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The holdup in the negotiations between Jamal Adams and the Seahawks

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

It has been more than a year since the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets agreed to a blockbuster for Jamal Adams in exchange for a boatload of draft capital. However, even though Adams has been on the Seattle roster for more than a year, and after having set the NFL record for sacks by a safety while playing only 12 games, Adams is still unsigned past the 2021 season.

Tuesday the Seattle Times provided an update on the status of the negotiations between the Seahawks and Adams, and in what comes as no surprise to regular readers of Field Gulls, the contract talks have

“stalled over contract structure and guaranteed money.”

For those too lazy to click through and read what Field Gulls predicted would be the holdup in the negotiations for any contract extension for Adams, here’s what was written on June 7:

the Seahawks do not hesitate to put fully guaranteed money in the first year of a contract, rarely do they provide full guarantees for the second year of a contract at signing and since 2013 they have basically avoided providing fully guaranteed money past the second year of a contract.

And so now the negotiations between Adams and the team have apparently reached the point of hitting that predictable snag. To illustrate exactly what this snag is, it is necessary to first understand what the objectives of Adams likely are in landing a new contract, and that is to be recognized and respected as the best at his position. That translates to the following goals being likely in the negotiation process:

  • Highest paid safety in NFL (currently Justin Simmons at $15.25M per year)
  • Most new money guaranteed at signing (currently Landon Collins at $44.5M)
  • Most new money fully guaranteed at signing (currently Justin Simmons at $32.1M)

So, here’s a quick illustration of the difficulty in hitting all of those while keeping the contractual precedents the Seahawks have set regarding fully guaranteed money and making Adams happy not just in 2021, but into the future as well. Specifically, for this example, assume the team offers Adams a four-year, $64M contract extension with $45M guaranteed and $33M fully guaranteed at signing. That meets all of Adams requirements, and the total amount of guaranteed money is not completely negligible, but it’s a lot less of a headache than the $33M fully guaranteed at signing.

Diving directly into the core issue on which the negotiations are likely held up, here it is: Seattle does not fully guarantee money past the second year after signing. That means the $33M in fully guaranteed money must be paid in 2021 and 2022, leaving just $31M to be paid out over the final three years of the contract. To illustrate this in table format, here is what this looks like in a format similar to that seen on OverTheCap.com.

Structure of a four-year, $64M contract extension for Jamal Adams

4-year, $64M Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Cash Flow Cap Hit
4-year, $64M Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Cash Flow Cap Hit
2021 $9,860,000 $4,000,000 $29,860,000 $13,860,000
2022 $13,000,000 $4,000,000 $13,000,000 $17,000,000
2023 $10,333,000 $4,000,000 $10,333,000 $14,333,000
2024 $10,333,000 $4,000,000 $10,333,000 $14,333,000
2025 $10,334,000 $4,000,000 $10,334,000 $14,334,000

The thing is, Adams is negotiating from a position of strength because his $9.86M 2021 base salary is already fully guaranteed, so when calculating the value of the extension it isn’t included in the new money. That’s effectively a $9.86M wrench thrown into things.

For this example a $20M signing bonus and a $13M fully guaranteed 2022 salary were used to satisfy the requirements of the $33M in fully guaranteed new money. Those numbers can be moved around or adjusted in any way that keeps the total at $33M, however, the issue is that no matter how those combinations are changes or adjusted, it leaves just $31M to be paid out over the final three years of the contract. (Author’s note: The fact that the $9.86M 2021 base salary is already fully guaranteed means that the team basically needs to squeeze $42.86M into the first two years of the contract to maintain precedent and give Adams the most new full guarantees for a safety.) That $31M over three years is just $10.33M per year on average, and the issue with that is that this is where that level of base salary ranks in terms of cash flow for the 2023 through 2025 seasons:

  • 2023: Sixth highest
  • 2024: Sixth highest
  • 2025: There are no safeties currently under contract for the 2025 NFL season per OTC

Thus, to meet the fully guaranteed salary requirements of Adams demands even with a top of market contract that meets Seattle precedent requires giving Adams a contract that isn’t even in the top five in terms of salary or cash flow after the first year of the extension. That’s not something that is likely to make Adams happy, and that’s before any new contracts for young safeties like Derwin James, Jabrill Peppers or Minkah Fitzpatrick could influence the top of the market in the coming years.

What this all boils down to at the end of the day is that if Adams signed that contract there’s a decent chance the team could be looking at a Xavien Howard (or Kam Chancellor or Michael Bennett) type situation where the player is unhappy with their contract before even playing into the heart of the deal.

To play around with some numbers to show where Adams’ leverage comes from, here are a few more proposed contracts with more money added into the latter years and where they would rank in terms of 2023 and 2024 cash flow relative to other safety contracts.

Proposed Jamal Adams four-year, $70M contract

4-year, $70M Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Cash Flow Cap Hit
4-year, $70M Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Cash Flow Cap Hit
2021 $9,860,000 $4,000,000 $29,860,000 $13,860,000
2022 $13,000,000 $4,000,000 $13,000,000 $17,000,000
2023 $12,333,000 $4,000,000 $12,333,000 $16,333,000
2024 $12,333,000 $4,000,000 $12,333,000 $16,333,000
2025 $12,334,000 $4,000,000 $12,334,000 $16,334,000

Increasing base salaries in the latter years of the contract would obviously be welcome to Adams, but even this contract comes up short when comparing cash flows to other safeties. Specifically, here is where such a contract would rank in terms of 2023 and 2024 cash flows:

  • 2023: Sixth
  • 2024: Sixth

So, adding $6M to the final three years of the contract didn’t really move the needle when it comes to cash flows in latter years. That means more is likely still needed. Bumping the contract another $6M to four years and $76M yields something that looks like this.

Proposed four-year, $76M contract for Jamal Adams

4-year, $76M Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Cash Flow Cap Hit
4-year, $76M Base Salary Signing Bonus Proration Cash Flow Cap Hit
2021 $9,860,000 $4,000,000 $29,860,000 $13,860,000
2022 $13,000,000 $4,000,000 $13,000,000 $17,000,000
2023 $14,333,000 $4,000,000 $14,333,000 $18,333,000
2024 $14,333,000 $4,000,000 $14,333,000 $18,333,000
2025 $14,333,000 $4,000,000 $14,333,000 $18,333,000

As for where this proposed contract would put Adams in terms of latter year cash flow, it would be as follows.

  • 2023: Second
  • 2024: Second

That means that it’s at least in the ballpark in terms of a contract that would maintain the team’s precedents in regards to full guarantees while offering enough cash flow to keep Adams from holding another holdin at some point in future seasons.

From that flows the obvious question of how palatable a $19M a year contract is for everyone involved.