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Rost: Why there is so much riding on what Seahawks do with Jamal Adams

Jamal Adams cost the Seahawks two first-round picks and could be a free agent next year. (Getty)

The Seahawks have an offseason full of tough decisions, including those to be made about pending free agents like Chris Carson, Shaquill Griffin and K.J. Wright and potential cap casualties like Carlos Dunlap. That’s not to mention the decisions they’ll need to make in a draft with no first-round pick, limited college tape, and no in-person workouts or interviews at the combine.

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The most important decision for general manager John Schneider, though, is one that has been months in the making. That is the decision about what to do with Jamal Adams.

The Seahawks have three choices here: sign Adams to an extension this offseason, let him play under his fifth-year option (after which he would become an unrestricted free agent), or trade him to recoup some picks.

Avoiding previous misses

Allowing Adams to hit free agency is the worst of these options. If this happens, the Seahawks will have traded away a pair of first round picks for just two seasons of Adams. Worse still, that would mark the fifth time a big-name player was acquired by Seattle via trade and didn’t extend his stay – nor pay off, so to speak.

Tight end Jimmy Graham was the most productive of those trades, though Seattle’s offense couldn’t find a way to use him as effectively as he had been in New Orleans, and he eventually signed with Green Bay after three seasons. Wide receiver Percy Harvin was acquired for a first-round pick and immediately extended in 2013 but was traded in 2014 after appearing in a total of seven games. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney were brought to Seattle in two other notable trades. Though neither trade involved a first-round pick, neither player stayed more than one year.

Letting Adams walk is out of the question. That means that unless Seattle wants to scramble for a trade to recoup some of what they gave up, they’ll need to extend Adams now.

There’s no great reason not to. Adams and pass rusher Carlos Dunlap were two of the catalysts for Seattle’s surprising mid-season turnaround on defense. Even while playing through a series of injuries, Adams set a new NFL record for sacks in a single season by a defensive back (9.5). That total led the team, and he and Dunlap (five sacks in eight games) helped the Seahawks finish the season seventh in the league in sacks just one year after finishing 31st.

Unlike those players mentioned previously, Adams became a key contributor and complimented Seattle’s existing philosophy – meaning the fit felt more effortless than, say, Graham, who was a receiving threat in a run-happy offense and whose blocking was always a question mark, or Clowney, who finished with just three sacks in his one year with the Seahawks.

Finally, we know Seattle will extend Adams for the same reason the Chicago Bears extended Khalil Mack and the Los Angeles Rams extended Jalen Ramsey: a team can’t give up two first-round picks for someone who won’t be there long term.

How Schneider makes this one pay off

This trade by Schneider is one that must pay off. The question then isn’t whether Seattle will extend Adams, but when and how they’ll do it.

My Jake & Stacy co-host Jake Heaps noted a few of the challenges Schneider and Adams will face during these negotiations. Chief among them is the number Adams will be seeking – I’ll get to that in a minute – but another concerns the way Seattle negotiates.

“This will be the most important and most challenging contract negotiation that Schneider and the Seahawks have had to date,” Heaps said Thursday. “You have to have patience in this process and you have to understand the timeline of when the Seahawks conduct their business. They have been different with some guys, but for the most part those deals have come in the spring, in the summer, and even right up to training camp. That’s typically what they go through because they want to focus on certain steps along the process of free agency and they don’t want to get sidetracked, they don’t want too many things on their plate.”

Heaps added that the Seahawks are fair, but fierce and frugal, negotiators.

“They are not going to overpay, they are not going to (dramatically) re-set the market… (those big deals) have been the top deal at the time, but within reason.”

Listen to Jake and Stacy’s conversation about Adams in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.

How much would Adams’ deal be worth?

We don’t know what Adams is asking for, but we can assume he wants to be compensated like the best safety in the league. The top-paid safety in total value is Washington’s Landon Collins, who signed a six-year, $84 million deal in March 2019 that averages $14 million per year. The richest deal in terms of yearly salary is that of Arizona’s Budda Baker, whose four-year, $59 million extension pays an average of $14.75 million annually. Both are or were around Adams’ age (25) when they signed those extensions.

Here’s where things get especially interesting: Will Adams be looking for a deal that treats him as a safety or something else? Adams earned a coverage grade from Pro Football Focus that was lower than Baker this season, but he earned high marks there in both 2018 and 2019, raising questions about whether that drop in coverage was influenced by scheme, a new team, or injuries. But when it comes to sacks, he was more productive than several top pass rushers, ranking 11th league-wide.

Defensive ends and premier linebackers could command a number closer to $15-18 million per year (or more, in the case of top defensive ends). That’s plenty more than a safety – but then again, no safety has ever produced the sack total Adams did this season.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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