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Allowing Jamal Adams to play out 2020 on his rookie deal comes with risk

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The driving force behind Jamal Adams’ wish to get out of New York, reportedly, was his desire for an extension on his rookie contract. Understandably so, as he was extension-eligible following three excellent seasons to begin his career.

When Adams got his first wish, a Saturday trade from the Jets to the Seahawks, the next question was about whether an extension was to follow—and for how much. That question was answered by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, who reported Monday that Seattle and Adams had agreed the safety would play out the 2020 season on his existing deal, before entering the final year of his contract in 2021.

In the short-term, the Seahawks will maintain flexibility with Adams remaining on his rookie deal at a modest $3.59 million cap hit. In the long-term, however, Adams is only going to get more expensive.

In recent history, we have seen star players acquired by trade use the considerable leverage they have to their advantage.

In 2018, Khalil Mack was acquired by the Bears in exchange for a package of picks including two first-round selections. He was extended at a number that made him the highest-paid EDGE, exceeding the previous high by an AAV of $4.5 million.

Similarly, Laremy Tunsil—acquired for two first-round picks last summer—became the highest-paid tackle in the NFL in April, topping Lane Johnson’s previous high by $4 million.

Though Jalen Ramsey, brought into L.A. in exchange for two firsts, is yet to sign his extension, Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters this offseason that Ramsey is the type of player who would “re-set the cornerback market.” Though Ramsey is an incredible player, he is simply the latest in a line of star players acquired by trade using their leverage to land record-setting deals.

Adams, just like Mack and Ramsey, is among the best at his position. He will receive his top-of-the-position contract, without a doubt. Hell, he could miss the 2020 season and still receive it. But the team’s decision to wait is where it could get (even more) costly.

After the 2020 season, Adams won’t be alone as a safety negotiating a new contract. In fact, almost every single elite safety will either be hitting unrestricted free agency or becoming eligible for an extension. Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons, both franchise tagged for 2020, will be headed towards the open market—along with Budda Baker and Marcus Williams. Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, will both be up for an extension on their rookie deals.

So, while the ceiling of safety pay sits at an AAV of $14.6 million (Eddie Jackson) as of now, it could quite possibly have been reset four or five times by the time Adams and Seattle reach an extension pact. What could have been say, $16 million per year, on an extension now, could be $18 million per year this time next year. Or $20 million. Adams will reset the top of his position, regardless of when he signs or what the current going rate is. He has the perfect combination of leverage and talent, and his new deal will reflect just that.

Ultimately, wherever the deal lands, Adams will prove worth it. A foundational player on and off the field, only disaster could make a long-term deal for Adams regrettable. By waiting, however, the Seahawks are allowing the eventual price to rise in exchange for short-term gain. Though the flexibility they have as a result remains limited, Seattle would be wise to utilize that added flexibility and add another impact player. Otherwise, the short-term savings will have been for naught.