DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: Seahawks’ gamble for Jamal Adams gave defense the star it needed

Dec 30, 2020, 1:55 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm
Seahawks Jamal Adams...
Jamal Adams cost the Seahawks two first-round picks, and it appears to have been worth it. (AP)
(AP)

When the Seahawks traded two first-round picks to add a safety, I thought I caught a distinct whiff of desperation.

What change made Ken Norton Jr.’s Seahawks defense dominant?

Turns out the only whiff was the one I made questioning the price along with anybody else who thought Seattle gave up too much to acquire an All-Pro safety.

Jamal Adams has been worth it. Unequivocally. That might sound rash. We don’t even know how high the first-round picks that Seattle will end up sending to the Jets are going to be. But at this point, that doesn’t really matter because we’ve seen both the caliber of player that Adams is and what this defense has become with him wreaking havoc the closer he gets to the line of scrimmage.

We always talk about sacrificing the future for the present as if it is a crime against franchise building. It’s not. You just have to make sure that the present-day payoff is big enough that the sacrifice is worth it. Because if that player doesn’t make a difference – or if worse yet, the team flounders in spite of the acquisition – that’s when you end up sunk.

Just look at Houston, which two years ago traded a pair of first-round picks to land veteran left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Texans are terrible this year, they’ve fired their coach and they don’t even get the benefit of the draft position they’ve earned with all those losses because this year’s first-round pick – which will be No. 3 overall – is headed to Miami to complete the deal.

It’s possible that Seattle could find itself in a similar situation next year if the bottom drops out. Judging by Adams’ impact this year, it’s incredibly unlikely. Seattle has already matched last year’s regular-season win total and will host a playoff game for the first time in four years. The Seahawks have a quarterback in his prime, a wide receiver that is on the brink of setting a single-season franchise record and a defense that has improved so dramatically that it’s impossible not to take the Seahawks seriously.

For four years we have been wondering when Seattle will find that next generation of stars on the defense. As Kam Chancellor retired and Richard Sherman was released and Earl Thomas departed as a free agent, the Seahawks have tried to rebuild around a young nucleus. They’ve found solid players. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin even went to the Pro Bowl. But they hadn’t found that next star. At least not until Adams arrived.

Adams is the kind of guy who tilts the room in his direction and who makes the offense pay attention to exactly where he is on every play, and even then, he’ll find a way to show up when he’s not expected. Take a look back to Seattle’s goal-line stand in the third quarter against the Rams when Los Angeles ran five plays from inside the Seattle 10 without ever reaching the end zone. Adams made two of the five tackles in that sequence, and in each case he ran from one side of the field to the other to make the tackle, showing nothing short of extraordinary effort.

This defense that looked so bad in the first half of the season has become downright formidable, holding the last five opponents to fewer than 20 points. Two of the past three opponents failed to score a touchdown. That resurgence makes it possible to take Seattle seriously as a contender in the NFC. The Seahawks have won five of their last six games.

Adams is a star. Not just because his 9.5 sacks are the most ever for an NFL defensive back in a season. Seattle wasn’t going to have a chance to add a player with Adams’ speed, size or impact with either of the first-round picks it traded away.

And while people like me wondered whether a package including two first-round picks was too much to sacrifice for a safety, the Seahawks looked at Adams and saw a guy who could help this defense turn the corner, which is exactly what has happened over the past month and a half.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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O’Neil: Seahawks’ gamble for Jamal Adams gave defense the star it needed