The Seahawks made a big move to add an All-Pro talent to their secondary, but beyond the Jamal Adams trade, many teams made changes to their defensive back groups this year. Here are how the 32 secondaries look going into training camp.
The obvious downside of extracting incredible value in the Jamal Adams deal: the state of the Jets' secondary. In the 60 seasons of Jets/New York Titans football, the franchise has employed two All-Pro defensive backs. The team traded one (Darrelle Revis) after six seasons and dealt the other after three. The Jets were already thin at cornerback, with Colts cut Pierre Desir profiling as their top cog, and ex-Adams sidekick Marcus Maye leads their safety corps. Couple this with Gang Green's shaky pass rush and they figure to be a dream matchup for opposing quarterbacks.
James Bradberry stepped in as Josh Norman's CB1 replacement and operated as such for four seasons. He signed with the Giants. The Panthers will count on ex-Giant Eli Apple -- on his third team despite being a top-10 pick -- and 2018 second-rounder Donte Jackson, who has allowed 11 TDs in two seasons and has failed to crack Pro Football Focus' top 60 corners in either. Second-round pick Jeremy Chinn will likely work alongside veteran Tre Boston at safety; this is not a good year for rookie development. In a year of change in Carolina, the team could take its lumps against the pass.
With their "Sacksonville" defensive line on its last legs, the Jaguars are also starting over at corner. They traded Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in a five-month span, moving on from an All-Pro stopper and his Pro Bowl wingman. Jacksonville still has D.J. Hayden, a former Raiders bust who has rebuilt his career as a north Florida-based slot bastion, and drafted Florida's C.J. Henderson ninth overall. Journeyman Rashaan Melvin will factor into this equation as well. Third-year safety Ronnie Harrison has yet to pan out. After two straight top-six pass-defense DVOA finishes, the Jags ranked 22nd last season.
Top Falcons safety Keanu Neal has missed 28 games over the past two seasons, and longtime running mate Ricardo Allen is coming off offseason shoulder surgery -- after missing most of 2018. Atlanta jettisoned Desmond Trufant after seven seasons and took Clemson's A.J. Terrell ahead of where most draftniks projected he'd go (16th overall). Scouts Inc. did not grade Terrell as a Round 1 talent. Ex-second-rounder Isaiah Oliver struggled upon being promoted to the starting lineup, and the Falcons ranked 25th in pass-defense DVOA last season. This group has much to prove.
Beyond their baffling inaction at edge rusher -- after a season in which they ranked 31st in DVOA pass defense -- the Giants have questions at corner. DeAndre Baker's placement on the commissioner's exempt list should prompt Big Blue to add another veteran, but for now, this places a lot of pressure on UFA addition James Bradberry. The ex-Panther has never made a Pro Bowl; the Giants made him the NFL's fourth-highest-paid corner. New York is well-invested at safety, in Jabrill Peppers and rookie second-rounder Xavier McKinney. The Alabama product will need to overcome practice-time constraints and play well quickly.
The Texans gave Bradley Roby a surprising $12 million-per-year deal. The middling cover man will need to earn it, because Houston has issues. The Texans ranked 26th in pass-defense DOVA last year and do not look to have improved much. GM Bill O'Brien gave former Browns and Chiefs backup Eric Murray a stunning contract to start alongside solid safety Justin Reid, and 2019 second-rounder Lonnie Johnson was PFF's worst-graded corner last season. First-time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver has some work to do.
Kendall Fuller was a standout slot corner before Washington included him in 2018's Alex Smith trade. A vintage Chris Harris-type role (outside in base sets, slot on passing downs) for Fuller could benefit the team more than its Josh Norman contract did. Washington's trade of 2019 standout Quinton Dunbar does not look too bad now, given Dunbar's legal issues, but replacement Ronald Darby has not been the same since a 2018 ACL tear. Inconsistent ex-Steeler Sean Davis is on track to start alongside Landon Collins. This group should benefit from Washington's deep pass-rushing contingent, though.
The Raiders have not ranked in the top half in scoring defense since 2002. Their 2019 unit gave up more 40-plus-yard plays (16) than anyone. Beyond savvy free agent addition Prince Amukamara, Las Vegas will count on 2020 first-round rookie Damon Arnette -- drafted well ahead of where most expected -- and 2019 second-rounder Trayvon Mullen. Safety Johnathan Abram played one half of football as a rookie. Stopgaps Amukamara, Damarious Randall and Lamarcus Joyner will help, but the three first- or second-year players will define the Raiders' secondary this season.
