Inside the Jamal Adams trade: From ‘Jet for life’ to goner in five months


The phone call from the Seattle Seahawks came several weeks ago. Joe Douglas wasn’t surprised. Everybody in the NFL knew star safety Jamal Adams wanted out, so the New York Jets‘ general manager figured he would receive multiple inquiries. And he did, but the Seahawks were the most aggressive suitor.

The two teams maintained a steady flow of communication. It didn’t take long for the Seahawks to sweeten their initial offer, adding their 2022 first-round pick to the proposed package. Two first-round picks. That piqued Douglas’ interest, but he didn’t jump at the deal. He waited. And waited, still hoping — perhaps naively — the team would reach a truce with the disgruntled Adams.

Know this: Douglas did not want to trade the best player on his team. In April, he said in a radio interview that Adams was a “big reason” he accepted the GM job a year ago. He saw Adams as an elite defensive talent, a foundational player.

So how did Douglas go from “love at first sight” to splitsville in 13 months?


As much as he wanted to retain Adams, Douglas pivoted about a week ago when he concluded the Seahawks’ offer “was one we could not ignore.” The framework was in place before Friday, when Adams unloaded on Douglas and coach Adam Gase in the New York Daily News. The last obstacle — the biggest obstacle — was an agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association on a salary-cap plan to combat the revenue shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That was a concern for the Seahawks, who likely will give Adams a huge contract extension.

The matter was resolved late Friday, clearing the way for one of the biggest trades in Jets history. The scope of the deal raised eyebrows around the league. Believe it or not, it’s actually similar to that of the Khalil Mack blockbuster from 2018 — and Mack is a premier edge rusher. A safety isn’t supposed to fetch as much as a pass-rusher, but consider:

The Jets received 2021 and 2022 first-round picks, a 2021 third-round pick and safety Bradley McDougald. The Jets sent a 2022 fourth-round pick to Seattle with Adams.

At the end of the 2018 preseason, the Las Vegas Raiders recouped a ransom for Mack — 2019 and 2020 first-round picks, a 2020 third-rounder and a 2019 sixth-rounder. They had to send second- and fifth-round picks to the Chicago Bears, so you could make the argument the Jets got more for Adams than the Raiders got for Mack.

“They received a very strong offer,” one AFC personnel executive said of the Jets. “It’ll be tough to replace the talent [Adams], but they couldn’t ignore the building blocks for the future.”



Louis Riddick explains why Jamal Adams might be worth the first-round picks the Seahawks used to acquire him.

That’s why Douglas made the deal — the future. In 2021, the Jets have 10 draft picks, including five in the first three rounds. With four first-round picks over the next two drafts, Douglas has enough flexibility to replenish a talent-starved roster. He also has quarterback insurance. If Sam Darnold doesn’t pan out — the fan base just cringed — he could have the ammunition to trade up for a successor.

Additionally, there’s a huge economic component in play. After projecting what Adams might receive on a long-term extension, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap noted, “The Jets will save about $47 million in cap space for one year of McDougald and 12 combined years of draft selections versus six years of Adams and four years of a fourth-round pick.”

Translation: Douglas had to do the trade for the long-term health of the franchise.

Some fans might be skeptical, and that’s understandable because they have heard this rap before. Douglas’ predecessors have traded away top talent over the years (Darrelle Revis, anyone?), each time selling the idea of a brighter tomorrow.

Thing is, those happy tomorrows never happened because the GMs who made those trades stunk at drafting, a big reason why the Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010. We don’t know about Douglas yet because his first draft class still hasn’t been on the field. If he’s not any better than his predecessors at picking players, the Adams trade will be remembered as one of those “Same ol’ Jets” moves.

Adams is a known player, but the Jets refused to extend him with two years remaining on his rookie contract. Douglas, who hasn’t talked to the media since late April, has yet to address that issue. If you love him so much, why not pay him? When it became clear to Adams in late spring that a new deal wasn’t happening, he began criticizing the organization on social media.

Then came the June 18 trade request, which didn’t surprise Douglas. He expected it. The game plan didn’t change — he still hoped to find a happy place with Adams — but what the trade request did was signal to the rest of the league that something was rotten in New Jersey. Calls started coming in. Teams smelled an opportunity, wanting to know what it would take to pry the All-Pro safety away from the Jets.

Douglas played it beautifully, showing patience as Adams’ social media outbursts continued and training camp, set to start July 28, drew closer. Eventually, Douglas pulled the trigger on a trade that once didn’t seem possible.

When he was drafted in 2017, Adams was billed as a culture-changer, an alpha personality who would lead the Jets out of the darkness. Then-coach Todd Bowles said, “The culture we’re trying to create, I think he’s perfect for our building.” (Would this be a bad time to remind folks the Jets passed on quarterback Patrick Mahomes to take Adams?)

As it turned out, Adams couldn’t handle the losing.

Despite his stellar play, the Jets went 16-32 and Adams became embittered. He lashed out at teammates at halftime during an ugly loss last season to the Jacksonville Jaguars, sources said. He whined at the trade deadline because his name was floated in talks. That was the turning point; that’s when Adams appeared to lose faith in the front office. It got to a point where he openly said he was “trying to” get traded to Dallas to play for his hometown Cowboys. Only a market-setting contract extension could have salvaged the marriage, and the Jets didn’t want to go there, not this year.

Adams wanted out so badly that he will play for the Seahawks under his current contract — happily. On Saturday night, he celebrated the trade with a cigar on Instagram Live, behaving in front of his followers like a man who had been freed from a bad relationship.

Only five months ago, Douglas proclaimed his plan was to make Adams a “Jet for life.” Life changes quickly around this team.

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