A lot of arguments have been made to justify the massive investment Seattle made in Jamal Adams. A lot have gone unchallenged, mainly because on face value they seem valid. So I wanted to play devils advocate for a few of the points being discussed.
You tell me if any of this is unfair…
“It’s just like trading up in the draft. The Seahawks haven’t picked in the top-10 since 2010. This is just like they traded up from the 20’s…”
This is not strictly true. When you trade up in the draft, you are only trading one future pick. This means, you know the position you are trading from.
For example — in 2011 the Falcons traded from #27 up to #6 to select Julio Jones. Although they were including their 2012 first rounder, they knew the definitive value of one of the two high picks they were dealing (#27).
The Seahawks don’t have this luxury. They have traded two future picks, with an undetermined value. Had they made this move prior to the 2020 draft, they would’ve known they were dealing #27 plus their 2021 first rounder. Instead there’s a higher degree of unknown.
It’s assumed the Seahawks will be picking at the end of the first round for the next two seasons. However, it only takes one slice of misfortune for things to dramatically change.
The 2011 Indianapolis Colts approached the season expecting to be contenders. They were a playoff team in 2010 — losing surprisingly to the New York Jets in the wildcard round (17-16).
An injury to Peyton Manning changed everything. The rest of the roster wasn’t good enough to manage the loss of their star player. The backups — Dan Orlovsky and Curtis Painter — were incapable of replacing Manning. The season collapsed and they ultimately ended up picking first overall in 2012.
Hopefully such a dramatic set of circumstances won’t happen to the Seahawks. Yet like the Colts — if anything happens to Wilson during the 2020 or 2021 seasons, there’s every chance they will implode. We’re only three years removed from a loaded Seahawks roster struggling to 9-7 due to an injury crisis, including knee and ankle injuries to Wilson. They picked in the teens the following year.
You could argue this is an extreme counter. Admittedly a team isn’t going to avoid making a trade through fear of a worse case scenario.
The point is though, simply, that this isn’t the same as trading up in the draft. The Seahawks will need to avoid injury issues for the next two years — not just one season — to avoid this trade biting them badly on the backside. The roster isn’t good enough to suffer an injury to Wilson or a handful of players — as we saw at the end of last season.
“The Seahawks never use their first round picks properly anyway, so who cares if they’ve given away their next two?”
Certainly you can question Seattle’s record with their ‘first’ pick — let alone their first round picks. They’ve had hits with Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and Bruce Irvin — but all were top-15 picks. They’ve struggled to find anything more than role players since. In 11 drafts, so far they are yet to extend their first player selected to a second contract, which is incredible.
However, this is a much deeper talking point than mere past history.
A first round pick is your greatest asset. It’s your best bargaining chip. It can end up being extremely valuable if you pick early. It can also be used to trade down and create more draft stock.
Why is that important?
Duane Brown turns 35 on August 30th. It’s unclear how many more years he intends to play but currently his contract runs until the end of the 2021 season. Last year he gallantly played through injuries in order to stay on the field.
Realistically the Seahawks are going to need to find a long term solution at the position — either in the draft or via trade.
The problem is, there’s a league-wide dearth of good left tackles.
Certainly it’s unlikely any are going to reach free agency. The only two proven left tackles to reach the market in recent history were Andrew Whitworth and he was pushing 40 plus Russell Okung (who had a strange situation given his injury history and lack of an agent).
It’s not impossible to add a good tackle without using a first round pick — as the trade for Brown and recent move by the 49ers to acquire Trent Williams show. These are rare cases though. The main way you gain a good left tackle is usually with a high draft pick or via an expensive trade.
It’s hard to imagine how the Seahawks will sufficiently address this situation before 2023 — the next time they’ll have a first round pick. Prior to Brown’s arrival, they had to start Bradley Sowell, George Fant and Rees Odhiambo. That’s not the way to protect Russell Wilson and was partly the reason he got injured in 2017.
Of course this would be easier to understand had they spent a high pick on a left tackle over the last two drafts — but they opted not to. Are they hoping to try and develop Cedric Ogbuehi? How many projects like that have actually worked out?
Trading away future first round picks makes it difficult to address that position for the next two years.
“He will add lots of sacks to make up for the below-par D-line”
It’s often pointed out that Adams had 6.5 sacks in 2019 — more than any of Seattle’s defensive linemen.
However, it’s important to remember who he played for in New York. First he had ultra-blitzing Todd Bowles. Then it was the even more aggressive Gregg Williams.
Williams embarrassingly calls himself ‘Doctor Blitz’. Adams blitzed 90 times during the 2019 season, ninth most in the entire NFL at any position. Baltimore’s Chuck Clark, in a similar scheme, was the only safety who blitzed at a similar rate.
In comparison, Bradley McDougald blitzed 21 times in Seattle last year. Even Bobby Wagner only blitzed 71 times.
In Seattle’s scheme, Earl Thomas recorded the grand total of zero sacks and Kam Chancellor had two. McDougald had 0.5 sacks in his Seahawks career. Different scheme, very different responsibilities and production.
“They can be really creative now and find a way to get Adams involved in different ways”
We’ve all had this discussion by now. Adams is going to blitz, pressure, destroy crossing routes, take out George Kittle, play single-high, take a linebacker off the field and presumably also achieve world peace.
