Quandre Diggs is an underrated name on the New York Jets’ free agency radar
Williams headlines the buzz around the safety market alongside names like Jessie Bates and Tyrann Mathieu. But there’s one player who should be getting more attention as a great option to provide an upgrade for the Jets at safety: Quandre Diggs.
Diggs, who turned 29 years old in January, offers a consistent track record of excellent production. However, due to his age, he isn’t quite as revered of a free agent as his younger peers.
If some team out there wants a top-tier safety but isn’t quite willing to shell out top-tier money for one of the younger stars, Diggs is the guy to call – so long as they’re willing to take the risk on a slightly older player. He’ll still be expensive, but his age will shave a few million dollars off his price tag compared to other players, and yet, he still has a good chance to perform at just as high of a level.
Spending the past two years with the Seattle Seahawks, Diggs has been one of the most reliable safeties in the NFL, continuing the trajectory that he began with the Detroit Lions at the start of his career. Diggs would provide a substantial upgrade for any safety-needy team (looking at you, Jets) if he can maintain his performance as he moves into the later stages of his career.
Let’s dig into Diggs’ profile to see why he makes sense for New York.
Diggs will likely be a costly addition, although he’ll probably land a tier below players like Williams, Bates, and Mathieu.
Spotrac estimates that Diggs will earn a three-year, $36.5 million deal ($12.1 million per year). It would currently be the ninth-largest contract among safeties both in terms of total value and average annual value.
That number is a reasonable middle ground for Diggs. An average of $12.1 million per year would put him below safeties like Jamal Adams ($17.5M), Budda Baker ($14.8M), and Kevin Byard ($14.1M) who signed at 24-25 years old, but it would put him above players like Devin McCourty ($11.5M), Micah Hyde ($9.6M), and Malcolm Jenkins ($8.0M) who signed in their thirties.
While Diggs’ age adds some risk, his recent production has been worthy of an upper-echelon contract and he has yet to show any signs of slowing down.
Elite interception production
If you’re looking for someone who can provide a boost in the takeaway department, Diggs is one of the best options out there.
Over the past five seasons, Diggs had 19 interceptions, tying Justin Simmons for the second-most among safeties behind Kevin Byard (21).
What’s most impressive about Diggs’ takeaway production is his consistency. He is the only player in the league with an active streak of five consecutive seasons with at least three interceptions.
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Diggs’ overall coverage numbers are very good, albeit not elite. Regardless, that is still a strong complement to his elite interception production. It’s also important to note that his performance in coverage has remained stable and he is yet to experience a drop-off.
Over the course of his career, Diggs has allowed 16 touchdown catches over 3,553 coverage snaps. That’s an average of one touchdown every 222.1 coverage snaps, which is slightly better than the 2021 league average for safeties (205.8). In comparison, Marcus Williams has allowed nine touchdowns over 3,138 coverage snaps (one per 348.7 snaps).
Diggs just had a good 2021 season in this department as he gave up two touchdowns over 738 coverage snaps (one per 369.0 snaps). He has performed better than the positional average in this category in three consecutive seasons.
While Diggs is giving up 0.63 yards per cover snap in his career, slightly worse than the 2021 league average for safeties (0.56), he’s fared much better over his two years playing free safety in Seattle (0.29).
Diggs has done a good job of handling his role and preventing targets in his direction. He was targeted 30 times over 738 coverage snaps in 2021. That’s once every 24.6 coverage snaps, which ranked 10th out of 105 qualified safeties.
After struggling with penalties early in his career (18 over first four years), Diggs has tightened up his discipline over the past few years, particularly in coverage. Since 2019, he has four penalties three seasons, including zero holding penalties and zero pass interference penalties (all four were unnecessary roughness).
Diggs is a good last-line-of-defense against the run. His career composite run-defense grade at PFF is 74.7. This past season, he ranked 26th out of 70 qualified safeties with a 70.4 grade.
Diggs offers pretty good durability with 103 games played in his seven-year career (14.7 per season). He played all 33 of Seattle’s games over the past two seasons.
However, Diggs suffered a dislocated ankle and a broken fibula in the Seahawks’ Week 18 win over the Cardinals to end the 2021 season. He is expected to recover in time for training camp (source: Quandre Diggs).
Folks seen my injury and assumed my injury timeline 9-12 months like ACL’s or Achilles.. my recovery 4-5 months so that means I got 2-3 months left! Training camp start in August do the math! https://t.co/adnY3G2YZl
— Nino (@qdiggs6) March 2, 2022
The injury plays into the core narrative of Diggs’ appeal as a free agent. Obviously, it joins his age as another red flag on his resume, but it also might further lighten the cost of a player who has performed at a very high level.
Diggs – one of the smallest safeties in the league at 5-foot-9 and 197 pounds – operated exclusively as a deep safety in Seattle.
Per the tracking of Pro Football Focus, Diggs lined up at free safety on 87.6% of his snaps in 2021, ranking third among qualified safeties behind Marcus Williams and Trevon Moehrig.
The Lions used Diggs in a far more versatile fashion. In 2018 (his final full season as a Lion), Diggs played only 49.3% of his snaps at free safety while moving all over the field on the other half of his snaps.
Diggs has been operating as an every-down player since 2019. Since then, he has played 95% of his team’s defensive snaps in his average game.
It’s worth noting that Diggs’ experience in Pete Carroll’s Seahawks defense would likely prove valuable if he were to transition into the Jets’ defensive scheme.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh draws inspiration from his days in Seattle under Pete Carroll from 2011-13, when he served as the Seahawks’ defensive quality control coach. Additionally, New York’s defensive coordinator, Jeff Ulbrich, began his NFL coaching career with Carroll’s Seahawks from 2010-11.
Seattle’s defensive coordinator during Diggs’ tenure, Ken Norton, worked alongside Saleh and Ulbrich when he served as the Seahawks’ linebackers coach, a position he held from 2010-14.
Does Quandre Diggs make sense for the Jets?
The Jets have the NFL’s worst safety unit in the NFL on paper (Ashtyn Davis is their only safety under contract), so if they want to do the absolute most that they possibly can for this fledgling group, they should aim higher than Diggs and try to get Marcus Williams, Jessie Bates, or even Tyrann Mathieu.
However, if the Jets fail to acquire one of those three players – or if they simply want to operate with a slightly smaller budget at the position – Diggs is an excellent option to spearhead the second tier of free-agent safeties.
There are a number of reasons that Diggs makes sense for the Jets in particular. In addition to simply providing a talent upgrade, his ample experience would be a huge asset for the Jets’ young secondary. He also brings a certain degree of familiarity with the Jets’ defensive philosophies.
Keep an eye on Quandre Diggs as a potential target for the Jets when the legal tampering period opens on March 14.