Three months after the Jets seriously considered trading Jamal Adams and angered him along the way, it looks like the two sides have rebuilt the bridge between them. A new contract could even be coming soon.
The 24-year old Adams said as much on Wednesday when speaking to reporters in Miami, site of Super Bowl LIV. He said his agent and the Jets have had preliminary discussions and added, "I'd be lying if I said I don't expect to be extended." He did say, though, that the talks have included "no numbers yet," though they've surely discussed some parameters.
The numbers, of course, are everything if the Jets and Adams are going to strike a deal.
And those numbers are going to be very large.
How large? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. The NFL's highest paid safety is technically Chicago's Eddie Jackson, who signed a four-year, $58.4 million contract extension back on Jan. 3. The new money in the deal averages out to $14.6 million per year, an NFL high for his position. That figures to be the starting point whenever numbers are discussed between Adams and the Jets.
But the real bar for safeties is the massive, six-year, $84 million contract Landon Collins signed with the Redskins last offseason, which includes $44.5 million guaranteed. Collins was a year further along in his career at that time than Adams is now, but their credentials are remarkably similar.
They each had made the Pro Bowl in all but their rookie season. They both had been a First-Team All-Pro. Collins had more interceptions. Adams had more sacks. But both were popular, impact players who were leaders on their teams.
Now, Adams did say, "I'm not trying to be paid just to be the highest-paid whatever," but of course that's what he's eyeing. That was pretty clear when he added, "I'm trying to get paid for my status and what I've done." Adams believes he's "the best safety doing it right now" in the NFL -- he has a good case -- and both he and his representatives at Universal Sports & Entertainment Management are going to want him to be paid like he is.
"He will be," said one NFL agent. "Whether it's the Jets or somebody else, he's going to top Collins' deal before this is over."
One reason for the certainty is that there is a new labor deal and new TV contracts on the horizon for the NFL. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of this season, and a new one is already being negotiated. Especially if it includes 17 games, as many believe, it will likely mean more revenue (and more salary cap space) for the players.
Also, the NFL's current TV deals with CBS, NBC and Fox all reportedly expire at the end of 2022, which could be factored in to the new CBA. Teams are certain that the salary cap, which is already at $196.8 million for 2020, is likely going to rise very quickly in the next few years.
Still, will the Jets be willing to give Adams, say, $15 million per year over five years with $45 million guaranteed? That would seem to be a likely target. And that's the dilemma for GM Joe Douglas. The Jets do have the cap room to do it now, with likely at least $65 million to spend this offseason. But they also have leverage and time on their side.
Adams is due to earn about $3.5 million in 2020, the fourth year of his rookie contract. In May, the Jets will surely pick up his fifth-year option for 2021 at a likely cost of about $12 million. And they'll still have the option to use the franchise tag on him in 2022 if they want.
The only leverage Adams has would be to cause trouble, to hold out from the offseason program or mini-camps, or to speak out against the team to try to force their hand. Still, the only pressure for the Jets is that Adams price isn't likely to go down if they wait another year.
Given his value to the team both as a Pro Bowl player and a team leader, as well as his popularity in the locker room and among the fans, the Jets seem likely to give a new contract a try. They'll likely even clear the bar and make him the highest-paid safety, and they probably won't have to clear it by much.
But if Adams is set on being paid like his "status," he likely won't settle for anything less.