Searching for a Patrick Peterson complement for five-ish years, the Cardinals are coming off a No. 27 pass-defense DVOA finish. Peterson, now 30, came off his PED ban and had a down season. Assuming the potential Hall of Famer will bounce back, the Cards may still be deficient at CB2. They are set to deploy ex-Falcon cap casualty Robert Alford there after he missed all last season, and 2019 second-rounder Byron Murphy allowed a 111.2 passer rating as a rookie. Budda Baker represents a solid safety anchor, and Isaiah Simmons factoring in here would be a bonus. Because late-round picks would do so otherwise.
Kyle Fuller and All-Pro Eddie Jackson cover two bases at cornerback and safety, but the Bears lost two veteran starters in Prince Amukamara and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. This group no longer looks like the one that former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio used to give Chicago a No. 1 defense. The Bears will count on second-round pick Jaylon Johnson overcoming the coronavirus-altered offseason to start opposite Fuller, because buy-low corner Artie Burns showed no signs of reliability in Pittsburgh. The now-well-traveled Tashaun Gipson could be a solid safety stopgap, however.
Going from free agency stinginess to raiding the Vikings' secondary, the Bengals have some talent here. Ex-Minnesota supporting-casters Trae Waynes (given a $14M-per-year deal) and Mackensie Alexander will supplement William Jackson III. Neither addition is a guaranteed needle-mover, but the Bengals spending on role players should help. Their Shawn Williams-Jesse Bates safety tandem remains a nice duo. This new setup gives Cincinnati a higher floor than what last year's anemic unit brought.
One of two teams to have two safeties earning eight-figure salaries, the Vikings need their Harrison Smith-Anthony Harris pair to keep up their sublime play. Harris was one of the late 2010s' top breakout players; his six INTs led the NFL last season. Arguably an All-Decade snub, Smith is one Pro Bowl shy of Paul Krause and Joey Browner's team-record six. At corner, this could be a tough transition. The Vikings cut Xavier Rhodes and lost Waynes and Alexander. They drafted three corners, including Jeff Gladney in Round 1, to work with Mike Hughes. But this is a bad year to rely on rookies in key spots.
A stark divide between DVOA and traditional stats occurred here last season, due partially to Jameis Winston's INT binge. The Bucs ranked 31st in points allowed, but Todd Bowles' unit was 12th in aerial DVOA -- an 18-spot jump from 2018. Tampa Bay will rely on its newly formed young core, with 2018 or '19 Day 2 picks Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting comprising the corner cadre. All three were above-average players last season, per PFF, which graded Dean 12th at the position. The Bucs are weaker at safety, but another Day 2 pick -- Antoine Winfield Jr. -- should factor into the mix soon to aid the cause.
Teaming an ascending boundary corner (Rock Ya-Sin) with one of the game's best slot defenders (Kenny Moore), the Colts have a nice foundation at this position. Xavier Rhodes was brutally ineffective for the Vikings last season, so counting on the former first-round pick as a reclamation project will be dicey. The Colts passing on Malik Hooker's fifth-year option made 2020 a contract year for the former first-round safety. A breakthrough slate from the solid, oft-injured defender could vault this group into the upper crust of NFL secondaries.
A major "prove it" element comes with this Lions ranking; Detroit ranked last in pass defense in 2019. It made the bold (cost-efficient) move of trading Darius Slay for 50 cents on the dollar and adding both No. 3 overall pick Jeff Okudah -- the highest-drafted cornerback in 23 years -- and longtime Falcons CB1 Desmond Trufant. Detroit has seasoned slot man Justin Coleman making $9 million a year, too. In a race with the Dolphins to see who could acquire the most Patriots, the Lions added Duron Harmon. He will finally have a starting job after years as a super sub. The Lions still miss Quandre Diggs, however.
Byron Jones was one of the best players to hit free agency in years; Dallas prioritized Amari Cooper over the now-Dolphins corner. But the Cowboys have two experienced outside corners in Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie, and they re-signed longtime slot man Anthony Brown. Stefon Diggs' younger brother, Trevon, now resides in this mix as a Round 2 pick. Perpetually linked to outside safeties, the Cowboys added a low-cost veteran in six-year starter Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Jones' defection hurts, but the Cowboys have upward mobility in their secondary.
