Lichtenstein: Why Jets return in Adams deal isn't what it's cracked up to be

Steve Lichtenstein
July 27, 2020 - 9:00 am
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Jets general manager Joe Douglas made the best of a bad situation on Saturday when he traded disgruntled All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to Seattle.

Just don’t tell me to be happy about it.

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Adams, 24, just about pulled a George Costanza in the “Seinfeld” episode where he dragged the Yankees’ World Series trophy around a parking lot in an attempt to get fired. On Friday, Adams, who was mad that the Jets weren’t even negotiating the contract extension he felt was promised, trashed head coach Adam Gase in the Daily News and also trolled absentee owner Woody Johnson on Twitter about his alleged behavior while acting as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.  

Whether or not any of Adams’ immature outbursts proved to be the last straw—a report in The Athletic claimed they weren’t—I would have thought that they would have at least lessened the Jets’ leverage in trade discussions.

Apparently, they didn’t. The Jets were able to turn Adams and a 2022 fourth-round draft pick into the Seahawks’ 2021 first-rounder, a 2022 first-rounder, a 2021 third-rounder, and safety Bradley McDougald.  

Everyone from the media to my son Jack has been trying to convince me that Adams’ trade compensation was “a haul.” Per ESPN, this marked only the eighth time since 2000 that a player was traded for two first-round picks. Previous objects of affection tended to be premium position players, like cornerback Jalen Ramsey, tackle Laremy Tunsil, and edge rusher Khalil Mack.

I’m sorry, I can’t get completely on board. I will concur that Douglas maximized his return, but a haul? Maybe a potential haul.

Here are the Seahawks first-round draft slots in the last six years: 31st, 26th, 26th, 27th, 29th, and 27th. Unless something awful happens to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, the odds are good that the Jets’ picks will again fall in the mid-to-upper twenties. Extra rolls in the crapshoot are fantastic, but let’s also note that the players selected in those previous slots have combined to earn zero Pro Bowl berths.

Adams, the Jets’ sixth-overall selection in 2017, isn’t just a two-time Pro Bowler; he was named First-Team All-Pro last season. And, to continue beating my drum from past posts, Adams isn’t your typical safety. His wide-ranging contributions, from run stuffing to pass rushing to coverage responsibilities, allowed Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to mask a whole lot of deficiencies at other positions. The Jets don’t finish seventh in the NFL in yards allowed last season without Adams, who made game-deciding plays to secure victories over the Giants and Cowboys.

McDougald, Adams’ de facto replacement, will turn 30 in November and is on an expiring contract. He’s an average player at best, ranking 54th among 70 NFL safeties with 500 snaps as graded by ProFootballFocus.com last season. He excelled in man coverage but also missed 14 tackles, tied for the fifth-most at his position.

Everyone will point to Adams’ nastiness as the proximate cause of his exit, but it didn’t have to be this way. The Daily News article laid out how the Jets bungled this from the day last season ended. While the Jets were certainly under no obligation to extend Adams while he was still under contract for another two seasons, they seemed to indicate that it was their intention, only to renege. 

For those taking the Jets’ side that expending the $18-$20 million per year that Adams likely would have seeked (had talks gotten that far) wasn’t sound salary cap management, tell me this: Who do they need to pay in the next three years?

Typically, a well-run franchise uses cap space to extend their core built through draft picks. Now let’s look at the Jets: With Adams gone, all of Gang Green’s first-round picks from 2012-2017 were either traded or cut by the end of their rookie contracts. Quarterback Sam Darnold (2018) and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (2019) have work to do before they can walk into Douglas’ office and command big-money deals. If safety Marcus Maye is dealt or walks away after the season in free agency, the Jets will also be 0-for-13 years on extending second-round picks going back to linebacker David Harris.  

Again, who are they paying? The way I see it, the money that didn’t go to Adams will remain in the Johnson brothers’ engorged wallets. That should disgust every Jets fan, not just Adams, who will surely be fired up when New York visits Seattle on December 13?

I get the allure that comes with the draft picks in this trade. They are clearly assets. That is, until the picks are made. Since Douglas has no draft record of his own, I have reasons to be skeptical that he will get it right when so many before him have failed.

In other words: Tis better to have an All-Pro in the hand than two late-round first-rounders in the bush.    

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.