INDIANAPOLIS -- Joe Douglas said the magic words on Tuesday, that he wants Jamal Adams to be "a Jet for life." It's exactly what the 24-year-old Adams wanted to hear, especially if that means a lucrative, mega-contract is in the works.
And it probably is -- eventually. Douglas, the Jets GM, conceded he's had "some preliminary talks" with Adams' agent. And Adams has previously said he expects to sign a contract extension with the Jets this offseason.
But the Jets aren't in as big of a rush as Adams is, nor should they be. In fact, it's far from guaranteed that a deal gets struck this offseason at all.
The biggest thing working against Adams right now is that the Jets hold all the leverage in these negotiations. They have him under control for anywhere from two to four more seasons at a huge bargain rate for a two-time Pro Bowl player. Yes, there is a feeling in the organization that they would like to -- and maybe should -- take care of a star who has become one of their most important players.
But teams don't and can't just hand out enormous contracts out of a sense of good will, especially when there are so many other factors involved.
Here's a look at some of those issues and why they could complicate any hope of a quick deal:
The Jets have all the leverage and control
NFL rules do allow Adams to talk to the Jets about an extension now that he's finished his third year in the NFL, but the Jets still have long-term control of his rights. He's not only signed for this year, but the Jets will obviously pick up his fifth-year option for 2021. And then they'd have the option of using the franchise tag on him in 2022 and possibly even in 2023. So unless he chooses to go the Le'Veon Bell route and sits out a season -- or unless he decides to become a troublemaker in any way -- the Jets are in the driver's seat. They don't have to do anything about Adams' deal for at least three years. They have his rights.
Cost certainty vs. an expected revenue explosion
It's really not crazy -- or a stretch -- to think that Adams and his agent will be looking for a $100 million contract over six years with more than half of that guaranteed. They will surely look to top the $14.6 million per year average the Bears gave safety Eddie Jackson, and will look hard at the six-year, $84 million contract the Redskins gave safety Landon Collins with $44.5 million guaranteed. Right now, Adams is due $3.5 million this season and his fifth-year option in 2021 will probably be about $10 million. So the Jets have Adams for two more years at about $13.5 million total. Who knows what the franchise tag for safeties will be in 2022, but even if it hits $15 million, that still means the Jets get three years of Adams for less than $30 million total. That's a fantastic deal for them. Yes, then he'd be a free agent at 26 and the price for safeties will have gone way up. But thanks to new TV deals, revenues will have increased dramatically along with the salary cap, making it even easier to pay him in the future.
Signing Adams now sets a dangerous precedent
It definitely sends a great message to players when a team takes care of its own. The downside, though, is that everyone then expects they'll be taken care of, too. So if Adams gets a lucrative, long-term contract before his fourth season -- which is early, for the most part, in the NFL -- guess who'll be looking for one next year? Quarterback Sam Darnold. And his contract could be crazy big, especially if another quarterback like Dallas' Dak Prescott ends up getting $40 million per year. The Jets have the same type of control over Darnold that they do over Adams, with no need to rush. But if they take care of Adams early, how could they then make their franchise quarterback wait? What kind of message would that send?
Cap space is not unlimited and the Jets have plenty of holes
The Jets right now have about $50 million in salary cap space and probably another $15 million coming once they make some cuts. That's a lot. But they need several starting offensive linemen, an edge rusher, probably two cornerbacks and at least one wide receiver. That's where they're going to have to spend their cap space if they want to be competitive in 2020. Right now, Adams' cap hit for 2020 is about $7 million, and maybe they could lower that a bit with a long-term extension. But any extension would surely jump his cap number into the $15-18 million range over the next few years. And that will limit the cap space they have to spend on other positions. Right now, they can't afford to do that.
None of that is meant to say that an Adams extension definitely won't get done -- just that there are more factors involved than just a desire to give Adams what he's worth. Of course, Adams could push the issue, too, either by sitting out the offseason workout program or even training camp or even into the regular season. There's absolutely no indication he's willing to do any of that, but any "holdout" could change the equation by turning up the heat on the Jets.
More likely, the Jets will keep talking to Adams' agent in the hopes of maintaining a good relationship and showing Adams they're making a good-faith effort. They could even lay the groundwork for an extension that comes next offseason before his fifth-year option kicks in. But getting that contract done in the next few months could be tricky and costly, even if both sides really do want to eventually strike a deal.