The contract stalemate between the Seahawks and safety Jamal Adams is finally over. Adams, who had been "holding in" during training camp, signed a four-year, $70 million contract extension worth up to $72 million through incentives and salary escalators to dramatically reset the safety market.
At $17.5 million per year, Adams receives a 14.75% increase over Justin Simmons, who became the NFL's highest paid safety at $15.25 million per year in March. After being designated as franchise player by the Broncos for a second straight year, Simmons signed a four-year, $61 million contract with $35 million in guarantees where $32.1 million was fully guaranteed.
Adams has $38 million in overall guarantees, which includes a $20 million signing bonus. The $20 million ties Eric Berry and Earl Thomas for the biggest signing bonus in a veteran safety contract over the last few years.
Adams' 2021 base salary drops from the $9.86 million fifth year option he was scheduled to play under to a fully guaranteed $1 million. His 2021 salary cap number is $5 million. Seattle gets $4.86 million in 2021 cap relief with the deal.
Seattle utilized the signing/option bonus contract structure in the four-year, $69.2 million wide receiver Tyler Lockett signed in April with Adams. There's a $12.44 million bonus in 2022 to exercise the option on Adams' 2025 contract year worth $17.5 million.
Adams' second year or 2022 base salary, which becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2022 waiver period, is an inflated $14.4 million to ensure the option is exercised and the payment is made. His 2022 base salary will be reduced by the amount of option bonus to $2 million when the 2025 option year is picked up during the first through fifth day of the 2022 league year. Just like Lockett, Adams has $21 million fully guaranteed at signing.
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Since an option bonus is given the same treatment on the salary cap as signing bonus, the $12.44 million is being prorated or evenly spread at $3.11 million for each of remaining four years of the deal (2022-2025). Adams' 2022 cap number is $9.11 million. The cap numbers start taking a big spike in 2023 with $18.11 million, $23.61 million and $24.61 million in the final three years.
The Seahawks like to include game day active roster bonuses in their high end veteran contracts. Lockett has $1.7 million of these roster bonuses ($100,000 per game) in each of the last two years of his deal. The per game amount is only payable if the player is on the active roster for that particular game. The primary purpose of this type of roster bonus is to provide a team some financial relief with injuries. Game day active roster bonuses aren't in Adams' contract despite him missing four games in 2020 because of injury.
With a $17.5 million average yearly salary, Adams is the clear winner of the deal. Seattle surely would have preferred to give Adams an increase similar to perennial All-Pro Bobby Wagner's when he became the NFL's highest paid off ball linebacker two years ago. Wagner's $18 million per year, which was important for Seattle to keep Adams under, represented a 5.88% increase over Jets inside linebacker C. J. Mosley's $17 million per year. A Wagner-type increase would have put Adams in $16.25 million per year neighborhood.
Adams had leverage in the negotiations because a long-term deal wasn't done in connection with his trade and the steep acquisition cost. 2021 and 2022 first round picks, a 2021 third round pick and safety Bradley McDougald were dealt to the Jets last July to acquire Adams and a 2022 fourth round pick. The Seahawks didn't give up multiple draft picks intending for him to be a short-term rental.
Adams has described himself as a playmaker or defensive weapon rather than a safety. The average of the highest paid off ball linebacker and highest paid safety before Adams signed is comparable to the average in his deal. The Colts recently made Darius Leonard the new standard at off ball linebacker with a five year extension averaging $19.7 million per year. The ink was barely dry on the five year-$95 million extension Fred Warner received from the 49ers when Leonard topped him. The average of these two benchmarks for linebacker and safety is $17.475 million per year.
The top two beneficiaries of Adams' deal
A similar phenomenon is less likely to occur at safety because of Adams' dramatic re-set of the market. The two most immediate potential beneficiaries of Adams' deal are Tyrann Mathieu and Jessie Bates.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said Tuesday in a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview the team would do everything to keep Mathieu, who has expressed a desire to stay in Kansas City. Mathieu is in the final year of a three-year, $42 million deal he signed in 2019 free agency, which put him at the top of the safety market.
It wouldn't be surprising if Mathieu, who is 29, wants to return to that place in the safety salary hierarchy. There might be reluctance from the Chiefs because an extension would cover years when Mathieu is in his early 30s. However, Mathieu isn't showing any signs of slowing down. He has earned first team All-Pro honors in both of his seasons with the Chiefs.
A new deal would ensure Mathieu remains in Kansas City. It will be too costly to designate Mathieu as a franchise player in 2022 if he plays out his contract. His franchise number will be $23.63 million with the way the 120 percent salary increase provisions work with designations.
Kansas City could pick up significant cap room with an extension considering Mathieu's $19,733,334 cap number, which includes his $14.55 million 2021 base salary, is the largest in the NFL for a safety this year. Even if Mathieu doesn't reach the top level financially, it hard to imagine him accepting a Kansas City deal that's closer to Simmons' $15.25 million per year than Adams' $17.5 million per year.
Bates, who is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract with the Bengals, expressed frustration about his contract negotiations last week in an interview with the local Cincinnati media. He had previously indicated he wanted to be in Cincinnati. The Adams deal gives the 24 year old Bates, who was named second team All-Pro by the Associated Press last season, justification to insist on more than Simmons.
A look at other possibilities
A franchise tag for $10.612 million was placed on safeties Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams by the Jets and Saints respectively. As franchise players, they are prohibited from signing long term until the end of the regular season on January 9, 2022.
Negotiations with Maye were acrimonious. The initial Jets offer was reportedly less than half of Adams' $17.5 million per year. The Jets have a poor track record in keeping talented homegrown players. The trend will likely continue unless the Jets take a different approach in future negotiations with Maye.
Williams probably won't be be given a second franchise tag in 2022 because of the Saints' other options. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who is slated to play under his fifth year option, and either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston proving to be the long term replacement for Drew Brees at quarterback could be higher tag priorities. The Saints may need to put their best foot forward financially early next offseason in order to prevent Williams from hitting the open market.
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of two 2018 first round picks along with Colts offensive guard Quenton Nelson whose fifth year option equals a 2021 franchise tender because of multiple first ballot Pro Bowl selections. His fifth year option salary for 2022 is $10.612 million.
The Steelers typically don't sign first round picks long term until entering the option year. 2017 first round pick T.J. Watt still hasn't signed an extension. A 2021 campaign like the last two should practically assure that Adams' deal will be Fitzpatrick's salary floor next offseason.
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