RENTON — Former Bellevue and University of Washington standout Budda Baker signed a new contract with Arizona on Tuesday that makes him the highest-paid safety in NFL history — but it doesn’t reset the market for the Seahawks’ Jamal Adams.
Instead, it just reinforces the market, with Baker’s deal — paying him $59 million over four years with $33.1 million guaranteed — illustrating anew that the value for versatile safeties has never been higher as defenses grapple with the challenge of facing increasingly sophisticated passing attacks.
Since the minute Seattle traded two first-round draft choices to the Jets in July to get Adams, it’s seemed like a foregone conclusion the Seahawks will give him a new contract after the 2020 season, likely paying him $15 million or more per season and making him the highest-paid safety in the league.
Adams has two years remaining on his contract, at $3.5 million and $9.8 million, respectively, and the expectation is the Seahawks will stick with their precedent and work on an extension for him once he is entering the final season of his deal.
Doing more to heighten Adams’ value than any contract signed by another player, though, is Adams himself and what he has done every day in practice since the Seahawks first hit the field 13 days ago.
Adams, still just 24 years old despite playing in the NFL for three seasons, has been an electric presence from Day 1 with his playmaking ability lining up at a number of different spots on defense.
And with the passage of a few practices, he has seemed increasingly comfortable taking on a more vocal role, both in directing the defense and calling out offensive plays and formations, but also in, well, letting the offense know about it when the defense has won the play.
It’s premature to throw around comparisons to the Legion of Boom. But with the continued acclimation of both Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar, the secondary of the past few days has both looked and sounded like the closest thing to the LOB Seattle has had since 2017.
One of Adams’ biggest fans is the man whose life he has made increasingly difficult in recent days: offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
But if Adams has been a constant in blowing up offensive plays — even on Tuesday when he played with a sizable wrap on his left hand to protect an undisclosed injury — Schottenheimer knows the bigger picture is that an improving defense will only help everybody.
“The first thing I love about the guy is the energy that he brings to practice,” Schottenheimer when he talked to media members via Zoom before practice Tuesday. “You guys see it — we like to have fun out there, we like to fly around. There’s a lot of trash talk, there’s a lot of good-natured ribbing, But his energy is elite, it really is. I mean, there’s a passion about it. And what’s cool is when he makes a great play he gets excited; when we make a great play he gets excited. He’s very excited for us. So it’s good. It’s a great give and take.”
That passion was on full display Tuesday, when Adams threw his body around with little apparent worry for the wrap on his hand, at one point plowing into left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi with a pop of the pads that might have been audible all the way to Issaquah to blow up a running play. At another point, he had a “sack” of Russell Wilson, then raced halfway down the field in celebration.
And if Adams is making the defense better, he’s also helping the offense and Wilson, whose ability to decipher the defense at the line of scrimmage is being challenged in ways it might never have been before in a Seahawks training camp.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with the guy,” Schottenheimer said. “His knowledge, his experience to disguise things and make things all look the same. … And this guy’s football instincts and understanding of the scheme is awesome, so he’s hard to get a read on. I mean, he really is. …
“So he’s a problem. He’s a problem because of his talent and ability but also the way he thinks the game, and it’s exciting to see. I love that he’s making it hard on us every day along with the entire defense.”
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen, who played against Adams and the Jets while with Carolina in 2017, has been equally impressed.
“I think the biggest thing about him is you know he’s a safety and he’s listed as a safety, but you know he has a lot of versatility, especially at the line of scrimmage, to what you could do with him whether that’s as a pass rusher, whether that’s in coverage or in run support,” Olsen said.
Olsen compared Adams to what a tight end can be on offense “wearing a different hat on every play.”
“You can really get creative on how you use him,” Olsen said. “He’s physical enough to get down in the run game and be an extra defender in the box to stop a run but he’s also athletic and can cover and can play in space, you can play up on the line of scrimmage and guard tight ends and slot receivers and backs.
“But then everyone saw what he did in New York (6.5 sacks last season). You can send him after the quarterback and he can rush the passer and get there and get home. There’s a lot of guys that are good rushers but they don’t ever typically get home. For a defensive back he’s as prolific as there is generating pressure, and then of course generating sacks from the defensive backfield.
“So he’s a special player, obviously, there’s no doubting that. I think everyone kind of understands when you trade for a player like him you know there’s a certain expectation of what you’re going to get. And so far he’s been awesome.”
And he’s shown the Seahawks not only that they got what they were expecting, but that he will someday get what he’s been expecting, too.