With contract drama over, can Jamal Adams lead Seahawks back to Super Bowl?

RENTON, Wash. -- Forget about the contract dispute that's now in the rearview mirror for Jamal Adams and the Seattle Seahawks.

Forget about the angst that was building among both sides -- and Seahawks fans -- as negotiations regressed into a stare-down in recent weeks.

Forget about the doomsday scenario of Adams playing out his rookie deal, then getting slapped with two franchise tags, a road no one wanted to go down.

None of that matters now that the Seahawks have locked up Adams on a four-year, $70 million extension that makes him the NFL's highest-paid safety -- and gets him back on the practice field with three and a half weeks to get ready before their season opener.

What's important is what happens next.

Really, it's what happens in January.

Will Adams be the missing piece that helps the Seahawks get over their playoff hump and back to the Super Bowl? Because the massive haul of draft picks they gave up to acquire him last summer and the record-breaking contract they just signed him to indicate they believe he can be that kind of difference-maker.

"He's a great football player," coach Pete Carroll said. "He's a young man that's just getting started. He loves being here. He's a big factor on your team play-wise, but also spirit-wise and the leadership that he brings and the toughness that he brings and the juice that he brings is unique."

Carroll and general manager John Schneider made the boldest move of their tenure when they acquired Adams for a package of picks that included their next two first-round picks. It was a debatable risk based on understandable motivations.

They considered Adams one of the NFL's best playmaking defenders and were enticed by his blitzing prowess after their inept pass-rush held them back in 2019.

They felt his alpha personality would add a needed spark to a locker room that had lost some of its edge since the Legion of Boom disbanded.

As a perennial playoff team that picks in the 20s, they reasoned that the only other way the Seahawks could nab a top-10 talent like Adams would be to trade up there, which would cost a similar haul of draft picks as what they gave up.

Reservations about how COVID-19 would impact the 2020 college season and this year's draft gave them further reason to secure an established star like Adams.

In the bigger picture, they arguably needed more star power to get them from a perennially good team to a great one. At the time of the trade, they had made the playoffs in four of five seasons since they nearly repeated as Super Bowl champions in 2014, success that most NFL teams would trade for in a heartbeat. But they hadn't gotten past the divisional round in that stretch, a streak that continued last season when they lost in the wild-card round.

By that point, Adams was essentially playing with one arm because of a torn labrum that required offseason surgery. It was one of several injuries he played through in addition to a groin injury that sidelined him for four games.

Despite that, he looked plenty worthy of everything the Seahawks gave up to get him during much of his debut season in Seattle. He set the NFL's sack record for a defensive back and was arguably the Seahawks' most impactful defender when he was on the field.

"He had an extraordinary impact," All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "I think, you guys saw it from practice last year, you saw the energy he brought on the field. And that was one way. Obviously blitzing, [and] his energy is so contagious it makes you want to step your game up. He was somebody we were fortunate to get, fortunate to have."

To be sure, Adams' $17.5 million average is a lot of money for someone who doesn't excel in coverage. Then again, some of the plays he missed last season -- most notably the deep completion he allowed to the Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp in the Seahawks' wild-card loss -- were plays he probably would have made if healthy. He also didn't have a full offseason to learn Seattle's defense, having arrived just before camp.

Adams isn't going to become a ball hawk overnight, but it's reasonable to expect more even play in that part of his game even as he continues to make his biggest contributions as a blitzer.

Adams is part of a loaded group of pass-rushers, especially on the edge. It rivals what the Seahawks had on their 2013 Super Bowl team. They still have Wagner playing at a high level and a pair of promising young linebackers on either side of him in Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor. Cornerback is their biggest question mark on their roster, but they can get by without a Pro Bowl-caliber player there given that they have two Pro Bowl safeties in Adams and Quandre Diggs.

They have an elite quarterback in Russell Wilson, more than enough firepower around him and a new offense that should -- in theory, at least -- help them avoid the wall they hit in the second half of last season. They'd be in big trouble if left tackle Duane Brown misses games amid his contract dispute, though it's not clear if he's dug in enough to do so.

Adams was asked Tuesday if there's another victory cigar in his near future now that his deal is done. It was a reference to the one he lit up on the podium after the Seahawks clinched the NFC West title last December.

"Nah, not yet," he said. "I'm waiting on that Super Bowl."

So are the Seahawks. Can Adams help them get back there?