The Browns added a few parts to this group this offseason -- namely safeties Grant Delpit and Karl Joseph. But it will still hinge on the play of cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Ward dropped his completion percentage allowed and passer rating yielded figures substantially from his Pro Bowl rookie season. Former position coach of the Broncos' Super Bowl No Fly Zone secondaries, Joe Woods is now the Browns' defensive coordinator. His overseeing of Williams and ex-LSU teammate Delpit will be critical. Both former Tigers give this secondary a high ceiling.
In Justin Simmons and 11th-year veteran Kareem Jackson, the Broncos may have the NFL's top safety tandem. Simmons was on his own planet among safeties, with 15 pass breakups last year. But major questions exist at corner. Denver lost All-Decade-teamer Chris Harris, and replacement CB1 A.J. Bouye's support staff is largely unproven. Ex-Vic Fangio Chicago slot man Bryce Callahan has not played since Dec. 2018, and the Broncos have failed to churn out a reliable CB2 in the draft for years. Round 3 pick Michael Ojemudia is their latest hopeful. This may be a team to watch to add a veteran.
Prying perennial Pro Bowler Darius Slay, 29, away from the Lions for merely third- and fifth-round picks, the Eagles finally have a No. 1 corner after years of swings and misses with homegrown talent. Holdovers Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox look better as Slay sidekicks. The Eagles moved on from Malcolm Jenkins after six seasons but re-signed back-line mate Rodney McLeod. They moved corner Jalen Mills to safety and signed inconsistent Broncos sub Will Parks. Slay will help, but Philadelphia didn't do much else to invest in a consistent trouble spot.
The Packers invested heavily in this position from 2017-18, drafting three cornerbacks in Rounds 1-2. Jaire Alexander, the first-rounder in this trio, is Green Bay's only reliable corner, however. Neither 2017 second-rounder Kevin King nor 2018 Round 2 pick Josh Jackson have solidified themselves as such. But the Packers, as they are doing at wide receiver, are counting on young cogs by running it back at corner. Solid safety Adrian Amos appears an apt mentor for 2019 first-rounder Darnell Savage. Given the draft and free agency moves, however, Green Bay needs more from its secondary.
Kansas City's defense improved significantly down the stretch, after its abysmal 2018 performance cost Patrick Mahomes and Co. a Super Bowl berth. Tyrann Mathieu was a revelation for the Chiefs last season, playing multiple roles for the Super Bowl champions. The Chiefs also stand to get promising safety Juan Thornhill back after his ACL tear. Top corner Charvarius Ward having a second season in Steve Spagnuolo's complex scheme will benefit the unit as well. The Chiefs could use some long-term clarity here, with Bashaud Breeland profiling as temporary help.
The Dolphins better have one of the league's top secondaries; they are paying two corners north of $15 million salaries. Byron Jones represents a big get for Miami; the ex-Cowboy has been one of the best boundary stoppers over the past two seasons. Xavien Howard led the NFL with seven INTs two years ago. This is an imposing duo, and first-rounder Noah Igbinoghene -- a potential slot defender -- will join them. The Dolphins are not as strong at safety, but they have some faith in Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe. Each signed extensions in the past 14 months.
Richard Sherman cinched up his Hall of Fame resume last season, re-establishing himself as one of the game's best after two off-grid years. He is now 32 but should have at least one more strong season in him. That bodes well for a 49ers team that did not make big moves at this position. Emmanuel Moseley and the player he replaced in the playoffs, Ahkello Witherspoon, return. So does safety Jimmie Ward, whom San Francisco finally gave a long-term deal. The 49ers ranked second in pass-defense DVOA last year, and while that was more an indication of its pass rush, Sherman's group remains strong.
Tennessee's surprise run to the AFC championship game occurred without Malcolm Butler. The Super Bowl XLIX hero will return from injury, with Adoree' Jackson and second-round rookie Kristian Fulton flanking him. The Titans also signed 15th-year corner Johnathan Joseph this offseason. The 36-year-old defender provides important depth in what will be a COVID-19-defined season. The Titans are similarly strong at safety, employing top-tier back-liner Kevin Byard and veteran Kenny Vaccaro. The team will need to determine how slot man Logan Ryan will be replaced, however.
