After months of intense negotiations, the Seattle Seahawks have given Jamal Adams the largest contract in NFL history at the safety position. Adams is officially part of Seattle’s long-term plan despite having, arguably, the worst season of his career in his first season in the Pacific Northwest.
Adams was once considered the top of his position, but after 2020, it’s easy to see why so many have taken Adams off their top-10 safeties list. Throughout 2020, it was clear that Adams was not fitting very well into Seattle’s defensive scheme. Adams recorded the fewest solo tackles of his career, and was uncharacteristically poor in coverage. Adams allowed a 77.8 percent catch rate, per Pro Football Reference. That’s not good at all. The Seahawks had to bring in Detroit Lions defensive captain Quandre Diggs halfway through the season in order to shore up the holes that Adams was leaving. Adams also spent more time blitzing than ever before in 2020. While he did break the all-time safety sack record with 9.5, the sheer number of times he had an opportunity to go after the opposing quarterback somewhat minimizes that achievement. He blitzed 98 times in 12 games. Just one year prior, Adams blitzed only 90 times in 14 games with the Jets. Adams blitzed so much that opponents started giving him the title of “Blitz Boy” — a name which Adams has owned up to.
Adams definitely didn’t have the best season in 2020, but in a sense, that’s to be expected. With no preseason to learn the new defensive schemes, Adams likely didn’t have the time to learn the system very well before the first game of the regular season. But that’s not a sure thing. Is taking the risk that, with more time, Adams can return to his 2019 form worth paying the biggest safety contract in NFL history? Personally, I don’t think so, and I don’t think the Seahawks thought so either during the first steps of negotiation.
If the Seahawks really thought the upside was worth the risk, why didn’t the deal get done sooner? The first counter-argument might be “Well, they just wanted to get Adams at a discount.” FIVE MONTHS! They negotiated for FIVE MONTHS! That means they were nowhere close to an agreement at the beginning. Negotiations were “intense,” and Jamal Adams had to get pushed into his record-breaking contract by his mother. Yeah, Adams alone believes he deserved more than what he ended up getting.
So, if the Seahawks didn’t initially believe Adams was worth the risk, why would they cave in and give Adams all this money? It’s simple really. They NEED Adams to work out in Seattle. When the Seahawks traded for Adams in July 2020, they gave up two first-round picks and a third-round pick. That’s a lot of draft capital. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led his 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance just two years ago, and he would not fetch that kind of deal. That’s a “Khalil Mack-level” of draft capital the Seahawks gave up to acquire Adams. Could you imagine if Adams didn’t pan out after giving away that much potential? That would not be a good look for the Seattle front office.
Throw in the fact that Russell Wilson has been disgruntled with the team’s lack of success and the fact that he hasn’t been given a proper O-line in years — a problem which could’ve been tackled with the draft picks Seattle gave up for Adams — as well as the notion that the team’s Super Bowl window is closing as the NFC West continues to improve and Wilson gets older, and you’ve got yourself one real hot mess if Adams continues to struggle like he did in 2020.
The Seahawks know what Adams is capable of, so allowing him to continue his hold-out was never really an option for the Seahawks’ front office. However, I can almost guarantee that Jody Allen, John Schneider, and company are all biting their nails praying that Adams figures out the Seahawks’ defensive system. If not, this signing could go down as one of the worst in franchise history.
We all know Adams has the tools to be one of the best safeties in the league. Yes, I know he only has two interceptions under his belt through his first three years in the league, but Adams doesn’t help a secondary by coming up with picks. He’s not a ball hawk. He’s a disruptor. He can step up and stop the run. He can step into the middle of the field and take away a read from the opposing quarterback. He may not have the best ball skills, but he doesn’t need to in order to be effective. With a few weeks of training camp under his belt, I have no doubts that Adams can figure out Seattle’s system and return to his All-Pro 2019 form. For Seattle’s sake, they better hope he figures it out, too.
* A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to the late Paul Allen in a present setting. Mr. Allen died on October 15, 2018. Deadspin regrets the error.