NFL free agency has come and gone and while some notable names are still on the market, K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman being two, the Seahawks have likely completed most of their work during this period.
Now the spotlight shifts squarely onto Jamal Adams and what Seattle plans to do with their star strong safety. The Seahawks invested two first-round picks and a third-rounder in order to acquire Adams from the Jets last summer, and he now has one year left on his rookie contract.
Seattle has three options: enter a standoff that potentially leads to a holdout with Adams unlikely to play on his fifth-year option, give him $18-20 million in a record-breaking extension or trade him. (There’s a fourth option that would include Adams signing for much less than anticipated on a team-friendly deal, but that route feels highly unlikely.)
On the latest Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast, Rob Staton of BBC Sports and seahawksdraftblog.com provided a compelling case as to why Seattle should move Adams as soon as possible.
Such a decision would be as polarizing as the blockbuster trade that brought Adams to Seattle. It would be an admission, at least to some degree, that investing so much into acquiring Adams was a mistake in the first place. That isn’t a reason in and of itself not to trade Adams, of course. There is power in admitting to a misstep rather than doubling down.
It’s also worth clarifying that this conversation is only in regard to whether Seattle should pay Adams record-setting money or move him. Adams deciding he’s willing to play on his fifth-year option would drastically change the equation.
“I would never pay any safety $18-20 million a year, it doesn’t matter if you’re Troy Polamalu, Earl Thomas or Jamal Adams,” Staton said. “For me, that kind of money needs to go to elite pass rushers, left tackles, quarterbacks and maybe, in a pinch, a corner as good as Jalen Ramsey.
“Not for a blitzing box safety. I’m just going to be really honest, that’s what Jamal Adams is. When you take that cost, $18-20 million, you’re talking two players the quality of Gabe Jackson. You’re talking four players who are worth $4-5 million for a roster that is not particularly deep and is lacking in certain areas.”
Staton pointed out that Duane Brown, Brandon Shell, Ethan Pocic, Gerald Everett, Quandre Diggs, Tre Flowers, Ahkello Witherspoon and D.J. Reed are all free agents after this season. That freed up cap space down the road, in addition to the $9.86 million Seattle would save immediately by trading Adams, would give the Seahawks invaluable flexibility. It may even help them land K.J. Wright and/or Richard Sherman this offseason.
Then you get to the draft capital Seattle would acquire by trading Adams. The Seahawks have just three picks in this year’s draft and don’t have a first-rounder the next two years. Seattle would take a net loss, potentially a significant one, as no team is likely to give the Seahawks back the two first-round picks they spent on Adams.
That doesn’t matter to Staton.
“Personally, I would get what I can. If it’s a second- and a third-round pick. I’m (making the deal),” he said.
Staton added that it behooves Seattle to move Adams prior to the 2021 NFL Draft that begins on April 29 in order to take advantage of a loaded class of receivers, offensive linemen and defensive linemen.
“You could get a tackle for the future in this draft in Round 2,” Staton said. “That’s usually unheard of. You could get a center as well.”
To summarize Staton’s message, it’s more advantageous to have a handful of rookies and a few notable veterans than Adams at $18-20 million per year. And if Seattle is going to invest that sort of money in one player, Staton explained, it should be on Brown’s replacement should the veteran left tackle decide to retire after 2021.
Then there’s the matter of Marquise Blair. Seattle invested a second-round pick in Blair and even drafted him before DK Metcalf. Ugo Amadi played well enough last season to earn reps at nickel moving forward. That means Blair is left without a full-time role as long as Adams is on the roster.
Adams registered 9.5 sacks in 12 games last season, an NFL single-season record for a safety. But Staton thinks it’s reasonable to suggest Blair could have similar production in such a role.
“I think if you ask any safety to blitz 8.2 times a game, there’s a chance they get .8 sacks per game, which is what Jamal Adams got,” Staton said. “Blair is fast. He’s quick. He could do some of that role.”
Staton’s final point was that he doesn’t believe Seattle’s Super Bowl hopes would be markedly different with or without Adams.
“Personally, my expectations would be unchanged if they traded Jamal Adams,” he said. “The Seahawks blitzed between 30-36% all last season because they couldn’t rush with four. They’ve made the investment in the defensive line this year to where I think they have a better chance of rushing with four in 2021.
“I don’t think the roster is really that close to winning a Super Bowl right now. The Seahawks are probably going to have to go through somewhat of a reset down this line. They’re going to have to draft better for a couple of years to put themselves in a situation to get there.”
Most of Staton’s logic is airtight, if not irrefutable. The Seahawks would be in an objectively better place by trading Adams in regard to cap relief and draft capital.
I would disagree with how Staton trivialized Adams’ production, though. I do think the safety is one of the brightest and most versatile young defensive stars in football. At just 25, he could be a franchise cornerstone with an All-Pro ceiling for the next five years. There’s also an attitude to Adams that is vital to a locker room, and his on-field persona, while impossible to quantify, has value.
I also believe Seattle’s ceiling in 2021 would be lower without Adams. But that begs the question: Are the Seahawks currently one of the league’s top contenders? It’s a difficult topic to mull over, no doubt, but if your answer is “no,” then it becomes harder to justify keeping Adams and paying him a record contract.
Trading Adams would allow Seattle to reload without rebuilding altogether. Paying him would likely make the latter inevitable at some point. Whichever route the Seahawks opt to take with Adams, that decision is now unequivocally the top item remaining on the team’s offseason to-do list.
Be sure to listen to this week’s Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast to hear all of Staton’s thoughts. You can then decide for yourself which side of the fence you’re on.