The minute the Seattle Seahawks traded two first-round picks (and more) for Jamal Adams, it was clear that by the time he signed his contract extension he would be the highest-paid safety in the league.
A full year has now come and gone and despite facing plenty of media scrutiny during his first season in blue and green, this still seems like the obvious outcome to his contract situation.
Sure, Adams had his ups and downs in his first season with the Seahawks, but he was an elite blitzer, brought tenacious energy, and combined that with great instincts and sound tackling. He was more or less his New York Jets self (albeit without any interceptions) and was better in coverage than given credit for.
With all of these factors in place, it has become a no-brainer that he’s going to shatter the current safety market. The question has now become: what is that shattering going to look like?
We can look at a few past situations, most notably Jalen Ramsey and Laremy Tunsil—two non-QBs traded for multiple first-round picks—for some insight.
The Ramsey Situation
Signed to a five-year, $105 million deal back in September of last year, Ramsey ended up as the highest-paid corner in the league after his deal, besting Tre'Davious White (who signed a deal just two days earlier) by a healthy margin. After taking away some of the bonuses and other things, Ramsey ended up with a $20 million per year cap average, a healthy 16% above White.
Of course, Adams is unlikely to get quite as much money as Ramsey due to the nature of the cornerback position and the importance attached to it, but using that 16% is a good barometer when trying to compare across positions.
The Tunsil Situation
Like Ramsey, Tunsil didn't get a new deal when he was traded by Miami for two first-rounders, instead using his leverage into getting a healthy raise over the top-paid tackle in the league at the time—Lane Johnson. Getting a whopping three-year, $66 million deal, the $22 million per year raised him over Johnson (roughly $18 million per year) by a massive 22%. To put that in perspective, Trent Williams and David Bakhtiari have overtaken Tunsil’s top spot in the last two years, but only by about 4%.
It was one of the biggest deals ever considering the unprecedented bar it ended up setting, but that’s what happens when you trade major assets for a non-QB and put him in the central position of power. I mean, it also doesn’t help if you’re the Houston Texans, but I digress.
Many factors are going into Adams’ current contract situation. At the end of the day, though, after seeing different situations and knowing what type of leverage he has, I think an 18% raise on the current top safety (Justin Simmons at $15.25 million per year) could be an expected outcome. That would essentially be between Ramsey (16%) and Tunsil (22%)
Putting him at $18 million per year, this is probably close to a best-case scenario for Seattle (depending on term and guarantees), as Adams reportedly wants $20 million per year or more (Seattle has reportedly offered $17 million per year). It’s an outrageous ask for a safety (and would give him an unreal 31% raise on Simmons), but at the same time, it’s an entirely reasonable one given the power the Seahawks handed Adams the moment they traded those two first-round picks.
Interestingly enough, this haggle between the $17-20 million range also puts him right on the cusp of star linebacker Bobby Wagner’s contract ($18 million per year). The rumor is that Seattle is uncomfortable having Adams usurp Wagner as the highest-paid player on the defense (hence their offer being below $18 million per year), but Adams obviously wants to break it.
My best guess is that they work through Adams’ astronomical price and drive it down a bit, but he gets just at or above that $18 million per year mark (breaking Wagner’s deal) on a 4-5 year deal—essentially a classic compromise between the two sides.
Guaranteed money would also be an entirely different discussion—and is probably the main thing holding up these discussions in the first place—but I’d assume he breaks Simmons’ guaranteed mark ($32 million) by about a 20% margin($38 million) as well.
Adams wants to be in Seattle and Seattle wants Adams, so this isn’t one of those classic bad blood stalemates that end in an ugly divorce. And although they now have to work on a new deal for left tackle Duane Brown, Adams still seems like the top priority for the team—even if both sides waiting it out doesn’t make it look that way.
It might go right up until Week 1, but Adams will sign with the Seahawks. Perhaps it’s at a reasonable $17 million per year clip or his huge asking price of $20 million per year. More likely it’s a compromise between both those numbers. But he’ll be rocking the green and blue when the regular season starts.
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