Seahawks must bring back safety Ryan Neal
I am all for Neal taking over for oft-injured Jamal Adams at strong safety. Even if Adams returns at the beginning of 2023, let Neal start and Adams earn his spot back. Neal has been a better all-around safety than Adams has been since Adams came to Seattle in 2020. In fact, Neal was the highest-graded safety in the NFL this season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Adams can be the more spectacular player and is by far the better pass rusher. But a strong safety needs to do more than just blitz the quarterback. He needs to be solid in pass coverage but also act as something closer to a linebacker in run support. Neal is better than Adams in run defense and it’s not close.
There are two issues with the Adams and Neal combo, though. One is that Adams is still just 27 years old and may be too expensive to outright release. If the Seahawks cut him before the 2023 season, Seattle would be left with $21,330,000 in dead cap. This is more than Adams would be paid next year so releasing doesn’t make financial sense.
Neal for the first time will be an unrestricted free agent after 2022. As well as he has played, he might be offered a bigger contract elsewhere than Seattle is willing to pay. But if John Schneider and Pete Carroll do bring Neal back, he should be the starter in 2023 and not Adams.