Valuing the Seahawks Trade For Jamal Adams

While we have been over the trade value of Jamal Adams most of our analysis has all been somewhat in a vacuum as Adams vs x draft picks. After thinking about it some more I’m not sure if that is entirely the right way to look at it when evaluating specifically from the Seahawks perspective. So I wanted to work through the two scenarios the Seahawks should have considered when making this trade when really coming up with whether or not this is a good move for them.

For the scenarios I wanted to make a few assumptions. One we have to assume that the team is going to extend the player because not doing that seems nonsensical. Two we have to assume they were desperate for help at the position meaning that they would, the following year, enter into free agency and sign the best available at the position. This is not a discussion of the value of spending on a safety vs a corner this is more about the comparison of wanting a star player now vs waiting a year.

Scenario 1- Status Quo With Big 2021 Free Agent Signing

In this scenario the Seahawks keep their roster for this year and spend $4.1M on in season salary for Bradley McDougald. They would retain their 1st round pick in 2021 and 2022 as well as their 3rd round pick in 2021. For the sake of the analysis I am assuming the team will draft 26th in 2021 and 19th in 2022, but you can slot any pick you want. Safeties are almost always available in free agency and the going rate will likely be $15 million per year for four years for a Justin Simmons type player. So our five year outlook from 2020-2024 for Seattle is as follows.

2021 1st round Pick2021-2024$12,400,000
2022 1st round pick2022-2024$11,000,000
2021 3rd round pick2021-2024$4,600,000
FA Safety Signing2021-2024$60,000,000

In this scenario we will spend $92.1M to wind up with 16 years of service, an average of $5.756M per year.

Scenario 2- Make the Trade for Adams

Here we have to look at the cost for Adams where the Seahawks will get the benefit of two rookie contract years plus the first three years of an extension. For the sake of argument I assumed that he would earn $51M in the first three years of the extension, an average of $17M a season.

Adams Rookie2020$3,590,292
Adams Option2021$9,860,000
Adams Extension2022-2024$51,000,000
4th Round Pick2021-2024$4,100,000

Under this scenario we receive 9 years of service at an average cost of $7.616 million per year.

The Money Differential

This is where we sometimes miss things when we start getting into finances in trades. Because Adams is going to command a big salary down the line everyone just looks at this as giving away two cheaper rookies for Adams when they could have simply signed someone else next year. Still despite the cost being high on a per year basis there is a pretty big differential in the Seahawks favor between scenario 1 and scenario 2- $23,549,708. That really should be factored into the trade.

How to value that saved money?

This is a tricky question because there is entirely up them to pick and choose how to use it. In scenario 1 the Seahawks receive 16 players years compared to just 9 in scenario 2. So they have 7 player years to replace, an average of $3.364M per player-year. One way to look at this is that the team will just sign two veterans in 2021 to a $3.3M contract. While the value of that $3.3M is dependent on what position is signed for the sake of argument I would say that the value, based on the research Brad and I did, likely equates to having two 3rd round draft picks.

A second option would be to buy three “cheap” veteran years where the cost would average around $1.1 million per year and then have all the remaining years to spend on a pricier veteran. That would work out to be around $5 million per year. Again the value of that free agent will depend on the position he plays, but in general the $5M number would be the equivalent of what would be the expected return on a mid 2nd round pick and the $1.1M would be a 7th rounder.

So how should we look at the trade?

I think the first step is to use those draft values I mentioned above and rewrite it as follows.

Seattle gave up a year of McDougald, 4 years of a Justin Simmons type free agent, 4 years of a late 1st round pick, 3 years of another 1st round pick, and 4 years of a 3rd round pick and in return will receive 5 years of Jamal Adams, 4 years of a 4th round pick, and either two 3rd round selections or a 2nd round selection and a 7th round selection. That doesn’t sound good but not horrific.

Let’s put these into value terms. First we start with the easier situation with is scenario 2 since these are basically all vet signings.

PlayerYearsExpected ReturnActual Cost
Jamal Adams5$85,000,000$64,450,000
Pick 115 (2021)4$11,600,000$4,100,000
Vet FA (2021)4$20,000,000$20,000,000
Vet FA (2022)3$3,300,000$3,300,000
Total Return16$119,900,000$91,850,000

Seattle’s big benefit in the trade is $85M in value for Jamal Adams at a cost of $64.45M. It’s a return of about $1.3 for every dollar spent.

What gets harder with the draft selections is positional valuation. There cost is the same regardless of what position you draft but the return is far greater for an edge rusher than a running back. In the first scenario lets say they spend them on a position that averages $15M a year. Here is that return

PlayerYearsExpected ReturnCost
FA Safety4$60,000,000$60,000,000
Pick 26 (2021)4$26,400,000$12,400,000
Pick 19 (2022)3$22,200,000$11,000,000
Pick 90 (2021)4$14,000,000$4,600,000
Total Return16$127,100,000$92,100,000

Our return here is only slightly worse than keeping the picks and going the free agency route. If you get into the time value of the draft pick contributions, not having a top tier safety in 2020, and wanting to be risk averse with veterans vs rookies I think you can easily argue this is a fair trade from the Seahawk perspective. Maybe a little more in favor of not doing the trade but not so bad that you don’t do it at all especially because the value differential in 2020 is gigantic ($17M in expected value for Adams vs $4.5M for McDougald). The head coach is old, the QB is in his prime, etc…its worth it to have more value in 20 and 21 than 20 through 24.

But what if those picks are spent on what are more premier positions in the NFL?  Lets bump the average to $20M a year and spend them on pass rushers, left tackles, etc… instead of the lower cost spots.

PlayerYearsExpected ReturnCost
FA Safety4$60,000,000$60,000,000
Pick 26 (2021)4$35,200,000$12,400,000
Pick 19 (2022)3$29,400,000$11,000,000
Pick 90 (2021)4$14,000,000$4,600,000
Total Return16$143,100,000$92,100,000

This becomes lopsided in favor of not making the trade. You will gain over $23M more in value with that strategy and I think that far outweighs the $13M perceived benefit of Adams over McDougald for a year. This is also one of the reasons why if you are the New York Jets it is very important to use your draft picks on important positions and not replaceable ones because if you don’t you lose a big advantage of the trade. Maybe Seattle’s draft history would not make them consider the scenario like this but it should be a factor for most teams.


The only justification we can make for the trade is that Adams is so much better than McDougald that for Adams makes the difference between being a wildcard team and being a division winner who makes it to the at least the NFC title game in 2020. After that it would be a big loser especially for a solid organization making optimum draft decisions. The return post 2020 is really lopsided unless you feel that a player like Simmons will be grossly overpaid and Adams underpaid (even at $17M a year) to claim a better end result. It is the classic case of how much do you discount the performance of future picks on your team but it would have to be a lot to say this is the best path for the team.

It is important to note that the trade might look different if safeties were not available in free agency. Adams is better than Simmons, Anthony Harris and so on. But the difference is nowhere near as big, IMO, of Khalil Mack vs Trey Flowers, players who play a position where there are not many free agents available. That difference in performance gap between two players like that would bring the expected numbers, even with an optimized draft strategy, closer.