Jamal Adams has every right to want a new contract, one that would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. He may not, however, be getting that contract with the New York Jets.
And if he does, it may not happen anytime soon.
Adams has more than earned not just a pay raise but the chance to be paid as the best at his position in the NFL. He is not only the league’s most versatile defensive player who is instinctual, reads the game well and can rush the quarterback but a serious argument can be made that he is the best defensive player in the game. The product on the field is simply dominant.
But does that value translate to the Jets current roster situation? Adams is set to enter the fourth season of his rookie contract (which has one more year left after 2020). This is the time when holdouts become a whispered word and trade rumors start to gain traction.
It doesn't help that Adams took to social media late last week to lash out against the Jets for a lack of a long-term deal.
On the surface, the Jets should Adams to a long-term deal and should have done it yesterday. Understanding where they are at as an organization and their current roster picture helps to clarify why the Jets are taking the slow walk to the negotiating table.
Under general manager Joe Douglas, the Jets are in the first full year of their roster rebuild. They’ve had a good start so far, highlighted by a solid free agency and an outstanding NFL Draft class. Adams, as the team’s only Pro Bowl selection and their biggest star, brings tremendous value. His play over the second half of the 2019 season is a major reason why the Jets wonx six of their final eight games to close out the year 7-9.
Does a safety, even one as talented as Adams, deserve to be the top-paid player on the roster? Especially since there are still several gaping holes on the roster and that the safety position, by and large, isn’t valued as highly in the modern NFL like other positions.
“If the Jets elect to go the route of letting Adams' rookie contract play itself out, Adams would play in 2020 under the fourth year of his rookie contract at a cap hit of $7.17 million,” said Brad Spielberger, contributor at OverTheCap.com. “His fifth year option amount for 2021 is set at $9.86 million. He would then be subject to the franchise tag in 2022. With COVID-19’s potential impact on NFL revenues for 2020 and beyond, it is nearly impossible to predict what that franchise tag amount would come out to, but figure around $12 million.”
The franchise tag scenario is far from ideal for Adams. While it represents a not insignificant pay raise, it merely punts on a long-term deal and the guaranteed money that he would desire. On the flip side for the Jets, while a franchise tag would likely save them a couple of million dollars under the salary cap, it doesn’t address potential holdout issues or the headache of a disgruntled star player.
The Jets, of course, want everyone fully gruntled. But they also have multiple pressing needs as their rebuilding process continues.
Tying up that money in a safety, even the most talented one in the league, may not be the direction they wish to go.
“If the two sides can strike a long-term deal this offseason, which doesn't exactly seem likely given Adams' recent comments on social media, that contract would probably look something like 5-years/$75 million with around $40 million in total guarantees,” said Spielberger.
“Adams and his agent will certainly push for a deal well above that number, and it's fair to wonder if they point to C.J. Mosley's contract for justification. The Jets had no problem paying Mosley well above the inside linebacker market in 2019, and Adams may argue he too should not be constricted by the safety market. Nevertheless, Joe Douglas and company. will of course counter that they did not negotiate that contract, but Mike Maccagnan did.”
Maccagnan is the Jets former general manager, whom Douglas replaced last summer after the draft and much of free agency had concluded.
A second tag would be $14.4 million Spielberger notes, or 120 percent of first tag.
Spielberger is not just a salary cap analyst but is also the author of the book The Drafting Stage: Creating a Marketplace for NFL Draft Picks. It is available on Amazon.