Joe Douglas is playing this one perfectly. For now, anyway.
The Jets’ general manager knows he has a problem on his hands with Jamal Adams, who is in the news again because of his apparent unhappiness with his contract — the one that rewarded him with a fully guaranteed $22.3 million deal after he was drafted in the first round in 2017.
Adams reportedly is ready to skip the voluntary portion of the virtual offseason training program, which begins Monday. That essentially means nothing because it is A) voluntary and B) a shell of the team’s regular offseason program because of restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Douglas understands that Adams wants a new deal sooner rather than later. And by sooner, we mean before the start of the 2020 regular season — whenever that is. But the Jets’ second-year GM also knows that time is on his side, and he has wisely decided to use the benefit of time.
“I’ve made it known that the plan would be for him to be here long term,” Douglas said on a conference call Monday.
But Douglas also offered a reminder that he will not let this go on indefinitely, nor is he willing to stretch the bounds of his salary-cap situation any more than necessary to accommodate Adams’ demands.
“I’ve also made it known that I have to do what’s in the best interests of this team,” Douglas said.
That means if anyone is looking to deal for Adams, a highly accomplished safety who happens to be the Jets’ best player, Douglas will entertain offers.
“If other teams call to talk about players,” he said, “I’ll listen. But going into this draft, my intent isn’t to remove any players. But if a team calls, we’re going to have conversations. I don’t view it as hedging. I view it as doing my job.”
There was another contractual kerfuffle shortly before last season’s trade deadline. Douglas had discussions with teams inquiring about Adams’ availability and added then that he valued him much more than what was offered — reportedly a first-round pick by Dallas.
Nevertheless, Adams was miffed that Douglas took the call and made it known that he thought he couldn’t play with the Jets long term. That changed after a sit-down with Douglas and coach Adam Gase in which they told Adams they wanted him with the team for the long haul.
Douglas reiterated that stance at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, telling reporters that he wanted Adams to be “a Jet for life.”
Is that still the case?
“Nothing has changed since the last time we spoke,” Douglas said Monday.
There’s no urgency to reach agreement on a new deal. We don’t even know when — or if — the NFL will reopen for the 2020 season. And Douglas knows he has up to three years to keep Adams under his existing deal. The four-year contract contains a fifth-year option at the Jets’ discretion, which means they can keep Adams in 2021. After that, they can apply the franchise tag to keep him under contract through the following season.
Adams will want a new deal long before that, which is smart thinking on his part, because he knows his best leverage is withholding his services, even if it means incurring fines.
If Adams doesn’t get a new contract and the Jets play hardball by sticking to the terms of his current deal, he’ll feel resentful. It’s almost impossible to see the two sides coexisting in that situation.
As far as Douglas is concerned, there is only one untouchable player on his roster, quarterback Sam Darnold. “The quarterback position is the most important position in all of professional sports,” he said. “And I feel like we have a very good young player in Sam Darnold.”
There’s no question Douglas values Adams greatly, but at some point, he’ll have to decide at what cost. He plans to sit down with Adams and his agents after this week’s draft to address a new deal.
In the meantime, if he gets an offer he can’t refuse — and that would have to be at least a first- and second-round pick, if not two firsts — then he must give serious consideration to pulling off a trade.
Adams is a great player, but last time we checked, safeties don’t win championships.