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Making cents of the Jamal Adams trade

Breaking down the financial impact of acquiring Jamal Adams.

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New York Giants v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

I have an Accounting degree, an innate passion for contracts, an inquisitive mind, and a seriously warped view of the world.

So, while a lot of y’all have been debating about whether or not Jamal Adams is worth what Seattle gave up to get him, I’ve been wondering about something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

In two sentences or less, what I have been thinking about is this:

Cash. Flow.

Expanding on that a little bit:

  • How much more (or less) did Jamal Adams cost the team in 2020 than they would have spent had they not acquired him?; and
  • How much more (or less) will the team spend in 2021 than they would have spent if they had not acquired him?

Anyone have a guess?

As usual, this article is quite long (~2,500 words) and has a lot of information that some of you may find interesting or useful or maybe even both interesting and useful.

But, in a break from my usual approach, I’m going to give you the punchline early and then let you decide if you want to read the rest of the article or not.

Ready?

Here it is . . .

$83,018

No, I didn’t forget any zeroes or any commas.

Eighty-three thousand eighteen dollars and zero cents.

That is the exact dollar difference - from a cash flow perspective - for the 2020 and 2021 seasons - between Seattle trading for Jamal Adams last offseason or not trading for Jamal Adams last offseason.

Eighty-three thousand . . . and change.

Intrigued?



First, let’s revisit “The Trade

Just to refresh everyone’s memory - and to define which parts of the trade are “relevant” for this article . . .

New York gets (got):

  • Seattle’s 2021 first-round draft pick
  • Seattle’s 2021 third-round pick
  • Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick
  • Safety Bradley McDougald

Seattle gets (got):

  • Safety Jamal Adams
  • New York’s 2022 fourth-round draft pick

The pieces of that trade that are relevant for this article:

  • Jamal Adams
  • Bradley McDougald
  • The 2021 first-round draft pick (#23 overall)
  • The 2022 third-round draft pick (#86 overall)

The pieces of the trade that are NOT relevant for this article:

  • The 2022 first-round draft pick that Seattle sent to the Jets
  • The 2022 fourth-round draft pick that the Jets sent to Seattle

NOTE: Both of these draft picks clearly are relevant and both clearly impact how people feel about the trade (the 1st round pick more than the 4th round pick, obviously). But both are also huge UNKNOWNS right now so they’re excluded from the analysis.


Some assumptions

For the purposes of this article, it is assumed that:

One: Seattle’s front office felt that the cost of acquiring Jamal Adams from a draft capital and from a roster perspective was worth it - i.e. that trading 2 R1s, an R3, and a player for a player and an R4 was something that they were comfortable doing.

Two: Had Seattle not traded for Jamal Adams, the incumbent starter, Bradley McDougald, would have been the presumptive starter in 2020.

Three: While both Ryan Neal and Marquis Blair are potentially very good players, neither is likely to have supplanted Bradley McDougald as the starter at the beginning of the 2020 season (i.e. Week One) - especially without the benefit of a “normal” offseason and preseason schedule.

Four: Had he not been included in the trade, Bradley McDougald would have either (a) failed to make the final roster; or (b) been a very expensive backup for Messrs. Adams and Diggs.


Comparing performance

While player performance is not the point of this article, ignoring it completely seems like it would be disingenuous, so let’s dive into a few numbers in a somewhat superficial way.

Without revealing actual grades / scores / whatever, because it’s my understanding that we’re not supposed to, PFF ranked Jamal Adams #53 out of 94 safeties in 2020.

That’s not great.

It is better than 91st though - which is where Bradley McDougald ranked last year.

. . .

There’s a common refrain among some about Adams being bad in coverage - and it’s true; or at least it was last year. Out of 94 safeties, Adams ranked 79th.

You don’t really need me to say it though, do you?

McDougald was 87th.

. . .

On a positive note, Bradley McDougald’s was the 39th ranked safety in terms of pass rushing.

Yay, B.M.! (woot woot)

. . .

Adams was #3.

. . .

My point, of course, is that while it’s “fair” to complain about Jamal’s performance in 2020 - and it IS fair - the alternative (i.e. Bradley McDougald) was categorically worse across the board.

Per PFF, 9.7 points separated the two in coverage grades last year. The difference was 13.4 points for rush defense grades, 22.2 points for pass rush grades, and 21.7 points overall.

But . . .

I did say that it was “fair” to complain about Jamal’s performance in 2020. And here’s why - again without revealing actual scores.

NOTE: What follows are his average scores, not his overall scores. (I am assuming that using PFF’s data doesn’t actually disallow me from doing my own math.)

Across 5 categories, PFF gave Adams an average score of 66.50 his rookie year (2017). That increased to 85.26 in 2018 and to 86.74 in 2019.

In 2020, his average score across those 5 categories was 63.84.

