New York Jets safety Jamal Adams, who some media have called a “top five player at any position” which almost certainly isn’t hyperbole, really wants to stop being referred to as a New York Jet. These are not just rumors that Adams wants to leave the Jets. He has publicly let it be known that he won’t play for the team again though I’m sure a lucrative long-term extension would change those feelings.
Is the NFC West back to an “arms race” as was described back in the 2012-2014 era between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks? That’s at least one of the Adams rumors being floated now.
SI’s Grant Cohen says that “well-placed source” DM’d him to say that Adams to the 49ers is “picking up steam,” meaning .... well, it’s pretty vague. Doesn’t mean anything really. It would not be a surprise if San Francisco was having internal discussions about Adams though, or if they had called New York to inquire. They could have gone from no discussions on Monday to some discussions on Tuesday and that could be described as “picking up steam.”
But how realistic is it that the NFC West could be getting a player who, even if he’s not top five overall, is certainly top-five, if not number one, at his own position?
The 49ers ranked number one against the pass last season with Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt at the safety positions. Ward missed three games, Tartt missed four. Backups Marcell Harrris and Tarvarius Moore filled in. Ward just re-signed for three years at $28.5 million and he’s not going anywhere.
This would be a move to upgrade from Tartt, who is entering the final year of a two-year extension he signed back in 2018. For all intents and purposes, Tartt seems to be a good player but one who has yet to play a full season; 12 starts was by far his career-high. Jamal Adams is 24 and he was a first team All-Pro strong safety last season even though he missed two games himself. Adams had 75 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 13 QB hits, two forced fumbles, and a pick-six. He scored two non-offensive touchdowns.
He makes sense for San Francisco and even if they couldn’t rank higher as a pass defense, they could certainly still get better as a defense overall: The Niners were eighth in points allowed and most of that dominance came in the first seven games of the season. From Game 8-Game 16, the 49ers gave up the 10th-most points in the NFL. They gave up 233 points in those nine games as compared to 234 points for the Cincinnati Bengals.
That’s how “dominant” San Francisco was on defense and then in the Super Bowl, they allowed 31. It’s not that the defense is bad but the Niners want to win a championship.
Jamal Adams does make sense. Looking for “steam” to pick up seems to be a normal agenda to John Lynch, who has made high-profile acquisitions like Jimmy Garoppolo, Richard Sherman, Trent Williams, and Dee Ford. Another trade? Sure, why not?
Well, do they have the money?
It would seem that with $15.6 million in 2020 cap space, the answer is yes. San Francisco could acquire him and extend him and that won’t eat up their remaining space. Next year they will have a good chunk of space opening up too and could potentially have a lot if they made any releases, like Garoppolo, Ford, Laken Tomlinson, or Kwon Alexander.
Money is not an issue.
However, what about draft picks? The 49ers should be treated as a team that has the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 draft. I’m not necessarily picking them to win the Super Bowl, but if I was the Jets GM, I’d be asking what that pick is going to be worth and the only smart way to do that (I think) is to treat is as the most reasonably low pick it could be. Which is 32nd.
Jamal Adams is not going to be had for the 32nd pick in the 2021 draft. We don’t even know how the 2021 NFL Draft is supposed to work given the complications right now. Is there going to be a college football season? An NFL season? How will the order work? It’s not an easy time to be trading draft picks.
Adding in Tartt also wouldn’t move the needle much. He may fill in for Adams, but again, this player is older, oft injured, inconsistent, and only has one year left on his deal. If Tartt were traded for a draft pick straight up would it be higher than the fifth round?
Then you might ask about two first round draft picks, same as what the LA Rams sacrificed for Jalen Ramsey. Well, Ramsey was being acquired for one and a half seasons at whatever he would be getting paid and he seems fine to not holdout. The expectation is still that he’ll be extended. Adams wants the extension now. Even if they are both elite secondary players, I imagine that teams are not going to sacrifice as much knowing that they won’t be getting him at his rookie contract only.
They’ll have to give him a bunch of money upfront (which is fine for him to ask for, but does create a complication) and that changes his trade value somewhat.
Overall, I would think that the 49ers may have to overpay for Adams and if you overpay for anything, but definition, you didn’t improve. However, the 49ers with Jamal Adams in 2020 would certainly be a more formidable foe than the version with Jaquiski Tartt. Whether that pays off in the form of winning the NFC West and the Super Bowl and doesn’t hurt them long term by burning resources would remain to be seen.
Any actual Adams news may not be seen for a long time either.