Adams’ extension should be easy, unless he Clowneys around

Jamal Adams is a tough guy.

He reminded everyone of that Thursday with his Instagram post detailing all of the injuries he endured in 2020 – broken fingers, a torn labrum, a groin strain, a hyperextended elbow – and reminded people that he did not complain as he played at far less than 100% all season. He also said he is ready to bring the same type of all-out “energy” again in 2021.

In one missive, Adams managed to outline what a football warrior he is while pointing out the risk the Seahawks will be taking when they re-sign him and making everyone wonder what that will cost.

When John Schneider traded the top of his next two drafts for Adams last July, the GM made a long-term commitment to the All-Pro safety. The numbers on the contract were simply TK.

Well, the time for that new deal is about here. It will come with some concerns, as Adams just reminded us, about his propensity for injury. And Pete Carroll and Ken Norton Jr. will need to moderate their blitz use of Adams – they don’t need him banging into big linemen every game.

Adams’ new deal is pretty easy to project, based on recent top-end raises at his position in the NFL and the way the Hawks treated their longtime stars, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. It should end up something like $16 million a year (through 2025), with around $46 million guaranteed over three years and around $23 million guaranteed in 2021.

Scuttlebutt last year in New York was that Adams was targeting $18 million a year. But that is $2 million too much, and contract expert Joel Corry told The Seattle Times “it won’t be an easy deal” if that is what Adams wants.

Unless Adams’ agent wants to try to classify Adams as a pass rusher, because the Hawks blitzed him so much that he ended up with 9.5 sacks, this should not be a difficult extension.

The Seahawks are no strangers to paying their stars at the top of the NFL market. They have done it with Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

On their 2019 extensions, Wilson got a 4.5% raise in annual average over Aaron Rodgers, the top-paid QB at $33.5 million a year, and Wagner got a 5.9% raise over C.J. Mosley, who had topped the middle linebacker pay chart at a ridiculous $17 million a year.  

If Adams were to receive a 6% raise over top-paid safety Budda Baker ($14.75 million), his APY would be $15.6 million. Considering Baker’s deal last August trumped No. 2 safety Eddie Jackson’s APY by just 1% and Jackson’s deal had eclipsed Kevin Byard’s by 3.5%, a 6% jump would be a very good raise for the position (and $16 million would equate to an even better 8.5% bump).

Of course, annual average is not the only market measure. Guaranteed money is weighed just as heavily. But the Seahawks use rolling guarantees rather than big full guarantees at signing.

Even though Wagner trumped Mosley in APY, he still was behind him in guaranteed money. And, while Wilson set records for signing bonus, total guarantees and APY, his full guarantees were behind Rodgers and Matt Ryan, and his guaranteed money per year ranked just seventh among NFL QBs.

For Adams, the Hawks likely would be fine with $46 million guaranteed over the first three years. Those total guarantees would beat Landon Collins’ league-best $44.5 million.

As for full guarantees, the Hawks’ SOP is to promise only the first year, with the second and sometimes third year being guaranteed for injury at signing and then fully guaranteed five days into those league years.

The top full guarantee among NFL safeties is Collins’ $31 million. The Hawks surely won’t pay that to Adams – especially not this year, when they need to make space under the salary cap. Baker and Jackson are at $22 million in fully guaranteed money, and Adams figures to land a little above them in his first-year payout.

With concerns about Adams’ ability to stay healthy, the Hawks will no doubt use some playing incentives – as they often do with their guys. They also will want to use this extension to create some cap space. Otherwise, there is no point in doing it until after the season.

So, again, here’s the deal Adams should get: $16 million a year (in a four-year deal), $46 million in total guarantees through 2023 and maybe $23 million in guaranteed 2021 pay.

Depending on how they split the salary and signing bonus, the Hawks would save anywhere from $3 million to $5.5 million in 2021 cap space on such a deal – Adams’ $9.86 million salary would be replaced by the $23 million, most of which would be a bonus prorated over five years.

Again, this assumes Adams is not going to try to blow the top off the safety market by trying to get elite pass rusher pay. If he pulls a Jadeveon Clowney and holds out for too much money, the Hawks won’t be interested. 

They have been through a holdout by a strong safety before (Chancellor in 2015), but this time they would be more prepared for it. Marquise Blair, who was supposed to be the strong safety before Schneider stunningly acquired Adams last July, should be ready to step in – even as Blair comes off an ACL injury. And Ryan Neal proved to be a good backup in 2020.

The Hawks still would have the option of using the franchise tag on Adams in 2022, if no deal could be reached. Worst case: If Adams still didn’t want to play ball, they would have to try to recoup something for him – and Schneider would end up on the losing end of yet another blockbuster (a la Percy Harvin).

It’s a gamble he clearly thinks he is going to win – or he wouldn’t have made the deal last summer. Hopefully it is as easy as it should be and then Adams proves to be worth it by staying a lot healthier than he did in 2020. 

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