After the cap-crushing cuts of Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, the Rams' financial blueprint deserves scrutiny. The team must soon give Jalen Ramsey a market-setting extension as well. On the field, however, the Rams still employ maybe the best active cornerback talent. Ramsey raises Los Angeles' coverage floor considerably, and the previously unknown Troy Hill did well in ascending to a starting role last year. PFF graded John Johnson as a bottom-10 safety last year, but the contract-year defender was a reliable starter from 2017-18. Younger DBs will be tasked with supporting L.A.'s established starters.
Seattle's post-Legion of Boom makeover appears complete. In less than a year's time, the Seahawks traded for Quandre Diggs, Quinton Dunbar and Jamal Adams to reshape an unproven secondary. The team retained homegrown youngsters Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers, but Adams and Co. now headline the group. Seattle probably overpaid in giving up two first-round picks and change for a safety, but Adams may be a rich man's Kam Chancellor. This gives the team a vital boost after its unremarkable 2019 defensive season. Dunbar's commissioner's exempt list placement, though, dims optimism to some degree.
Outside of Pittsburgh, the Steelers' defensive overhaul perhaps needs more attention. The long-underwhelming unit ranked third in DVOA last season, dragging a QB-limited team to eight wins. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Steven Nelson played essential roles. The secondary represents some rare big outside investments from GM Kevin Colbert, with Fitzpatrick costing a first-round pick in a trade, Nelson signing the biggest Steelers free agent deal ever and ex-Browns cut Joe Haden now on an $11M-AAV pact. Mike Hilton has delivered under-the-radar quality work in the slot over the past three seasons.
It is difficult to find weaknesses on this Saints roster, and the team upgraded its secondary. After Sean Payton expressed regret for letting 2010 first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins leave in 2014, the Saints re-signed the three-time Pro Bowler. Jenkins and contract-year standout Marcus Williams comprise one of the league's best safety pairs, and they will play behind top-tier corner Marshon Lattimore. Janoris Jenkins as New Orleans' CB2 represents a risk, however, after his inconsistent Giants tenure. Experienced slot players P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson round out a balanced crew.
At heart of the Bills' resurgence, their secondary features an elite cornerback and one of the more underrated safety tandems in recent NFL history. Tre'Davious White's 2019 All-Pro honor is unlikely to be his last. He has been more consistent Josh Norman in Sean McDermott's zone-based scheme than his previous standout. That player, Josh Norman, will attempt to revive his career in said scheme. But he disappointed in Washington. Buffalo safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer enter their final season in their 20s; they played a key role in the Bills' back-to-back top-five pass-defense DVOA showings.
The Patriots have only lost one starter from their secondary, but the unit could be hurt by a thin front seven. Patrick Chung opted out, but the Pats still have maybe the game's best corner and depth surrounding him. Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore delivered one of the best seasons in cornerback history last year, leading the league in INTs, pass breakups and allowing a 44.1 passer rating. Devin and Jason McCourty are set to reprise their roles at safety and corner, respectively, while the Pats signed versatile ex-Charger Adrian Phillips. He could be a Chung replacement while Round 2 rookie Kyle Dugger learns.
No secondary's potential matches Baltimore's. Earl Thomas and Marcus Peters have combined for five first-team All-Pro honors, and the latter -- an unrivaled turnover machine in the modern NFL -- had a (virtual) offseason to further absorb DC Don Martindale's system. Fourth-year corner Marlon Humphrey's arrow points higher, due to his age (24). The 2019 Ravens had two first-team All-Pro corners, and though Peters has been an unsteady star, their 2020 unit could be better. It returns slot man Tavon Young, who missed another full season in 2019. Veteran Jimmy Smith being in the mix adds to the group's versatility.
The NFL's least-followed team has assembled a secondary worthy of fan interest. Between Derwin James, Casey Hayward, Desmond King and offseason add Chris Harris, the Bolts' top four DBs have earned a combined seven All-Pro honors. Harris brings three to L.A. and, after playing out of position in his final Denver slate, is set to primarily man the slot again. James could claim the best-safety-alive belt in 2020, and Hayward has been an elite cover man for years. King earned his All-Pro nod as a slot corner but may move to safety, his college job. Canton candidates and depth will make this a must-see consolidation this season.