The Jets just won their second game in a row. But none of them are lighting victory cigars.
They are 2-13.
Meanwhile ex-Jet Jamal Adams is lighting ‘em up in Seattle.
On Sunday the All-Pro safety stormed across the field and stopped a Rams running back from behind behind and denied him a tying touchdown twice in three snaps. His fiery, frenetic plays, characteristic of his debut season with the Seahawks, keyed the decisive goal-line stand that earned Adams his first division championship.
In his postgame press conference, Adams went old Celtics Red Auerbach. Not only did Adams bring a celebratory cigar, he lit it. Right there at the podium.
“YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I haven’t been here before!” the 25-year-old Adams said, shouting.
“It feels damn good!
“There’s a little cigar man. Oh yeah, yeah. Yes sir, yes sir. It’s a celebration.”
Many in and around the NFL said two first-round picks — for a SAFETY? — was too steep a price. Yet entering the final regular-season game of his Seattle debut Sunday against San Francisco (6-9), Adams had been all the Seahawks (11-4) bargained for — and more.
The strong safety has blitzed from everywhere to set the NFL record for sacks by a defensive back. He has 9 1/2 in 11 games. The old record was eight. And he missed four games with a strained groin through October.
His speed has often covered for mistakes in assignments, his own and others’. His physicality has shown up when he’s blown up lead blockers, often on his many blitzes. That’s often freed teammates to make tackles on running plays, contributions that statistics don’t measure.
Here’s another one: he’s been a vocal leader on a team that already had All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner as its captain and 10th-year veteran K.J. Wright as its longest-tenured player.
Adams made the Pro Bowl again. He and safety partner Quandre Diggs were named to the all-star team last week. It’s Diggs’ first selection.
Oh, yes, the Seahawks are thrilled with their splashy trade with New York in July that brought Adams — even at the steep price of two first-round draft choices plus veteran safety Bradley McDougald.
“This is what we had hoped for,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “This is the guy we had thought we may be able to get.
“It’s why we thought it was worth it.
“And it’s been obvious.”
Through injuries Adams was out from Sept. 27 when he injured his groin against Dallas until early November. He returned Nov. 8 at Buffalo.
Then he injured his shoulder on the first play Nov. 15 in Seattle’s loss at the Rams. A couple weeks ago he broke two fingers on his hand. He played at Washington and last weekend against Los Angeles with what he calls “little casts” on his broken fingers.
It’s probably why he dropped an interception in the red zone in the first half this past weekend against the Rams.
“No excuses,” he said.
The trade for Carlos Dunlap then Dunlap revitalizing the pass rush from Seattle’s front four defensive linemen has lessened the defense’s reliance on Adams to blitz so much. That has made him a more complete contributor, in coverage plus in pressuring quarterbacks. It’s also made the Seahawks less risky in their secondary. Adams is joining more cover men than Seattle had been while trying to create pressure with blitzes in September and October.
“He’s really embraced the whole system and he knows where he’s going, and where everybody else is,” Carroll said. “He really has command of all of it. He’s really been a huge factor.
“And he’s a factor on normal plays. It’s the way he takes on blocks. He made a great play that set up Shaq (cornerback Shaquill Griffin) on a tackle at the line of scrimmage (Sunday against the Rams).”
It’s brilliant right now for the Seahawks. They have clinched their first NFC West title and home playoff game in four years, because of Adams, Wright, Dunlap and the defense turning around their season.
But how much will Adams’ brilliance in 2020 drive up his price for 2021 and beyond?
The new deal
Next year is the last one of Adams’ contract the Seahawks inherited from the Jets. He was an All-Pro last season (voting for this year’s All-Pro team is expected to be announced in the next week or so). He’s been a Pro Bowl selection three times in his first four NFL seasons. He’s going to command more than the $59 million, four-year deal ($14.75 million per season) the Arizona Cardinals gave Budda Baker in September to make him the league’s highest-paid safety.
Adams’ soaring value to the Seahawks is likely to push his asking price above $16 million per year. That would be the second-highest salary on the team, behind only quarterback Russell Wilson and above All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. Thing is, the salary cap is scheduled to go down for the first time in the NFL next year, from $198 million to what’s expected to be about $175 million. That’s because of the coronavirus pandemic wiping out almost all in-stadium revenues this year because there are no fans in the stands.
Carroll and Seattle general manager John Schneider knew this when they traded for Adams. The pandemic was raging in July, likely then to affect the 2021 cap. And it’s not as if they are suddenly learning his contract was ending after next year.
They also know because of their eighth playoff appearance in nine years they will be drafting in the high 20s yet again this coming spring. The Seahawks’ thinking in trading for Adams was Schneider has traded his first-round pick in eight of the last nine drafts, anyway. It’d be nine years in a row of trading down if Schneider’s former, hometown Packers hadn’t taken the better offer the Miami Dolphins made Green Bay in the first round in April. The Packers moved up to the Dolphins’ spot at 26 instead of the Seahawks’ spot at 27, canceling the Seahawks’ deal to trade down again in round one.
The Seahawks stayed at 27 and drafted linebacker Jordyn Brooks instead. His most recent game wrecking the Rams’ bootleg pass plays and two of L.A.’s four failed runs at the goal line in the fourth quarter show Brooks is excelling as a rookie.
They’ll consider Adams to be their first-round pick next year. For them, that’ll work. But this trade won’t truly be worth it for the Seahawks until after a year or two — not unless they are able to re-sign him.
Until then, he is exactly what the Seahawks had hoped. Maybe more.
Adams lighting that cigar in his press conference Sunday showed he’s as thrilled as his new team at how the trade’s worked out. He said Seattle’s is the best defense in the NFL, “and you can quote that. You can do what you want to do with it.”
“I believe in these guys. I believe in this coaching staff and what we bring to the table, day in and day out,” Adams said. “I know how hard we work.
“So we’re just gonna continue to get better, because we haven’t even played our best football yet. And that’s the scary part.”