The Seahawks’ trade Saturday for Jamal Adams wasn’t a surprise, given that rumors had swirled for a while they might make a run at the disgruntled now-former New York Jets safety.
The timing, though, caught the NFL world off guard — there had been no rumblings in recent days, and with the Jets under no immediate pressure to make a deal it was easy to assume any deal would happen closer to the season or during the season.
Instead, the Seahawks gave the Jets what New York general manager Joe Douglas said in a statement was an offer “we could not ignore.”
The package consisted of safety Bradley McDougald, first-round draft choices in 2021 and 2022 and a third-rounder in 2021, with Seattle getting back a fourth-rounder in 2022.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Adams will fly to Seattle on Monday to take his physical and complete the trade (which has been announced by both teams and was on the NFL transactions wire).
Schefter added that Adams’ goal of becoming “the highest-paid safety in the NFL” has not changed.
That, ultimately, might determine how this trade is viewed years from now — if Seattle is able to keep Adams long term. The view here is the Seahawks wouldn’t have dealt all that draft capital if they didn’t plan to keep Adams.
And if they keep Adams, the deal also would be judged by whether he proves worthy of the investment, especially for a strong safety (he was immediately listed as such on the Seahawks’ online roster), a position typically viewed as less important than free safety.
That debate leads off our day-after thoughts on the trade for Adams.
Did the Seahawks give up too much for a strong safety?
The Seahawks did, to be sure, give up a lot — they had never traded back-to-back first-round picks in the same deal and only one other time traded two first-round choices at once (in 1990 when Seattle gave up the eighth and 10th overall picks in the NFL draft to move up to the third selection for Cortez Kennedy).
The traditional view that free safety — and its role as the last line of defense — is more important, and typically deserving of the highest salary. The two highest-paid safeties in the NFL — Chicago’s Eddie Jackson at $14.6 million a year and Tennessee’s Kevin Byard at $14.1 million — are free safeties. And on their second contracts, the Seahawks paid strong safety Kam Chancellor just over $7 million a year in 2013 and free safety Earl Thomas $10 million a year in 2014.
But to the Seahawks, one of the great attractions of Adams is his Swiss Army knife ability to handle a number of roles.
According to Pro Football Focus, Adams has lined up at four spots in his NFL career for 318 snaps or more, and more often as a free safety than strong.
Via PFF, Adams has lined up as a linebacker for 1,099 snaps, at free safety for 868, strong safety for 328 and on the edge as a rusher for 318.
The Seahawks also like to use their safeties interchangeably — while Thomas usually was the deep safety in the LOB glory days, there were times Thomas and Chancellor would switch based on the play call, or what they saw in the presnap motion of the offense.
And as former Seahawks quarterback and current Fox Sports announcer Brock Huard noted, Adams’ value might be greater to the Seahawks because they are in the NFC West and have two games a year against the high-powered offenses of the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals.
Against those teams, Huard tweeted, “you have to cover and crush inside routes.”
Seattle hasn’t had a dominating secondary presence instilling fear into opponents since the retirement of Chancellor (remember how his early hit on Demaryius Thomas set the tone in the Super Bowl victory over Denver)?
If Adams can give that back to Seattle, the Seahawks would consider him worth every penny and draft pick.
The other key number is 24
Here’s what else the Seahawks will tell you about trading first-round choices for Adams — that he’s at the age where he essentially is a first-round pick.
Adams doesn’t turn 25 until Oct. 17, which makes him one month younger than the team’s 2019 first-round choice, L.J. Collier, who will turn 25 on Sept. 12.
To the Seahawks — who’ve been in “win-now” mode for years and likely will remain there as long as Pete Carroll (who turns 69 in September) is coach — instead of picking someone in the first round the next two years they hope will become an All-Pro player, they are acquiring an All-Pro player who is roughly the same age.
True, the economics are different — the Seahawks won’t get the benefit of Adams’ cheap rookie contract years other than for the 2020 season.
But given that Seattle hopes the picks it dealt are in the mid-20s at the highest — where the draft becomes an increasing crap shoot — getting a sure thing, especially at this stage of the careers of Carroll and 31-year-old quarterback Russell Wilson, might be the better way to go.
But, check back on that in 2025 or so.
Is trading two first-round choices for a player rare?
It used to be, but not so much of late.
As ESPN noted, this is the fourth time in the past three years a team has traded two first-round picks for a player. The others? The Bears getting edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Raiders, the Rams getting cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars, and Houston acquiring left tackle Laremy Tunsil from the Dolphins.
All are trades that will take years to accurately assess.
Interestingly, Seattle was once on the other end of such a deal, getting Dallas’ first-round choices in 2000 and 2001 for receiver Joey Galloway.
Seattle used the first of those picks to take a running back who turned out pretty well — Shaun Alexander.
The following year the Seahawks used the pick to trade down and ended up using the selections it got to draft receiver Koren Robinson and fullback Heath Evans.
Galloway, who had topped the 1,000-yard mark three times in five years in Seattle never had more than 908 in four seasons in Dallas (though he would revive his career at his next stop in Tampa Bay).
What now of Marquise Blair?
The addition of Adams gives Seattle a pretty set secondary, one filled with proven players — Adams at strong safety, Quandre Diggs at free, and Quinton Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin at cornerback.
All are also 28 years old or younger (Dunbar the oldest at 28), meaning this could be a secondary that stays together for years (though that won’t be done easily with all wanting new contracts over the next two years).
Diggs, 27, is under contract through 2021, and the expectation is Seattle will try to get something done with Adams before the 2021 season, when his contract also runs out.
So what of Blair, Seattle’s second-round choice, taken 47th overall in 2019, the highest pick the Seahawks have used on a defensive back in the Carroll era other than Thomas, who was taken 14th in 2010?
The assumption was that Blair was in line to take over for McDougald in 2021, if not being given a chance to beat out McDougald in camp this year.
Now a shot at a starting safety spot seems several years away.
The Seahawks, though, have had the value of depth reinforced the past few years with some of the injury issues that have helped derail seasons. So having Blair available as a backup at both safety spots, they’ll argue, is valuable.
But also, as Carroll said last month, expect the Seahawks to find ways to get Blair on the field in specialty packages featuring five and six defensive backs.
Seattle will have Ugo Amadi and Tre Flowers available for those packages as well.
After a season when the Seahawks allowed the most passing yards in their history — 4,223 — big moves were necessary, even if maybe not the ones everyone expected in January (meaning, re-signing Jadeveon Clowney).
Nothing short of another Super Bowl over the next few years will likely quiet the debate.