Jamal Adams wants out.
This much is clear: the former sixth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is done playing for the New York Jets. Adams, a two-time Pro Bowler and 2019 first-team All-Pro safety, is looking for a change of scenery and in all likelihood a new contract. In three years, Adams has racked up a pair of interceptions, 25 pass breakups, six forced fumbles, and a whopping 12 sacks, including 6.5 last season alone.
While getting press largely as a strong safety, Adams is no slouch in coverage. According to Pro Football Reference, he has allowed almost identical passer ratings in his last two years, hovering within a few tenths of a point around the 75 mark. that came with differing levels of success, with fewer touchdowns allowed but more yardage in 2018 than in 2019, but he remains clearly a quality pass defender. His plus blitzing ability — he led all defensive backs in quarterback pressures a year ago with 16, according to Football Outsiders — only adds to the intrigue that he could bring to a defense.
So with little else of substance going on around the NFL, let’s brainstorm about what Adams might bring to the Green Bay Packers’ defense before discussing why it is unlikely that the Packers make a strong overture to acquire him.
Let’s face it: Mike Pettine loves putting three safeties on the field at once. The versatility of a safety is obvious — those players can typically play multiple roles, from covering the deep third or half of the field to providing run support in the box to covering receivers in the slot to playing a de facto linebacker position. Not every safety can execute in all of those roles equally well, but the position group is asked to do all of those things at one time or another, so having more good players there is never a bad thing.
Adams, who is listed as a strong safety, can play all of those roles tremendously well, aside from perhaps the slot position where he might be merely solid. He is excellent in run support, and between that and his blitzing ability, he would be a logical candidate for the Packers’ dime linebacker position. That especially makes sense given his size at 6-foot-1 and about 215 pounds. Imagine Adams manning the role that often went to Raven Greene and Ibraheim Campbell a year ago. That would be a massive upgrade in talent level, with no disrespect intended to those other players.
But Adams would hardly need to be a one-trick pony. He could also line up as a conventional safety, perhaps paired with Adrian Amos. That would allow Pettine to move second-year pro Darnell Savage into the slot, where his speed and quickness make him a good candidate to cover slot receivers. Moreover, the interchangeability of these players would allow Pettine added flexibility to disguise the roles for each of the three players from play-to-play and even pre-snap, throwing multiple looks at opposing quarterbacks.
What would it take?
Now that we have the fun ideas spinning, let’s look at the investment it would require to acquire Adams, which will all but assure that the Packers do not acquire him.
To start, Adams has a limited list of teams to which he would accept a trade with no changes to his contract. He is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, and the Jets exercised their team option for a fifth year in 2021. Based on Adams’ status as the sixth overall pick, that is scheduled to pay him $9.86 million in 2021.
The Packers are not on the eight-team list, which consists of six playoff teams plus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (for whom Adams’ former head coach Todd Bowles is defensive coordinator) and the Dallas Cowboys, Adams’ apparent first choice. As a result, the team would presumably need to work out a new contract extension with Adams prior to the trade. Any new deal for Adams would surely come with a demand that he become the highest-paid safety in the NFL, likely leading to a price tag of around $15 million per year in addition to whatever compensation it would take to pry him away from the Jets.
The Packers would need to backload a contract significantly to get Adams in the building, especially given the team’s modest amount of cap space in 2020 and big deals necessary for players like Kenny Clark and David Bakhtiari, who will be free agents in 2021.
As for draft pick consideration, let’s start by looking at the Eagles’ trade for Darius Slay earlier this offseason. They traded third- and fifth-round picks to the Lions for Slay, another former All-Pro who plays a more premium position at cornerback, and gave Slay a new deal. Knowing that Adams plays a less-critical position but is nearly five years younger than Slay, the Jets might hold out for more. Let’s ballpark it at a second-round pick and move on — after all, the extension will probably be the bigger roadblock anyway.
The odds of Adams wearing Green and Gold in 2020 are astronomically low. But it sure would be fun to imagine how Mike Pettine would use him.