So, yes, it’s “fair” to complain about his performance.

And, yes, he was on a new team, learning a new system, without the benefit of a “normal” offseason, and he played with and through a lot of injuries in 2020.

Still . . .

An average score lower than his rookie season and 20-ish points lower than the previous 2 seasons was not what anyone expected when Seattle made this trade.


Another quick comparison

There is (understandably) some debate about the validity and/or methodology of PFF’s grades and not everyone is a “fan” of their proprietary (and subscription-based) system.

Therefore, we will also look at some publicly available 2020 statistics for Messrs. Adams and McDougald . . .

Games Played / Started:

  • 12 for Adams + 1 playoff game (all starts)
  • 7 for McDougald (all starts)

Sacks:

  • 9.5 for Adams - an NFL record for a defensive back
  • 0 for McDougald - although, to be fair, this isn’t something he’s ever been asked to do (as evidenced by the fact that he has a total of 0.5 sacks in his 8-year career)

Pressures:

  • 34 for Adams
  • 1 for McDougald

Receptions / Targets / Completion Percentage Allowed:

  • Adams: 41 completions on 54 targets; 75.9%
  • McDougald: 13 completions on 16 targets; 81.3%

Again it is clear that Bradley McDougald was categorically worse across the board in 2020 than Jamal Adams was.


A few thoughts about draft picks

  1. The draft is a crapshoot.
  2. Player acquisition via the draft is the lifeblood of a team.
  3. Draft picks are both over-rated and under-valued - and often simultaneously.
  4. The Seahawks are (better than / worse than / the same as) other teams when it comes to success in the draft. (circle one)

Whatever your own views are on draft picks and no matter how you feel about the Seahawks success (or lack thereof) in the draft, here is something that cannot be disputed:

No player that will be picked in the 2021 draft played a single down in the NFL last season.

Let that sink in for a minute.

If Jamal Adams retired tomorrow, he would do so knowing that he contributed more to the 2020 Seahawks season than all of the picks that Seattle gave up for him.

Anything beyond that is speculation.

Or, if we’re doing it in the future, hindsight.

No one knows (or ever will know) who Seattle would have selected with the 23rd pick or the 86th pick in this year’s draft - or with whatever pick(s) they ended up with after moving down (or up) in the draft.

And no one knows (or will ever know) if those players would have ended up being All-Pros or complete busts or anything in between.

And even if we did . . .

The draft is a crapshoot . . . and the lifeblood of a team . . . and picks are both over-rated and undervalued - often simultaneously.

Oh, and environment has an impact on everything.

As but one example, if Robert Griffin III hadn’t been drafted by Washington then he wouldn’t have been playing in the playoff game against the Seahawks where he got hurt and his career may have never gone off track.

Or, looking at it a slightly different way, if Seattle had drafted RG3 instead of RW3, maybe he (RG3) would be talked about the same way Russell Wilson is.

There’s really no way to know.



Dollars and Cents

This is where the pencil hits the ledger . . .



2020 Cash Flow

Remember the stats I shared earlier?

Remember how much they favored Jamal Adams over Bradley McDougald?

Who do you think got paid more last year?

Answer: NOT Mr. Adams.

FACT: During the 2020 season, the Jets paid Bradley McDougald MORE than Seattle paid Jamal Adams. $478,458 more, to be exact.

There are reasons for that, of course.

Chief among those reasons is the rookie pay scale and the fact that it limits pay with almost no consideration for performance or positional value in relation to draft position. (which is a pet peeve of mine)

Those reasons are largely immaterial in relation to this article though so let’s just look at the actual numbers . . .

  • Jamal Adams, 2020 season: $825,000 base salary + $2,765,292 roster bonus = a total of $3,590,292 paid to Mr. Adams in 2020.

  • Bradley McDougald, 2020 season: $3,600,000 base salary + $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses = $4,100,000 . . . but . . . not all of the per-game roster bonuses were paid and his final cap number / amount earned in 2020 was $4,068,750.

  • $4,068,750 (McDougald) minus $3,590,292 (Adams) equals $478,458.

Also . . .

The Jets took a $3,582,056 dead money cap hit from the Adams trade while Seattle’s dead money hit for McDougald was “only” $1,333,334.

Yep, we “won” there too.

WORTH NOTING: Bradley McDougald is currently a free agent so this is where the comparison between Messrs. McDougald and Adams ends.


What about 2021?

Sure, Adams was a bargain - relatively speaking - in the 4th year of his rookie contract, but his 5th-year option is going to cost Seattle $9.86M in 2021.

$9.86 million is more than double what McDougald would have cost and nearly 3x what Adams made in 2020.

And yet, from a cash flow perspective . . . is it really that bad?

To answer that question, we have to consider the costs associated with the draft capital that Seattle gave up.

The 2021 costs.

