Seahawks make Jamal Adams NFL’s highest-paid safety, because they had no choice

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Last season, Seahawks safety Jamal Adams had 62 solo tackles, 32 stops, 9.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, and 16 quarterback hurries. Impressive numbers for a guy on a new team who missed four games due to injury, and played several games at less than 100%. Adams also was targeted 54 times in coverage, allowing 41 catches for 446 yards, 194 yards after the catch, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 118.3.

But when it came to Adams’ future in Seattle, the only number that really mattered was two. That’s the number of first-round picks the Seahawks gave to the Jets for Adams’ services in the blockbuster trade the teams executed last July. Seattle gave up their first-round picks in 2021 and 2022, as well as a 2021 third-round pick, and safety Bradley McDougal for Adams and a 2022 fourth-round pick.

That’s a lot to give up for any safety, especially for a guy who wound up playing nearer to the ball than in the deep third most of the time in 2020. With Adams’ rookie contract running out at the end of the 2021 season, head coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider, and Seattle’s salary cap experts had to put together a deal for Adams that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid safety. It’s not that they might or that they should — the Seahawks simply had no choice. Letting a guy walk after giving up that much for him just wasn’t going to happen.

And that’s exactly why it didn’t happen. On Tuesday, the Seahawks struck a new four-year, $70 million deal with Adams that guarantees him $38 million and makes Adams the NFL’s highest-paid safety. There had been a “stalemate” of sorts between player and team while the details got worked out, but there was only one way this was ever going to go — 100% in Adams’ favor, and that was true from the second the trade was done.

When the Bears traded their 2019 and 2020 first-round picks to the Raiders for edge-rusher Khalil Mack in 2018, they had already started work on a six-year, $141 million contract extension with $90 million in total guarantees over the life of the deal. After the Texans traded two first-round picks, plus a second-round pick, to the Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, Houston signed Tunsil to a three-year, $66 million extension with $40 million fully guaranteed. And after the Rams traded two first-round picks to the Jaguars for Ramsey, they gave Ramsey a five-year, $100 million extension.

As ESPN’s Bill Barnwell recently pointed out, the three players who have recently been traded for two first-round picks, and went to their new teams without long-term club control, all set the market at their positions when they were re-signed… and they all did so quite decisively.

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The deal wasn’t for $19 million annually, but the $17.5 million per year puts Adams quite comfortably ahead of the pack in the safety market. Denver’s Justin Simmons got a four-year, $61 million contract extension in March, which gave him the highest AAV at the position with $15.250 million per year. The difference of $2.25 million annually can be seen as a relative bargain compared to the Mack, Tunsil, and Ramsey deals, depending on how you rate Adams as a true free safety — or if you’re all in on his potential as a “defensive weapon.”