RENTON — The Jamal Adams contract saga reached its belated but preordained conclusion Tuesday, one that was an inevitability from the day of the trade to Seattle in July 2020.
The Seahawks simply invested too much in acquiring Adams from the Jets, and had too desperate of a need for him in their defense, to let an unseemly impasse develop. As coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday, following Adams’ first practice of the season, “This was the plan the whole time.”
Oh, it dragged on a little longer than either side would have liked, but never disintegrated into bitterness or rancor, which is a victory in itself. Maybe some tension and frayed nerves, but Adams left the negotiations feeling “like I’m part of the family now,” in his words.
And now that Adams is holding a four-year contract extension that makes him the highest-paid safety in NFL history, he segues immediately into a new challenge: Showing he’s worth it.
The Seahawks, of course, are banking on it. In assessing Adams’ unique hybrid skills, Carroll said, only a little facetiously, “Well, the term ‘unicorn’ came up during the negotiations. He’s a rare player.”
And, judging by his effusive news conference Tuesday, Adams is also a deliriously happy player, which is always a nice place to start. Of course, who wouldn’t be overjoyed after signing a deal with a maximum value of $72 million that comes with a $20 million signing bonus and a guarantee of $38 million.
Carroll noted in the final tense days of the bargaining, the Seahawks stood firm on their offer, and “he stood his ground, too. That’s why it took five months. They were very firm about it. It was just a real intense negotiation.”
But whatever last-minute machinations were taking place evaporated instantly when Adams’ mom texted him late Monday night and admonished him to take the deal. I’m sure most of us can relate to the fact that his mom invoked his middle name to make her point. I know I was always powerless against that tactic.
“She just basically said my full name,” Adams said. “And when my mother says my full name, I think I need to pay attention. She gave me a nice little paragraph and basically just told me that, ‘You don’t have to prove anything else to anybody. You did enough. We’re happy.’ As long as my family’s happy, man, I’m happy. I can come and do what I love to do.”
The Seahawks believe Adams’ command of the defense in his second year will elevate his play even further. Last season he set an NFL record for sacks by a defensive back with 9.5 despite missing four games because of injuries.
If the prospect of a confident, poised, instinctive Adams fills the Seahawks with anticipation, the idea of a healthy Adams, on top off all that, is enough to make them ecstatic. When Adams played last year, the Seahawks had the NFL’s ninth-rated defense; when he was sidelined, it was 22nd.
Adams listed his various injuries — torn tendon in two fingers, labrum tear, groin — and then was reminded that he forgot an elbow ailment. The fingers and shoulder required surgery.
“It was a little bit of everything,” he said. “I was like glass last year.”
That experience drove home to Adams the need to care for his body. He thought he had been doing that all along, but said, “I can go to the next level. And that’s what I did. So far it’s been going great. And that’s the plan — to stay healthy.”
For Adams, that entails going the extra mile in the weight room, and making an investment in tending to his body — in the manner of a certain quarterback, a task that became easier for him to afford Tuesday.
“After practice when I’m home, I’m getting massages,’’ Adams said. “I have a (hyperbaric) chamber, you know? So I invested in my body. I don’t know how much I’m going to spend on my body, but it’s going to be high. It might not be like Russ (quarterback Russell Wilson), but it’s going to be very high.”
The pursuit of this contract has long been a galvanizing and motivational force for Adams. It dates to his days with the Jets, when he essentially muscled his way out of New York by loudly stating his displeasure with their refusal to deal with him. And then it continued to hang over him last season with Seattle, though Adams said he always had faith the Seahawks would keep their promise to negotiate a new deal at the appropriate time.
The time is now, and Adams can proceed with what he called “a block off my shoulders.” It’s very likely he won’t play in the Seahawks’ final two preseason games, but he and Carroll said they feel there is plenty of time for Adams to be ready for Seattle’s regular-season opener Sept. 12 in Indianapolis.
“It feels great, man, where I can just focus on football, you know what I mean?” he said. “I can give my best efforts on and off the field.”
The Seahawks gave up two first-round draft picks, a third-rounder and safety Bradley McDougald to get Adams to Seattle, and then handed him a mammoth paycheck to keep him here. It will be a worthwhile investment if Adams can solidify and electrify a defense that was horrible for half a season in 2020 and then soared in the second half.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “We’re very versatile in a lot of ways. We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things. And, you know, it could get scary.”
It might have gotten a little scary for both sides when word began to trickle out this week that the Seahawks were prepared to play hardball with the franchise tags that could have kept Adams in Seattle even without a contract agreement. But with a little nudge from Mom, Adams said there was no way he was going to turn this deal down.
“I believe in myself, and I believe in what I can do on the football field,” he said. “All I needed was somebody to believe in me. And those guys upstairs, they believed in me, and they took a chance. All I can do is just continue to produce and continue to work my tail off, and win ballgames, man.”