And, yes, the distinction is important.


R1.23

If the Seahawks still had their 1st round draft pick in 2021 - and if Seattle made a selection at #23 - it would cost the team $7,726,308 this year.

Because the signing bonus is prorated over 4 seasons, the 2021 cap hit is lower, but the actual CASH FLOW for pick #23 is $7,726,308 in 2021.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Once a draftee signs their contract, the signing bonus is considered money earned and, except in specific circumstances, cannot be recovered by the team even if the draftee never takes the field for them.

Overall, pick #23 in the 2021 draft will cost $13,346,172 over the next 4 years (assuming they’re in the league that long and play out their original contract).

Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of OverTheCap and their “Draft Resources” page:

  • Signing bonus: $7,066,308; prorated at $1,766,577 per year for 4 years
  • 2021: $660,000 base salary + prorated bonus = cap hit of $2,426,577
  • 2022: $1,266,644 base + prorated bonus = $3,033,221 cap hit
  • 2023: $1,873,288 base + bonus = $3,639,865 cap hit
  • 2024: $2,479,932 base salary + prorated bonus = cap hit of $4,246,509
  • 2025: 5th year option, TBD

Again though, it’s the 2021 cash flow that we’re looking at and that number is $7,726,308.


R3.22 (#86 overall)

If the Seahawks still had their 3rd round selection - and made the pick at #86 - it would cost the team $1,572,216 in 2021 and a total of $4,884,300 over the next 4 years.

The breakdown:

  • Signing bonus: $912,216, prorated at $228,054 per year for 4 years
  • 2021: $660,000 base + prorated bonus = cap hit of $888,054
  • 2022: $882,014 base + prorated bonus = $1,110,068 cap hit
  • 2023: $1,104,028 base + bonus = $1,332,082 cap hit
  • 2024: $1,326,042 base salary + prorated bonus = cap hit of $1,554,096
  • 2025: No 5th-year option

The 2021 cap hit for pick #86 is only $888,054, but the 2021 cash flow is almost double that: $1,572,216.


Adding it all up

As we know from earlier, Jamal Adams actually saved Seattle $478,458 in 2020. But how does the cash flow for him look in 2021 compared to the two 2021 draft picks the team gave up to get him?

Barring an extension (or trade), Jamal Adams will cost Seattle $9,860,000 this year.

R1.23 would cost Seattle $7,726,308.

R3.22 (#86 overall) would cost Seattle $1,572,216.

$7,826,308 + $1,572,216 = $9,298,524

$9,298,524 is less than $9,860,000 . . . but not by much; by only $561,476 to be exact.


And now for the fun part . . .

The part that y’all have been waiting for . . .

(or would have been if I hadn’t given you the info at the beginning of the article) . . .

$83,018

Eighty-three thousand eighteen dollars.

That’s it.

For the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the difference between Seattle acquiring Jamal Adams or NOT acquiring Jamal Adams is a mere $83,018.*

. . . * Assuming nothing changes, and based on cash flow (not cap hit).



Random closing thoughts

There are a lot of things this article doesn’t address. For example:

Sunk cost

- i.e. we’ve already made the trade and we can’t undo it, but that shouldn’t affect what the team decides to do going forward.

Opportunity cost

- i.e. what did Seattle give up by making this trade / what could they have done instead?

Options regarding Adams going forward

- i.e. trading him this offseason OR signing him to a record-setting contract OR signing him to a top-of-the-market (but not record-setting) contract OR having him play this season on the 5th-year option and a season (or two - or maybe even three) on the franchise tag OR tagging him next year (or one of the subsequent years) and then trading him OR just letting him leave in free agency and taking the R3 compensatory pick OR . . . whatever other options you can come up with (cuz I’m sure I missed at least one).

The value of multiple players instead of “just” one player

- i.e. would Seattle have been better off with McDougald + the 2 players they could have drafted this year + the 1 player they could have drafted next year (+ any additional players they got from trading back with those picks)?

2022, 2023, 2024, etc.

- i.e. the fact that we would have the players we drafted beyond this season whereas that may not be the case with Adams and/or the fact that the cash flow #s will be very different if/when Adams signs a new contract.

Coaching, scheme, and the wisdom of making choices regarding coaching and scheme based on the unique skills and strengths of your players . . .

And anything even remotely related to that.


I also left out - until now - what I consider to be the most compelling reason to believe that Seattle made the right decision in trading for Jamal Adams and/or to believe that it is in the team’s best interest to PAY THE MAN . . .

NOTE: My apologies to whoever originally posted this in the Comments section of a different article; more than one article, in fact - I spent well over an hour looking for the comment so I could give proper credit and came up short. This fact is what I’m closing this article with though and credit goes to YOU - whoever you are.

The complete list of NFL safeties who have earned All-Pro honors in three of their first four years in the league:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Jamal Adams