After months of asking to be traded the Jets finally pulled the trigger on trading away star safety Jamal Adams and boy did they get a haul for Adams from the Seahawks. Per Brian Costello the Jets will receive two first round draft picks, a third round draft pick and safety Bradley McDougald from Seattle. While this looks like a wild mortgaging of the future for the Seahawks I will try to make some sense of this and put a positive spin on it and create the overused “win-win” scenario.
A Great Move for the Jets
From a pure standpoint of expected returns and increased cap space it is hard to envision how anyone could see the Jets as anything but a massive winner in this trade. Adams tenure with the Jets has led to a grand total of 16 wins in three seasons. This is by no means a knock on him just the reality of the situation that a safety is not the difference between being a winner and a loser.
One of the ways that you can evaluate this trade is by utilizing the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft chart (shameless plug you can buy your copy on Amazon if you have not already) to come up with an idea of outcomes for the draft picks and then combine that with some of the salary cap space gained or lost by the trades in the team.
The Seahawks have made the playoffs in 7 of the last 8 seasons so while normally I would assign a middle of the round selection to an unknown draft pick I have no issues here in using the 26th pick in the draft as the expected return in 2021. The 26th pick in the draft would be worth a value that is equal to 44.2% of the top 5 player salary average at a given position. The 26th pick in the third round would be worth 23.6%. Given how far out 2022 is I would not automatically give Seattle a playoff seed so lets call that the 19th pick which is 49.4%.
None of these players are obviously expected to be as good as Jamal Adams but on average would fit into the situational starter category. What does that mean? Well if we picked another safety with one of those picks the expected return would be a player worth in the ballpark of $6.5M a year so someone like Tre Boston, Quandre Diggs, Bobby McCain, etc…Good but not necessarily great players.
Here are the metrics on the picks using our data.
|Picks Acquired||Points||% of Top 5 APY||Long Term Rate||4 Year Rate||Bust Rate|
For a team as devoid of talent as the Jets you can not pass these kind of numbers up. Each pick carries over a 50% chance that they will be with the team for at least four years when you knew Adams wanted out. The odds are very small (around 4%) that you won’t get 4 years out of any of the three draft picks. When it comes to evaluating high end potential there is a 50/50 chance that at least one of these players winds up a Tier 1 player like Adams. So essentially you have a 50% chance of replacing Adams and around a 28% chance that you wind up with at least two good players.
The Jets will also give up a 19.5% 4th round pick who will have about a 5% chance of being an elite player along with Adams who we would value at the same level as the top pick in the draft. Overall the points on that would be very similar for both parties.
Then you get into the cap aspect of the move. Let’s look at the Jets break down where the options are to either keep Adams and try to salvage the situation or trade him away.
|1st Round Pick||$12,400,000|
|1st Round Pick||$13,500,000|
|3rd Round Pick||$4,600,000|
|4th round pick||-$4,100,000|
For the year the Jets will actually lose cap room with the trade because McDougald will likely earn more than Adams. These numbers are assuming the trade is done now and not after the roster bonus due date in which case the cap this year is even more lopsided for the Seahawks. This is one of those things that is going to reflect bad on the Jets for those really upset with the trade but you have to take a long view here.
The Jets free up $9.86M next year and avoid an extension that costs at least $64M. For the draft picks I looked at the four year contract totals in 2020 that Jets will acquire and just rounded them up slightly since we are expecting a pretty flat cap in 21 and probably 22. If they are higher it won’t be by much. All in all the Jets will save about $47 million in cap space for one year of McDougald and 12 combined years of draft selections versus six years of Adams and four years of a 4th round pick.
How can one criticize Joe Douglas for this trade when you see these numbers? I get that Adams has been popular but the trade from the Jets perspective is a 50/50 chance at getting another elite player with one of their draft picks and a good chance that at least two players are above average players. They can also add a free agent who would cost around $10M a season. You tell me which situation will have the Jets win more than 5.3 games a year?
It also gives the Jets a ton of ammunition to move up in a draft and select a QB if Sam Darnold simply does not develop. I know my fellow Jets fans hate when I bring that up but through two years he has been barely average and was not a JD selection. This move certainly does little for the current Jets and is going to be spun as not giving Darnold enough to win while cheap but if Darnold is the guy he will pick up the team. If he isn’t they have to look for a new guy. Extra first rounders gives them the chance to do just that especially if Seattle happened to have a bad year because of a QB injury.
To me this is a no brainer. It gives the Jets two added picks in 2021 while Darnold is still cheap, more money to spend on free agents, draft capital if Darnold has to be replaced, and no more headaches from a player that would rip the team any chance he got.
Now here is the thing I would say regarding the trade for the future. The Jets have to spend the picks they received on premium positions. To do something like drafting a safety, running back and linebacker with their draft picks does nothing to make the team better. Even if you draft an elite talent at those spots to replace Adams it does not make the team any better than keeping Adams. You have to use the picks on players you can not buy and players that may make more of a difference. If this was the last general manager I would have zero faith in him doing that but hopefully this is different for New York.
