Jamal Adams Trade Pushes Seattle Seahawks All-In On 2020

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News broke Saturday morning that the Seattle Seahawks were trading a 2021 first-round draft pick, 2021 third-rounder, 2022 first-rounder and Bradley McDougald in exchange for New York Jets safety Jamal Adams and a fourth-round pick. 

In simple terms, the Seahawks just gave up a boatload for one player. 

I previewed a bit what Jamal Adams could bring to Seattle if they were to make this trade happen during my offseason safeties preview but wanted to expand further on what this deal means both on the field and off of it.

Let’s start with how it changes Seattle’s fortunes on the field. The simplest way to put things is that Jamal Adams is an enormous upgrade from what Bradley McDougald, Marquise Blair or Lano Hill could’ve brought to the table. Adams ranked 7th-best in Pro Football Focus’ coverage rankings and 12th best in rush defense among all safeties. That is far superior to McDougald (91st and 126th respectively), Blair (14th and 134th) and Hill (81st and 139th). The guy brings an elite level of production that can aid Seattle’s defense in all areas.

While the player Adams is replacing was somewhat versatile—McDougald played long stretches both at free and strong safety—it nowhere near matches how Adams can make an impact on a defense. His snap counts are truly something to behold, as he played 400 snaps as an in-the-box safety, 297 snaps at free safety, 131 snaps at slot cornerback, 97 snaps on the defensive line(!), and 34 snaps as a wide cornerback. While Seattle plays a rigid Cover 3 most of the time, it is not unknown for them to allow individual players flexibility within the defense. Bruce Irvin would often split time and shift between outside linebacker and defensive end during snaps, as well as Kam Chancellor and KJ Wright shifting roles within certain plays as well. But Adams would require Seattle having to push it to a whole new level to truly maximize his gifts. He had 6.5 sacks last season. That is more than double Jadaveon Clowney’s total from 2019 and two more than Seattle’s leading sack artist, Rasheem Green. He packages his ability to blitz along with the ability to cover tight ends 1-on-1 and also bring elite run support. While Seattle still needs a couple more pieces if it wants to return its defense as a whole to the elite realm, using Jamal Adams as a Swiss Army knife would be a major step in the right direction.

He could also bring a charisma that the unit has certainly been lacking since Earl Thomas packed his bags and left to Baltimore. What gave the Legion of Boom its edge was its swagger as much as its on-field abilities. They walked the walk and certainly talked the talk. It’s a trait that is not lost on Jamal Adams, who publicly battled the Jets’ front office and coaching staff in his quest to get paid and, later on, traded. While some in the media would see this behavior as a nuisance, Seattle has long opened its arms to the eccentric and loud. Adams has the skill. If he feels the Seahawks are the team to back him, he could be the vocal leader for a talented but somewhat vanilla unit. Both Shaquill Griffin and Quandre Diggs are very good football players, but I have not a clue who they are or what they want outside of when I see them on the football field. Adams’ talent and voice could give the unit the identity that they’ve been searching for the past couple of years.

Now, it’s time to get to the less fun parts. Let’s start by looking at what this Adams deal costs Seattle. While Adams is on another level than McDougald, the three picks Seattle attached to him are certainly blows to Seattle’s future. The Seahawks at their peak thrived due to players that were operating at a high level that were on cheap rookie-scale deals. Russell Wilson, in particular, as his salary cap hit was less than one million dollars per year for his first three years as a starter. It allowed Seattle to go and acquire free agents such as Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, trade for Percy Harvin and extend veteran players like Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch and Earl Thomas among others. Russell Wilson isn’t cheap anymore; in fact, he is the second highest paid player in the NFL. His cap hit is 15% of Seattle’s total cap, meaning the money that Seattle has to play with is less than other teams in the league. Cheap, cost-controlled contracts come at a premium and Seattle gave away three of them in return for a high-cost player who will have to be paid right away.

This cost factor is multiplied by the fact the world is in a crisis right now, affecting all levels of society with the NFL as no exception. Reports are now coming out that the NFL’s salary cap floor could be set at $175 million, well below the projected $210 million floor that was proposed pre-pandemic for the 2020 season, according to cbssports.com. It is also well below the 2019 cap of $198.2 million. Contracts like Russell’s become much more burdensome if the wage pool to pay players becomes shallower. Depending on the number that Adams signs for, Seattle could be paying him, Russell and Wagner up to 35% of the cap, meaning there is only 65% available for the other 50 players on roster. Players like Tyler Lockett, Shaquill Griffin, Quandre Diggs and Chris Carson could be casualties of a more cap-strapped world. 

This is all only taking into account what is happening this season, as COVID is showing no signs of slowing down. Another league year of having little to no fans could have another negative impact on the cap, as well as reverberations for years to come. And if god-forbid this season actually doesn’t happen and the NFL fails to properly protect its players, Seattle just traded for a player on a one-year deal and will be forced to pay without ever seeing him take one snap for the defense. Seattle general manager John Schneider has taken a huge risk for this deal.

Long story short, Seattle just pushed their chips all in on a hand that might not even be dealt. Adams brings abilities and an attitude that the Seahawks’ defense has been sorely lacking, but the cost could have adverse effects in ways we don’t even know yet. 

Until this season actually happens, or the pandemic shows real signs of winding down, Seattle just made its future even more uncertain rather than clarifying it. 

There is no question that Jamal Adams the player raises Seattle’s ceiling this coming season, but it could come at a cost the team might regret paying in the future.

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Seattle born and raised. I wear my fandom on my sleeve, as I bleed Seahawks blue and green and am Sounders’ Til I Die. To fill the basketball-shaped hole in my heart from when the Sonics were taken away from the city of Seattle, I have adopted the Portland Trail Blazers and rep Rip City. I aim to bring an analytical view on the sports world and hope to impart a deeper understanding of the game to my readers.

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