In a move the Seahawks hope will revive a defense that a year ago proved their Legion of Boom days were far in the past, they pulled off a blockbuster trade Saturday, acquiring disgruntled All-Pro safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets.
But the addition of Adams came at a hefty price, one that immediately spurred debate of whether the Seahawks had given up too much.
To get Adams, who Friday was quoted in a New York Daily News story lobbying heavy criticism at Jets coach Adam Gase and general manager Joe Douglas, the Seahawks dealt veteran safety Bradley McDougald, a 2021 first-round pick, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2021 third-rounder. The Seahawks got back a 2022 fourth-round pick.
Adams had been unhappy with the Jets’ reluctance to negotiate a new contract, a task that will fall to the Seahawks.
Each team confirmed the trade Saturday afternoon, noting that it is official pending physicals for the players involved.
The trade represents the Seahawks’ most significant attempt to remake a secondary that has been lagging the last few years after members of the Legion of Boom retired or headed elsewhere.
The Seahawks will go into the 2020 season with a safety duo of Adams, likely playing the strong safety spot with Seattle feeling it has finally found a suitable successor for Kam Chancellor, paired with Quandre Diggs at free safety. Diggs was acquired from Detroit last October for a fifth-round pick, and the Seahawks defense was markedly improved in the five regular-season games he played.
The 24-year-old Adams comes to Seattle with impressive credentials. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft out of LSU, made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and named a first team All-Pro pick last year.
The 6-foot-1, 213-pound Adams is under contract through the 2021 season after the Jets exercised an option on his rookie deal. He is due to make a salary of $825,000 in 2020 (he got a bonus of more than $14 million when he signed in 2017 as part of his slotted rookie contract) and a salary of $9.86 million in 2021 per the exercised option, which are part of the contracts of first-round picks.
Adams carries reported salary cap hits of $3.6 million for 2020 and $9.8 million for 2021.
McDougald, who was a starter at safety for the Seahawks the last three seasons, has a $5.4 million salary-cap hit for this year on what is the last year of his contract, but that includes $1.3 million in dead money. So that means Seattle saves about $500,000 against the cap for 2020 with the trade (though there’s some thought Adams’ number could to lower if the Jets take on his roster bonus).
Adams had been lobbying for a new contract for months and told the New York Daily News on Friday he was unhappy that the Jets had indicated they would work on a new contract for him this offseason and did not make an offer.
Reports in June stated the Seahawks were on Adams’ list of teams that he would like to be traded to, assuming a new deal was not going to happen with the Jets.
Several reports stated there is no agreement between Adams and the Seahawks on a new contract. ESPN reported that “a new contract now was not a stipulation of the trade,” and that the Seahawks are comfortable waiting until after the 2020 season to work out a new deal for Adams. The Seahawks have typically not given extensions to players until they are entering the final year of their contract.
It will probably require a contract averaging at least $15 million a year to keep Adams for the long-term. That would surpass the $14.6 million per-year average of Chicago’s Eddie Jackson, the league’s highest-paid safety.
Megadeals of any sort could be complicated by potential drops in the salary cap over the next few seasons due to expected decreases in league revenue because of COVID-19. Next year’s cap will have a floor of $175 million — it could go higher depending on revenues — while this year’s is $198.2 million.
The investment the Seahawks made to get Adams indicates that they are confident it will get a deal done and likely to do whatever it takes to get one done.
Still, that Seattle made the deal without having agreed on a new contract with Adams caused some to wonder if the Seahawks had given up too much. The Seahawks might counter that they expect the two first-round picks to be in the mid-20s at least, and All-Pro safeties who are just 24 years old aren’t often found at that part of the draft.
“This is such a huge mistake and so hard to understand,” tweeted former Eagles and Browns president Joe Banner accompanying a story stating that Adams and the Seahawks do not have a new contract in place.
The Seahawks haven’t been shy about trading for players with uncertain contractual futures and figuring they will work it out later one way or the other — notably the deal last year for Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney had just one year remaining on his contract and became a free agent and remains unsigned.
The Seahawks gave up much less for Clowney than it did Adams (defensive ends Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo and a third-round pick).
Among those taking to Twitter to celebrate the trade was Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, tweeting “Let’s get it!!! @Prez” a reference to Adams’ Twitter handle.
Adams also took to Twitter to acknowledge the trade, stating: “To the Seahawks Org & Fans: You have a man on a mission, a man all in on winning a Super Bowl, being the best leader & teammate he can be, & a man who will give everything he has to the city of Seattle and to the 12s all across the world. Thank you for believing in me!”
Wilson said in January he hoped the team would acquire some “superstars” this offseason, and in a spring and summer that some felt was underwhelming for the Seahawks in that regard, they finally made a big move to get a player who unquestionably fits the superstar billing. It’s a move that shows the team remains clearly in “win-now mode,” a philosophy it figures to hold for as long as Wilson is the quarterback.
The trade came a day after Adams had criticized Gase and Douglas in an exclusive story in the New York Daily News.
“… at the end of the day, my happiness is more important,” Adams was quoted saying Friday. “I know my worth. I’m going to stand on my beliefs. I’m going to stand on who I am as a person. And I’m not ever going to change who I am for somebody who’s judging me. Either you accept me for who I am and you work with me and support me or you don’t. It’s okay if you don’t.”
Adams earlier in the week also criticized Jets owner Woody Johnson over allegations of racist comments.
The Seahawks’ defense dipped sharply in most statistical categories in 2019, the first year the team played an entire season without any of the founding members of the Legion of Boom, ranking 22nd in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed, each the worst since Pete Carroll’s first season in 2010.
Carroll built the Seahawks into one of the greatest defenses in NFL history in the early part of the last decade, doing so by forming a legendary secondary, which emphasized his philosophy of the importance of the secondary, and particularly the safety positions.
Adams has been viewed as a rising defensive star due in part to his versatility.
In ranking him as the 32nd best player in the NFL last season, Pro Football Focus wrote this about how Adams was used in 2019 by the Jets: “Jamal Adams has become one of the game’s most versatile weapons on defense. In a league that is trending ever more towards matchup problems on offense, Adams is one of a new breed of defender that can solve those problems on defense. This season, Adams spent significant snaps at free safety (297), in the box (401), in the slot (131), lined up out wide as a boundary corner (34) and even on the defensive line as a legitimate edge rusher (96), and he was one of the most effective defenders in the game. As a pass-rusher, he racked up 25 total pressures from 101 rushing snaps, by far the most pressure and the second-most rushing snaps of any safety.”
PFF noted in a Tweet shortly after the trade that Adams “has the most sacks (11), hits (11), hurries (27), and total pressures (49) among all NFL defensive backs since joining the league in 2017.”
As for how the Seahawks will use Adams, former Seahawks scout Jim Nagy, now executive director of the Senior Bowl, referenced Chancellor.
“Some will say the Seahawks gave up too much for a box safety,” Nagy tweeted. “We get it. But that role is designed to be a playmaking position in Pete Carroll’s defense. Kam Chancellor made a huge impact from that spot.”
Now, the Seahawks hope, they have finally put some Boom back in their secondary.