Lichtenstein: Among Douglas’ Most Pressing Chores This Offseason Is Keeping Adams In Jets’ Family

Steve Lichtenstein
January 28, 2020 - 1:07 pm

Jamal Adams got through his second invitation to the Pro Bowl without incident.  No brouhaha with a rival team’s mascot like last year.

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Will the rest of the Jets safety’s offseason be so uneventful?

That is the multi-million dollar question that has to be at the forefront of New York general manager Joe Douglas’ mind in the coming months.

For we know two things after the Jets’ 7-9 2019 season: 1) Adams is the Jets’ best football player, by far, and, 2) He has significantly outperformed his contract.

The Jets may have a plethora of needs heading into this offseason, but taking care of Adams is just as pressing.

It’s irrelevant that Adams is under team control for the next two seasons. His rookie deal called for about $14.3 million to be received up front as a signing bonus after he was drafted with the sixth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, that means his guaranteed compensation for the 2020 season will be a relatively paltry $3.5 million.

Jets strong safety Jamal Adams looks on during the first quarter against the Jaguars Oct 27, 2019; Jacksonville, FL
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

That’s some bargain for an Associated Press First-Team All Pro. Adams led or tied for the team lead in solo tackles, forced fumbles and defensive touchdowns.  He ranked second in total combined tackles, sacks, interceptions, QB hits and run stops. Per, Adams missed a grand total of four tackles all season--only three NFL safeties who played at least 750 snaps missed fewer.  In coverage, Adams allowed 20 receptions on 33 targets, but just 7.5 yards per completion, the second-lowest behind New England’s Devin McCourty (750 snap minimum).

More importantly, Adams made game-changing plays, none bigger than the Week 10 rip away from Giants quarterback Daniel Jones that he took back for a touchdown on the first series of the second half. In addition to his 6 ½ sacks, PFF credited him with a league-leading 25 pressures, nine more than second-ranked Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. His pressure that forced Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to throw the ball into the turf on a late-game two-point conversion prevented a meltdown in the Jets’ Week 6 victory.

Compare those numbers with those of Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who was drafted in the same class (though in the fourth round) and is a year older than Adams, 24.  Jackson isn’t tasked with anything close to the full array of defensive services that Adams is responsible for in Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ schemes.  Jackson is mostly a cover guy, either as a deep safety (540 snaps) or in the slot (232 snaps). 

While Jackson was outstanding in coverage in 2018, his opposing QB completion percentage when targeted and yards allowed per completion slipped a bit this season, which is why he went from being the top-graded safety in PFF’s rankings to a mediocre 32nd out of 50 qualifying players at his position.

Still, the Bears inked Jackson to a four-year, $58.4 million contract extension earlier this month. That will make him the league’s highest-paid safety on a per-season basis when it kicks in for the 2021 season.

What are the odds Adams didn’t notice?  

NFL contracts are about as ironclad as the paper they’re written on.  Organizations renege on nonguaranteed years all the time.  Expect that to happen to certain Jets (guard Brian Winters, cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, among others) before the new league year begins on March 18. That’s why players generally shouldn’t be begrudged when it’s their turn to maximize their compensation, even when they’re under contract. No one played this game better than former cornerback Darrelle Revis, the last Jet to receive First-Team All-Pro honors back in 2011.  Revis held out often to get bigger and better deals.

Jamal Adams
Brad Penner/USA TODAY Images

No one knows Adams’ intentions, but he may still have bitter feelings towards the organization that reportedly took calls from teams inquiring about his availability at the trade deadline. Per reports, the Jets' asking price was too exorbitant, as it should have been. Adams later told the media that the distrust was smoothed over.

We’ll know soon where the relationship stands.  I fully expect Adams to ask for Jackson money and then some. At least $35 million in guarantees with maybe a $16 million average annual value over four years.  Normally, you shouldn’t allocate so much of your cap space on safeties. But, again, Adams is not a normal safety.  He’s a game-wrecker, the heart and soul of this franchise.

Douglas, to his credit, did not rule out negotiating extensions with new money for players under contract. Fortunately, not only can Douglas stretch the club’s 2020 cap space this offseason to about $75 million with the aforementioned cuts, he can finagle any extension so that only Adams’ new prorated signing bonus would count against the cap.

Get it done.

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