The contract standoff between Jamal Adams and the Jets reached a new level of ugliness last week, with the safety asking the team to give his agent permission to seek a trade.
What happens with Adams is going to be the story of the preseason for the Jets. Here is a look at some questions surrounding this situation:
When is the next key date?
The Jets are scheduled to begin training camp July 28. It seems unlikely Adams will report on time, considering he has made it clear on social media that he no longer wants to be part of the team.
It may not be that simple for Adams, though. The new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to in March, makes it tougher for players to hold out. He can be fined $40,000 a day after the first five days of training camp. Those fines can be rescinded by the team if the two sides reach a deal. The bigger risk for Adams is losing an accrued season, which can happen if he fails to report. That is a strong deterrent.
Why don’t the Jets just pay him?
The dispute basically boils down to this: Adams wants a new contract immediately, and the Jets want to push it off, possibly until 2021.
There are good arguments on both sides. Adams is scheduled to make $3.5 million this season, which is a far cry from what the top safeties make ($14 million per year). He is eligible for a new deal since he has completed three seasons, per the CBA rules. Adams is the best player on the team and one of the few draft picks the team has gotten right in the last decade.
But … Adams has no leverage.
He is under contract for two more years. The Jets are not risking anything other than an unhappy player by waiting to address his contract. There is uncertainty surrounding the salary cap going forward because of COVID-19 and the possibility of a season with no fans in the stands — something that is preventing teams from handing out extensions right now. It is also rare for players to get an extension after their third season. Just 17 first-round picks since 2011 have gotten a new deal after the third year. Defensive studs Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack both had to wait until after their fourth season.
What happens if the Jets refuse to trade him?
The Jets have no intention of trading Adams, despite his request last week. That could change, but right now they are planning on riding this out for a while. If the Jets want to play hardball, they can just tell Adams he is under contract and they expect him to play for them.
Would Adams sit out the season? That is unlikely. It would be very costly for Adams to do that, and it would not get him closer to free agency. This is not like Le’Veon Bell sitting out the 2018 season when the Steelers applied the franchise tag. Bell knew he would be a free agent after that year even if he stayed away.
The risk for the Jets is Adams being miserable and becoming a disruptive force in the locker room. General manager Joe Douglas has said he wants the best culture in sports. If your best player becomes a problem, that will hurt the culture.
What would it take for a trade?
Though the Jets do not want to trade Adams, Douglas has repeatedly said he will always listen to offers. I think if a team blows away the Jets with an offer, Adams will be moved just before the regular season. The Jets would have to get a first-round pick and then some. Douglas may be looking to get a player back in the trade, possibly a wide receiver or an edge-rusher, who could improve the 2020 team. I think a first-round pick plus a starting player or a package of premium picks (first three rounds) would get it done.
If there any chance this can be fixed and Adams is a long-term Jet?
Right now, it feels like this relationship is irreparable. But things change. Adams feels lied to right now. He thought the Jets’ public proclamations about him being a “Jet for life” meant a contract was coming. Adams does not trust the organization, and that has led to where we are. Money has a way of healing feelings, though. If the Jets decide to offer Adams a deal, I do think these wounds will heal. It is possible the Jets offer him a short-term “Band-Aid” deal to boost his pay and make him happy then figure out something long term later.