only make such a move now if something happens to make it more of an urgent need. In the case of Wright, the Seahawks have moved second-year player Darrell Taylor to strongside linebacker and want to give him every chance to win the job. But if there’s an injury, or for some reason it doesn’t work out, and if Wright is still available, then something could happen.

The Seahawks have $8.3 million in cap room, but new contracts for both Brown and Adams could be structured to create cap space for 2021.

In other words, Seattle can make some moves if it really wants. But there’s nothing indicating at the moment that anything is on the horizon.

How quickly can the Seahawks adapt to Shane Waldron’s new offense?

Whether Waldron can truly get the best out of Russell Wilson while also placating Carroll’s desire to run the ball more and better is the key question of this season.

That will undoubtedly lead to everything that leaks or is said about the offense during the preseason being eagerly picked apart for every possible clue.

The Seahawks, though, are sure to keep things under wraps as much as possible – don’t expect to see much more than basic stuff during their three preseason games.

Some of the significant changes also figure to be more subtle, and not necessarily huge, dramatic shifts in scheme, such as increasing the tempo of the offense.

But, trying to decipher what we can about what changes the Seahawks may make will be part of the fun of camp.

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