Every day since the Seahawks pulled off their blockbuster trade with the New York Jets, acquiring safety Jamal Adams for two first-round picks, safety Bradley McDougald, and a third-round pick, experts and fans alike have worked under the assumption that the team needs to sign Adams to a long-term deal.
The rationale makes a lot of sense. To justify giving up two top picks as general manager John Schneider did, you need to make sure you have the player for more than two seasons, right? They’re probably correct but only in a vacuum.
As sports fans, we often view trades as binary. It’s either “yes” or “no." You either “win” the trade or you “lose” the trade. It’s a zero or one. But as much as we like things to be simple, they are anything but. Trades are incredibly complicated but the simple truth is, unless the Seahawks win the Super Bowl in 2022, they’ve already “lost” this trade, and this isn’t a problem. In his award-winning book Moneyball, Michael Lewis describes Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane's five rules of trading. Amongst the rules is that you can “always recover from the deal you don’t make, but you may never recover from a deal you make at the wrong price."
The essence of the rule is to not compound mistakes. Don’t let one bad decision lead to another one in a desperate attempt to prove your first decision wasn’t a mistake. This is where the Seahawks find themselves with regards to Adams. Signing the star safety to a long-term deal to justify the acquisition cost could be a grave mistake.
To their credit, the Seahawks have shown a willingness to move on from mistakes, most notably Percy Harvin. After giving up a first-round pick and signing Harvin to a massive extension which ultimately cost the team Golden Tate, Seattle shipped Harvin to the Jets in 2014 after the situation became untenable. Comparing Adams and Harvin is an apple to oranges comparison, as Adams' difficult situation is not one of locker room maleficence, but a monetary issue.
Adams will not negotiate as a safety, calling himself a defensive weapon instead. And he’s not entirely wrong. Adams plays everywhere on the field and proved to be a great pass rusher in his first season in Seattle. As a result, Adams is looking to be paid as a pass rusher, hoping to cash in for upwards of $20 million per season. The highest-paid safety in the NFL is Broncos safety Justin Simmons, who will make $16.25 million on average for the next four seasons. Is Adams worth significantly more than Simmons? That is the decision Seattle will need to make.
However, they don’t need to make it for a while. One option available to the Seahawks would be to allow Adams to play out the season, see if he can improve in his second year in the scheme, and then place a franchise tag on Adams that would be worth $14 million in 2022. This would allow Seattle to negotiate a new deal without fear of losing him. Whether Adams would be willing to play on the tag is another matter, but as we’ve seen with Simmons, a franchise tag doesn’t exclude the possibility of signing a long-term contract.
The Seahawks need to decide whether they want to pay Adams and it needs to be soon. But they cannot, under any circumstance, allow the amount of draft capital they used to acquire Adams into consideration. When you try to make up for past mistakes, you can irreparably damage your future. Adams is either worth the money he’s asking for, or he isn’t, and that needs to be the only factor that is taken into account.
Signing Adams to a 4-year, $80 million contracts will not give the Seahawks their picks back. They’re gone and they aren’t coming back. Adams could very well be worth the money he’s asking for, and Seattle could agree, especially with a salary cap that is expected to boom after the massive TV deal the NFL just signed.
But doubling down on the wrong player to try and prove a meaningless point is the hallmark of bad organizations. The decision looming on Adams isn’t black and white, and attempting to make it so is a great way to back your way into a corner.