Why Did Seattle Do This?
Seattle is in a very different spot from the Jets. While Jamal Adams was maybe the difference between 4 and 5 wins for the Jets perhaps he could be the difference between 11 and 12 or 11 and 13 wins for a really good team like Seattle. Super Bowl quality teams should take risks and with a 32 year old QB who is under contract for four more seasons you have to make moves that can get you to the big game.
Adams is going to receive a contract extension at some point worth anywhere from $15 to $17 million and is a lock unlike the draft picks which are dart throws. This is basically the return you would expect for a 1st pick in the draft as it is a superstar at a given position. The 4th round pick is a throw in but has some value. It is also important for Seattle to have a player that likely impacts 2020 and 2021 whereas the draft picks will most likely be players in 2022 and 2023 the final two years of Wilson’s current contract.
If we flip the money chart around for Seattle we can also see why they made this trade. Assuming of course that they extend Adams here are the Seahawks financials.
|4th Round Pick||$4,100,000|
|1st Round Pick||-$12,400,000|
|1st Round Pick||-$13,500,000|
|3rd Round Pick||-$4,600,000|
While there is definitely an opportunity cost given up with all those draft picks when you pull their salaries out of the equation the net impact will be around $7.8M for six years of Jamal Adams. So while their contract charts are one day going to read that they are paying $16M or $17M for a safety they are going to look at this as getting him for a net cost that is much cheaper. Even if you want to say that this is too rosy a view lets call Adams the Seahawks first rounder next year. That’s about $10.85M in net costs for Adams. I think you can make a case for this being a reasonable use of financial resources as it’s the cheapest way to get a star player if money is the bottom line.
Does that mean I would have done this if I was Seattle? Absolutely not because I can not believe the Jets had any market like this. It is no secret the Jets shopped Adams last year and it is no secret that the highest the bidding went is a 1 and a 3. How do you go from a 1 and a 3 to two 1’s and a pick swap? Especially after the player criticized every single person in the organization in the local newspaper. Not only that but he had a $2.8M roster bonus coming up in a few days (again assuming the Jets are not paying this) which means time was on Seattle’s side.
Seattle has been down this road before with Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham neither of whom lived up to the billing in Seattle and maybe they just can’t help themselves. Sometimes teams get excited and do things they should not do. I wonder how Houston must feel realizing that the Jets just fleeced the Seahawks for Adams when they traded away Jadeveon Clowney to the same team for a bag of peanuts last year.
The other negative for Seattle is the fact that they did this deal with no extension. This is exactly the same mistake Houston made last year when trading for Laremy Tunsil and the Rams made when trading for Jalen Ramsey. It gives so much leverage to the player in contract negotiations and the Texans paid dearly for it when they signed Tunsil to a $22M a year extension. While Adams will be happy to be out of NY this year I am not sure that he will be happy to play next year with no extension and giving up all that draft capital for just two years of Adams if they don’t want to extend him makes no sense at all. This are all things that teams need to do prior to a trade.
The other issue with the trade for Seattle and this goes kind of to what I mentioned about the Jets above with how to approach the draft is that this is a position that you can address in free agency. In the last few years there have been a few big trades for multiple 1s but only one player (Khalil Mack) was the type of player you would never see in free agency. You see great safeties in free agency. You see great corners in free agency. You see great left tackles in free agency. I get that those two rookie years on a contract are valuable but these positions have an alternate route if you are patient and plan well.
So I can understand why Seattle wanted to get Jamal Adams and can say that he will have an impact on the team this year but there was a different path for them here that could have been realized by being a bit more patient. Under no circumstance should two 1s be traded for a safety especially an unhappy one. We can make a strong case for why they did it but a far stronger case for a better way to do it.
Adams and NFL Players Are Also Big Winners
Adams use of social media and most recently traditional media to his advantage was perfect. He wanted out and got out. Antonio Brown did the same thing twice last year. Ramsey did it though not to the same degree last season. While it does not always work (Yannick Ngakoue cant shake free of the Jaguars) it is becoming something that more and more teams need to be aware of. Everyone is starved for content and I think is fascinated by what players are thinking about the teams they play for. Players have a voice and can use it for many things and this one of them.
If Adams never took to Instagram or made his beefs with the Jets public we probably are not sitting here today talking about an Adams trade. More and more players are going to follow this model when they land with a bad team in the draft. I don’t know how teams evaluate this when they make a pick but they need to figure out better ways for damage control when it happens. Adams absolutely dragged the Jets down and while this trade haul will make it easier with the fanbase my guess is the majority of fans are upset with the team right now because the Jets caused this situation to spiral out of control. Luckily they found a trade partner who was willing to part with a haul but that never should have happened. It is definitely an interesting way for players to exert leverage.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.