A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. To pay or not to pay: It's bigger than one player. If the decision simply involved safety Jamal Adams, it would be a no-brainer: You would give the man his contract extension and the best player on the team would be a happy camper. But that would be akin to solving only one side of a Rubik's cube.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas is taking a macro view of the issue, which means consideration of the current NFL climate and the team's future salary structure (see: quarterback Sam Darnold). For those reasons, it's not unreasonable for the Jets to put off Adams' extension until next year. The problem I have is how they're doing it, but we'll get into that in a bit. For now, let's examine the economics.
Recent history is on the Jets' side.
Among defensive players, the only former first-round picks from 2011 to '17 to get an extension after their third season are Patrick Peterson, Robert Quinn and J.J. Watt. That's three out of 119. (Luke Kuechly got one two days after the first game of his fourth season.) Some of the best defensive players in the sport, including Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Chicago Bears pass-rusher Khalil Mack, played four years on their rookie deals. Adams is an excellent player, but he's not a generational talent at a premium position.
The current economic uncertainty in the league, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, also has to be considered. The likelihood of a shortfall because of lost stadium revenue could affect the 2021 salary cap and beyond. That's probably a big reason only three veterans have received extensions since April 1: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Houston Texans tackle Laremy Tunsil and New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB.
Teams are reluctant to dole out big money because there's a fear of the unknown. Would you buy a house without knowing the mortgage rate? A side note: From all indications, the Jets had established their position on Adams before the pandemic, so it's a lame alibi if they try to use that as the No. 1 reason.
Now let's examine the Quarterback Factor. A Darnold deal is looming, which must be factored into the Adams timing. When the Jets give Darnold a new deal -- he's eligible next year -- it will change the salary structure, as the Jets would lose the benefit of having their quarterback on his rookie contract.
Why Stephen A. supports Jamal Adams' trade demands
Stephen A. Smith has a problem with the Jets not valuing Jamal Adams given his talent and his voice helping the culture of the organization.
Because NFL quarterbacks have unique leverage, Darnold could force the issue next year (assuming he plays well in 2020), which would put the Jets in a tough spot. But they have absolutely no chance of pushing him off to 2022 if they pay Adams right now. The ideal scenario is to stagger the contracts -- Adams in 2021, Darnold in 2022. But if the Jets pay a strong safety after three seasons, they can't say no to their quarterback.
While Adams looks like the bad guy because of his trade request and social media rants, which have irked team officials, the Jets aren't exactly innocent bystanders. Douglas has fueled the extension talk with public comments about how he wants to make Adams "a Jet for life," yet he hasn't backed it up in talks with his agents, a source said. The Jets have frustrated Adams with what he perceives as a lack of communication, the source said.
This is a fluid situation, so it's hard to draw conclusions and cast definitive blame, but my initial takeaway is Douglas should have had a better handle on this before the draft, when there was still a chance to trade him for assets that could have helped the team in 2020. He either didn't address it or decided he would kick the can down the road without any repercussions by Adams. He should have known the emotional safety would speak up.
This isn't second-guessing because I wrote it before the draft: It behooved Douglas to find out Adams' asking price and sign-ability. It would've allowed him to be proactive. And, he could have traded away a disgruntled player with huge contract demands, parlaying it into a first-round pick and then some. Imagine if he had dealt him to the Dallas Cowboys for the No. 17 pick; the Jets could have had wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and tackle Mekhi Becton.
The same thing happened in 2000, when Keyshawn Johnson demanded a new contract with two years remaining. Jets GM Bill Parcells saw the storm clouds gathering and traded him before the draft, receiving two first-round picks.
Maybe Douglas knew what was coming and decided he wanted to ride it out anyway, confident in his endgame strategy -- which is to have Adams on the team in 2020. This saga isn't over. There will be more twists and turns, so let's refrain from hard takes. Maybe Douglas can spin this into a win for the team. Remember, the Jets still have the leverage because they own Adams' rights through 2022 (if you count one franchise tag). This figures to last through the preseason.
Outcome? The rest of the league will have a say in how this turns out. If Adams is holding out and Douglas gets an offer he can't refuse, he won't.
2. Motivated Bell: Despite having no spring practices, the Jets tried something different in an attempt to improve their running game, which finished 31st last season. They held a separate virtual meeting for the offensive linemen, tight ends and running backs, an after-school session, so to speak, that enabled them to discuss terminology and concepts. Coach Adam Gase said it allowed them " clean up any gray we might have had last year."
And, yes, veteran running back Le'Veon Bell participated.
"I think that's something he enjoyed," Gase said.
People close to Bell say he is highly motivated to prove last season was an aberration.
3. The Jeffersons: The second round of the draft created mixed emotions for receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. The Jets selected wide receiver Denzel Mims with the 59th pick. For a few fleeting moments in the Jefferson household, there was hope the pick would be Shawn's son, Van, a well-regarded wideout who went to the Rams at No. 57.
"My son was like, 'Hey, dad, I hope I can become a Jet. I would love to play for you,'" Jefferson said. "He was excited. He really wanted to come and play for the Jets. As it started ticking down ... we got a phone call and I was like, 'Oh, man!' At the same time, I was just sad. But at one point, I was elated and happy for him because he put in all the hard work. His childhood dream came to fruition."
The elder Jefferson laughed.
"The thing I'm most happy about is I don't have to take care of him anymore," he said. "He can take care of his own self."
4. Expensive audition: One of the storylines in training camp will be linebacker Avery Williamson, whom many thought would be an offseason cap casualty. Williamson ($8.5 million cap charge) will get a chance in the preseason to make the team, according to inside linebackers coach Frank Bush, who suggested Williamson's recovery from ACL surgery will factor heavily into the decision. "What we've got to do now is get him on the grass and assess what he truly is," Bush said.
5. Ravens & Colts everywhere: After a busy offseason, the Jets can say they have at least one ex-Ravens or ex-Indianapolis Colts player in every position group. The reason is obvious: Douglas has a Baltimore background and assistant GM Rex Hogan came from Indianapolis. Here's a sampling (listing only one per position):
6. Life-and-death battle: It was sad to hear the news about former Jets defensive tackle Josh Evans, who is battling cancer in an Atlanta hospital. Evans, who played for the Jets from 2002 to '04, always was the most upbeat guy in the locker room. I once wrote that Evans has two moods -- happy and happier. He's had a hard life. He grew up poor in Alabama, got shot in a drive-by, knifed in a street fight and served time in jail, but he beat the odds and reached the NFL. He's asking for prayers as he battles the disease. Godspeed, Josh.