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The $20 million question: When will Seahawks extend Jamal Adams?

RENTON, Wash. — Anyone worried that the Seattle Seahawks have yet to extend Pro Bowl strong safety Jamal Adams this late into the offseason need look no further for reassurance than the trade they made last summer to acquire him.

The package the Seahawks gave the New York Jets included a pair of first-round picks as well as a third-rounder, an uncommonly steep price they would never have paid if they only planned on Adams being a one- or two-year rental.

Or, you could just take it from coach Pete Carroll.

“It’s been ongoing and it’s been amicable throughout,” Carroll said last week about contract talks with Adams, who had an excused absence from minicamp to tend to a family matter. “We recognize that he’s a fantastic football player and … it’s a big contract process. But I know he knows he’s been treated with a lot of respect and he’s been very respectful towards the club as well.

“They’ve been good talks. It just hasn’t been able to get settled at this point, but it’s coming. We expect him for [training] camp, and everything should be fine.”

Carroll’s comments echoed what a Seahawks source previously told ESPN — that while there hasn’t been much movement yet towards a new deal, there’s still an expectation within the organization that it will get done.

By all accounts, it isn’t so much a matter of if but when it will happen and how big Adams’ deal will be. More specifically, how hard he’ll push to be one of the NFL’s highest-paid defenders or whether he’ll be content with “merely” being the highest-paid safety.

That distinction currently belongs to the Denver BroncosJustin Simmons, who signed an extension this offseason averaging $15.25 million. Ten defensive players make at least $20 million per season, and all but Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey play pass-rushing positions.

“He’s probably thinking that stratosphere, at least initially, ” Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes about contract matters for CBSSports.com, told ESPN. “I don’t see Seattle coming anywhere near that.”

That belief is based on the reality that in the NFL, your pay is generally determined — and sometimes limited — by your position. And it’s hard for even the best players to break that standard. As Corry noted, the Arizona CardinalsBudda Baker couldn’t do it last year, despite being more versatile than a typical safety. Corry also pointed to Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, who was considered one of the league’s best defenders when he signed his extension two years ago. His $18 million average comfortably made him the highest-paid off-the-ball linebacker but was still within the scope of the market for that position.

“He wasn’t in the $20 million-per-year range and he could have legitimately made that argument,” Corry said. “So I think the [ceiling for Adams] is going to be Bobby Wagner. Plus the safety market is at $15.25 million. They’re not going to stretch to $18.25 million from $15.25 million. That’s a dramatic jump which typically hasn’t happened with the safety market over the past couple of years.”

But, like Wagner, Adams at least has a case to be paid beyond his position.

His 9.5 sacks in 12 games last year set the league’s single-season record for a defensive back. That figure led the team, as did Adams’ 14 tackles for loss and his 30 pressures which, according to ESPN Stats & Information, were 14 more than any other NFL DB. He rushed the passer on nearly one-fifth of opponents’ dropbacks.

Adams didn’t record an interception, keeping his career total at two and doing nothing to dispel the belief that he’s not consistently strong in coverage. It didn’t help that he was hurt all year. Adams missed four games with a groin injury and gamely played through injuries to both shoulders (including a torn labrum that needed surgery), two broken fingers (which also needed surgery) and a hyperextended elbow.

Despite that, the 25-year-old Adams made enough of an impact to earn his third Pro Bowl nod in four NFL seasons (he was also an All-Pro in 2019) and set himself up for a massive payday. And while the positional argument looks like it could be an obvious sticking point in negotiations, the Seahawks were well aware of that possibility when they acquired Adams, knowing they planned to use him like a pass-rusher as opposed to a traditional safety.

“We want him to be here long term, for sure,” general manager John Schneider said before the draft. “He’s a great player. We’re really glad we made this trade to get him. He’s going to be a very important part of our future.”

Adams expressed a similar desire after the season, saying, “I sure pray that I am here. I love being a Seattle Seahawk. I love being a part of this organization.”

Another reason why it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern that his deal has yet to get done: Most of the Seahawks’ big-money extensions in recent years were finalized early in training camp or well into it.

The timing of the most recent megadeal negotiated by Adams’ agent, Kevin Conner, may also be instructive. It was an extension for All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White with the Buffalo Bills, which wasn’t finished until a week before last season’s opener. Ramsey quickly overtook him as the league’s highest-paid cornerback when he signed a bigger deal four days later, presumably having waited on White to reset the top of the market first.

Corry believes Adams should play that waiting game now that All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu sounds optimistic about getting an extension from the Kansas City Chiefs.

“If the Chiefs made him the highest-paid safety to bring him in, presumably they’re going to make him the highest-paid guy this time around,” Corry said. “And any incremental raise over where the bar is now only helps [Adams].”

Corry’s guess is that Adams’ deal will average between $16 million and $17.5 million.

“Because to me, you’re better off trying to rectify the difference between … safety and cornerback salaries, since cornerback took off last year and safety hasn’t,” Corry said. “That might be the better play and let that get you as close to Wagner as possible. But Wagner is the ceiling.”

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