With training camp just around the corner, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expects a fierce competition to play out at safety with at least six legitimate contenders battling for roster spots.
Along with veterans Bradley McDougald, Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, and Shalom Luani returning, Seattle invested second and fourth-round picks on Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi during April’s NFL Draft in an effort to further bolster the competition.
But aside from McDougald, Seattle still has a youthful, inexperienced safety group, especially after allowing Earl Thomas to leave for Baltimore in free agency. Further complicating matters, McDougald, Hill, and Blair all missed at least part of the team’s offseason program, limiting the coaching staff’s ability to accurately evaluate the position in May and June.
“It’s going to be an interesting spot when we come back to campus.” Carroll said at the conclusion of Seattle’s mandatory minicamp. “We’re going to have to make up a lot of ground there.”
Most of the free agent market has dried up at this stage, but several notable safeties still remain unsigned. Given the youth and uncertainty in the secondary, would Carroll and the Seahawks be wise to consider adding one of the following veterans to the mix before the season starts?
From a name recognition standpoint, Berry easily stands out as the most accomplished safety looking for a new team. The former first-round pick out of Tennessee has played in five Pro Bowls, garnered First-Team All-Pro honors three times, and registered 448 tackles and 14 interceptions during his nine-year NFL career.
Making these achievements all the more impressive, Berry successfully returned to the field following a nine-month bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015 and received All-Pro distinction in each of the next two seasons.
However, Berry has hardly played over the past two seasons due to a variety of injuries. He suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Kansas City’s season opener during the 2017 season and then missed the first 13 games of the 2018 season dealing with Haglund’s deformity, a bone spur that digs into the Achilles and creates extreme discomfort.
After suiting up for just three regular season games and a playoff game over the past two seasons, the Chiefs released Berry in March. Set to turn 31 in December, he hasn’t generated much interest as a free agent and even with his stellar resume, teams will likely remain scared off by his age and durability concerns.
For a second straight year, Boston, who just turned 27 years old in late June, mysteriously finds himself without a team deep into the offseason.
Just two short years ago, the versatile Boston started 15 games at free safety for the Chargers, recording 79 tackles and five interceptions in a breakthrough season. But instead of receiving a long-term deal as anticipated, he had to settle for a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Cardinals and didn’t sign until July 25.
In his lone season with Arizona, Boston played well amid challenging circumstances for one of the league’s worst teams. Seeing action at both safety spots, he finished fourth on the team with 79 tackles, intercepted three passes, and forced a fumble in 14 games, earning a 74.1 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Surprisingly, safety-needy teams continued to bypass Boston this spring in favor of other free agent options. Even after the compensatory pick deadline passed in May, interest remained lukewarm at best despite his quality production over the past several seasons as well as his ability to play strong and free safety at a high level.
Like Berry, Cyprien hasn’t been signed largely due to medical concerns. The 28-year old veteran missed the entire 2018 season for the Titans after suffering a torn ACL during a non-contact drill in training camp and also missed six games in 2017 with a hamstring injury.
Prior to signing with Tennessee, however, Cyprien only missed a handful of games during his first four NFL seasons with Jacksonville and proved to be effective in the box. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound strong safety amassed over 100 tackles in each of those seasons, including a career-high 114 stops in 2014.
Lack of positional versatility and coverage skills limits Cyprien’s upside, especially coming off a significant injury. But for teams seeking a Kam Chancellor-style safety who can also function as a hybrid linebacker near the line of scrimmage, he’s the best remaining option on the free agent market and should still have plenty of good football left in him.
Since the Seahawks used two draft choices on safeties and both Thompson and Hill are entering just their third season respectively, it seems highly unlikely the Seahawks will need to sign additional reinforcements unless injuries strike during the early stages of camp. Carroll likes this group and won't want an aging veteran stealing reps away from youngsters.
But if Seattle opted to make a move, Boston would easily be the best choice for a myriad of reasons. He’s the youngest of the three aforementioned players, offers the flexibility to play either safety spot, and doesn’t have the lengthy injury histories Berry and Cyprien do.
Assuming McDougald continued to play at strong safety where he’s most comfortable, Boston would handle center field duties in Thomas’s old stead without a hitch and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. could move him all over the field while mixing up coverages in different sub-packages.
Berry would be a great reclamation story, but in all honesty, he’s far more likely to be the next Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall than return to anything closely resembling his prior form. As for Cyprien, Seattle already has a couple of good box safeties and tons of depth at linebacker, eliminating any reason to bring him into the fold.