RENTON, Wash. – Jamal Adams was back on the sideline as the Seahawks kicked off their mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, returning from Texas, where he has been rehabbing a torn quad suffered in the 2022 season opener.
When the safety will again step between the lines remains unknown, with coach Pete Carroll saying last week that the team won’t have a firm return date for Adams or linebacker Jordyn Brooks until the start of training camp in late July.
Adams and Brooks (also rehabbing in Texas from an ACL injury suffered Jan. 1) watched drills Tuesday, with this week marking the first time either has been around the team during the offseason program.
And simply seeing Adams back was a step in the right direction in the eyes of fellow safety and good friend Quandre Diggs.
“Having ’Mal back has been awesome,” Diggs said. “It’s different when (No.) 33 is out there, just the energy is a contagious thing that he brings. It’s one of those things that I can’t wait until he’s back out there playing, because it’s going to be fun. I know he’s got big goals, which he should. I’m excited to line up next to him and go back to work.”
The Seahawks will be excited to see that as well, knowing they have not received close to the return on investment they anticipated when trading two first-round draft picks to the Jets in 2020 for Adams, then signing him to a four-year contract extension the next summer for $17.5 million per year.
Due to injuries, Adams has played just 13 games since signing that deal, which this year carries the biggest salary-cap hit on the team at $18.11 million.
Though everyone is eager to get Adams back, the Seahawks can afford to be patient and make sure he is 100%.
That was evident in the sight of a fully healthy Diggs on the field at minicamp – a year ago he was recovering from a broken fibula and dislocated ankle – working alongside free-agent signee Julian Love.
“It’s been awesome,” Diggs said of being healthy, noting last year he was spending much of his time in the offseason rehabbing. “ … I’ve been able to get back to my normal training routine, and hopefully it pays off.”
Somewhat amazingly, considering the severity of the injury that saw him carted off the field against Arizona in the fourth quarter, Diggs didn’t miss a snap last season.
It was a display of tenacity that confirmed the comfort Seattle had to sign him to a three-year deal worth up to $39 million in March 2022, roughly two months after the injury – and which means this year he has the second-highest cap hit on the team at $18.10 million.
But Diggs acknowledges now it took him a while to be himself.
“I would say to the middle to the end of the season,” Diggs said Tuesday of when he finally felt fully healthy.
“You always want to feel like yourself, but it was definitely the middle to the end of the season when I honestly felt like I could go out and make the plays I needed to make, that I could trust that ankle and just put it in the ground and just go and explode.”
It’s surely no coincidence that Diggs’ production picked up the last half of the year.
All four of his interceptions came in the final seven games, including a pick in overtime in the season finale against the Rams that led to Jason Myers’ winning field goal that ended up clinching a playoff spot.
“Quandre looks incredible,” defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said last week. “We could tell last training camp and even in earlier parts of the season, he was still recovering. He wasn’t quite himself. You saw his play, obviously. He got a lot more comfortable, he played better in the second half of the year. I think it’s given credit to the fact that he had to come off a major surgery late in the year from the previous year. Watching him run around now, he looks like Quandre as we know him.”
Love, meanwhile, signed a two-year deal worth up to $12 million after starting 16 games last season for the Giants, playing most of his snaps at free safety but also seeing ample time at nickel corner and in the slot.
The signing surprised some, given Seattle’s investment in Adams and Diggs, causing some to wonder if it foreshadowed that Seattle might release Adams.
But Carroll and general manager John Schneider made it clear quickly that Adams isn’t going anywhere.
Instead, in an ideal world they see each playing regularly in three-safety sets – which would allow Seattle to use Adams closer to the line of scrimmage in what is essentially a linebacker role and utilizes his pass-rushing ability. It was maybe telling that Adams – listed at 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds – appeared a little bigger in the upper body, possibly further foreshadowing being used primarily closer to the line when he returns.
But Love also serves as a hedge in case of any setback in Adams’ recovery.
“He can do so many different things,” Hurtt said of Love. “He can cover man-to-man, great awareness in zones, he can blitz, good run fit guy. All the tricks of the trade that you have to have as a safety. He is multidimensional in what you can do with him.”
What the Seahawks also hope to do is throw some confusion in offenses by being able to line up their safeties all over – Diggs able to play up close, Love at free, etc. – instead of sticking to clearly defined positions on every snap.
“You like to be left and right with safeties as opposed to having to designate somebody,” Hurtt said. “If you have a unique player like a Kam Chancellor, don’t complicate it as a coach. Put that guy near the line of scrimmage and let him go wreck the game for the opponent. To have multiplicity is a great thing to have because it challenges an offense when you have a guy that can do multiple jobs.”
For now, they know they have that in Diggs and Love. And, eventually, Adams will again turn from spectator to participant.