Jamal Adams was furious back in October when his name surfaced in trade talks, and livid at the Jets for even listening to offers. A peace was brokered after CEO Christopher Johnson made it clear he wanted Adams to be a "Jet for Life."
But it's clear now that the peace won't last.
That's a problem for the Jets, because it guarantees their emotional leader is about to become the one thing they were hoping he wouldn't be: A distraction. There's almost no way around that now, after ESPN reported that the 24-year-old safety plans to skip the Jets' virtual offseason program. The insinuation was that he's not showing up because the Jets haven't actively worked on a long-term contract extension as quickly as he wanted.
And from multiple team sources, that contract isn't likely to come any time soon, so any distraction could potentially be long-term.
In other words: Strap in, because next week could be especially interesting. It was curious, to say the least, that the leak came 10 days before the Jets' offseason program is set to begin (April 27) and in plenty of time to stir up some juicy draft-day rumors. It's really interesting when you consider where that leak could have come from. If it came from the Jets, it could be interpreted as them trying to drum up some interest in Adams on the trade market. If it came from Adams or his camp, it could be interpreted as him pushing them towards a trade.
Regardless, Adams and his future with the Jets is going to be a story from now up to, and possibly through, the first round on Thursday. After all, it was only six months ago that the Dallas Cowboys were furiously trying to trade for Adams at the trading deadline, though they were never able or willing to meet the Jets' price of a first-round pick, plus a lot more.
Would they do it now? It's certainly an open question. The Cowboys have the 18th overall pick in the first round and many believe they'll consider taking a safety. They did sign one in free agency - Ha-Ha Clinton Dix - but the one-year, $4 million deal they gave him likely didn't quash their desire for a player like Adams.
It's all speculation at the moment, of course, but this is the kind of nonsense the Jets had hoped to avoid. And now they can't. GM Joe Douglas is going to get asked about Adams' future and his happiness and his potential to be a distraction probably in the first five minutes of his conference call with the media on Monday. And there'll be a story about it somewhere every day up to and through the draft.
And whenever players are able to actually return to work, in person, Adam Gase and Adams and … well, everyone else is going to have to deal with questions about it, too.
Which brings up this important question: Why? Yes, in such a violent sport when careers are so short, players should absolutely try and get as much money as they can, whenever they can. But the reality is that Adams has no leverage at the moment. He's signed through the end of this season. Then by May 4, the Jets will pick up the fifth-year option on his contract, essentially extending him through 2021. And in the future they have the option of using the franchise tag on him, possibly twice.
So like it or not, he's under their control until 2022 or 2023.
Is that going to change because Adams won't turn on his iPad for two hours a day with the rest of his teammates over the next two months? Of course not. And now everyone is left to wonder and speculate about whether he'll turn his virtual absence into an actual holdout whenever training camps finally open.
Also, if he doesn't, what will his mood be when he returns? Because it's impossible to forgot how he blew his stack back in October when he learned the Jets listened to teams hoping to acquire him in a trade. He vented first on Twitter. Then he refused to speak to Douglas or coach Adam Gase for days. Then he spoke to the media and admitted he was furious the Jets didn't just slam down the phone, because "The Rams don't take calls on Aaron Donald. The Patriots don't take calls on Tom Brady. That's where I hold myself in that regard."
Sure, distractions can be overblown media-creations sometimes. Adams still played well and the Jets finished strong so it's not like he derailed what was already a lost season. But make no mistake: Coaches and GMs are serious when they talk about team and culture and keeping their business inside the locker room. They don't like it when these things move their message off course.
So the world will watch to see what Douglas' tolerance level is for that, and wonder if he'll be more willing to listen to offers than he was before. And that will go on and on, long after the draft too, unless Adams gets a new contract or gets traded somewhere. The Jets were certainly hoping everyone would be able to quietly and patiently wait for something to happen.
Clearly, though, that isn't part of the plan.