Let’s remember the scheme in Seattle. This is a defense that played predominantly in ‘base’ last year. It’s a defense that has pretty much stayed the same for over a decade and preaches role responsibility, discipline and doing your job. The Seahawks are not creative blitzers. They don’t attack in the way Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the Jets or Tampa Bay do.
The most dramatic shift in the Carroll era has pretty much been the post-Earl Thomas cover-tweaks at the back-end and the return to base. That’s it. The idea that suddenly they’re going to open everything up having acquired Jamal Adams seems fanciful.
Look at the other players they’ve acquired for the defense over the years. Whether it was Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Sheldon Richardson or Jadeveon Clowney — no big scheme changes. No massive production. No real freedom for the individual. Simply an introduction to the scheme and a need to do your job.
Turn things over to the offense. Did they dramatically change things for Jimmy Graham? No — they tried to turn him into a ‘complete’ tight end. They wanted Graham to fit them, not the other way around.
Is Adams really likely to be turned into the Swiss-army knife many expect? It’s arguably more likely they drafted him to provide the toughness, tackling and intensity they’ve missed at the position since Kam Chancellor retired. Which is fine. However, whether his production or impact will justify two first round picks will be debatable if they aren’t willing to let him continue to impact games the way the Jets did.
“The Seahawks have great club control for three years”
Let’s get one thing straight. If the Houston Texans had made this trade, everyone would’ve hammered them. Just as they did a year ago when they traded for Laremy Tunsil.
Houston gave up a fortune to acquire Tunsil (and also gained Kenny Stills). However, they had no new contract in place. Thus — the feeling was — they had no leverage when talks would eventually begin.
A year later, the two parties agreed on a contract worth $22m a year. That is $5.5m per year more than the second highest paid tackle (Anthony Castonzo — $16.5m).
It’s incredible that the Texans didn’t have a new contract in place for Tunsil before the trade was complete. They ceded all leverage. Tunsil’s representatives could turn to Houston and say ‘pay us what we want because there’s no way you’re throwing away two first round picks for a couple of years of our man’.
The Rams then repeated the mistake and now they are seriously running the risk of losing Jalen Ramsey by 2022.
The Seahawks are in the same position. Their situation is slightly different because they made the trade after the coronavirus epidemic impacted the global economy. We don’t know what the consequences will be on the NFL going forward. There’s already a very real possibility the cap will reduce next season — following years of consistent growth.
However — that won’t mean anything to Adams and his agent. They can say, just as Tunsil did, ‘pay us what we want because there’s no way you will waste two first round picks’. If the Seahawks say Covid-19 has shifted the financial landscape — Adams’ people will point out they knew what the situation was when they traded for him.
It’s actually worse for the Seahawks in this case not to have a deal in place. If you have the framework for a contract now, you can plan accordingly including worst case scenarios regarding the cap. You can turn to Adams and say — this is the contract that comes with the trade. How badly do you want to be here?
Now they face the prospect of Adams demanding to be the highest paid defensive back in the NFL. He could ask for $20m. And what choice will the Seahawks have but to pay that? At a time when the entire league is going to need to cut costs?
You might argue they don’t need to worry about this for a while. However, they only have a years grace. By next year, Adams is not going to be looking at a $9m salary favourably. He might hold out without a new deal. It’s very unlikely he’ll be prepared to play for $9m next year and $11-12m on the franchise tag in 2022. A contract will need to be agreed in the next 18 months and Adams has all of the leverage.
It will be very difficult to justify paying a linebacker $18.5m a year and a strong safety $20m a year if the pass rush is terrible and ultimately costing the Seahawks a shot at a Championship.
This is the crux of the matter really and will be until the issue is solved. The Seahawks have a bad defensive line (the worst according to PFF). After signing their rookie class they now have about $13m to spend according to Spotrac (which is really about $8m when you factor in injured reserve and the practise squad). Snacks Harrison is considering whether he intends to play in 2020. Nothing is happening with Jadeveon Clowney as the stalemate drags on (will he sit out the season?). The cuts this week were clearly just part of a plan to get down to an 80-man roster rather than an indication of any additional signings being close.
They’ve essentially replaced Clowney with Benson Mayowa, while hoping Darrell Taylor and Bruce Irvin can chip in as a compliment. Meanwhile Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson — a good run defender and a good interior rusher — have not been replaced.
Colin Cowherd raised a fair point this week. When was Seattle’s last meaningful playoff win? It’s the 2014 season. Beating the Vikings thanks to a blown kick, the Lions in Seattle or the Eagles last year without their quarterback is nothing to write home about. They’ve lost against serious opponents such as Dallas, Green Bay, Carolina and Atlanta. In three of those games they were walloped and only Wilson’s magic in the second half prevented a blow-out.
For the Seahawks to become a serious threat in the post-season again — can they really rely on Mayowa, Irvin and Taylor? And won’t the lack of quality on the D-line simply undermine the massive investment made in the linebacker and safety positions? Because on top of Wagner and Adams they’re also paying K.J. Wright $10m this year, they’ve used a first round pick on Jordyn Brooks, they traded up in round three for Cody Barton, they traded for Quandre Diggs, used a top-50 pick on Marquise Blair, spent a third rounder on Lano Hill and a fourth rounder on Ugo Amadi.
That’s a lot of resources simply to roll out a decidedly suspect defensive line.
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