The state of labor relations in pro sports is a tense one at the best of times, with teams treating players like they’re nothing but money-making machines for the franchise. Things especially aren’t easy when a team has publicly burned all of its bridges with its star IDP player and refused to offer a reasonable long-term contract. Strong safety Jamal Adams is in exactly that spot with the New York Jets.
If players are just money generators to teams, though, then players shouldn’t be expected to treat their teams as anything more than banks. After months of public dissatisfaction, Adams has finally formally requested the team trade him to one of eight others. If he moves on from Gotham, his fantasy football value will certainly shift in a titanic way too, so which of those should Jamal Adams IDP owners be rooting for a swap to?
Jamal Adams: The Player
Since he was drafted sixth overall in 2017, just three years ago, Adams has been nothing but phenomenal for the New York Jets, showing up as a top-tier tackler, but also developing into a true triple threat with pass-rushing and coverage skills.
In his rookie season, Adams posted 88 combined tackles (nine for a loss) and two sacks – but allowed a 130.2 passer rating when targeted with just 6 passes defended, all on 1,100 snaps played. Since then, however, Adams has turned it on in all phases.
Across 2,078 snaps in the last two years, Adams averaged 91.5 combined tackles (9.5 for a loss), 5.5 sacks, one interception, and 9 passes defended while allowing an average passer rating of 73.3. Adams is a premier safety in the NFL, but if the Jets don’t want to pay him as such, that will be some other team’s gain.
Over his three seasons in big-play IDP scoring, Adams has ranked 25th, 1st, and 1st, respectively, among safeties in fantasy points per game, proving that he is the premier safety for IDP leagues. But how would a move affect him, and which landing spot would be best?
The teams that might make sense for Jamal Adams
Though this is a team that could add talent as they aim to capture a title, there isn’t a strong need for safety help on the Baltimore Ravens. On the depth chart currently are aging star Earl Thomas at the free spot and Adams’ fellow class of 2017 member Chuck Clark at the strong spot.
Both performed quite well last season, ranking inside the top-40 at their position by Pro Football Focus’s (PFF) grades and right around that same mark in big-play IDP scoring.
That said, Clark is hardly elite like Adams, and Thomas has run himself into some bizarre personal trouble this offseason that may affect his playing time, so finding snaps for the top safety in the league wouldn’t be difficult.
It would be just fine for Adams’ IDP potential too, as Clark played 68.9 percent of his snaps last season as a box safety or on the defensive line – an increase from the 51.8 percent Adams played at these spots.
Playing close to the line means Adams would maintain his base of tackles and his IDP value floor, despite the presence of rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen, as Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale excels at using his players’ athletic ability in creative ways.
IDP Verdict: Almost as good as NYJ.
The Dallas Cowboys have long been mentioned as the desired destination for the premier safety – largely because Adams grew up in a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth. It’s no surprise that Dallas remains on Adams’ list, and they could certainly use him.
Last year’s top strong safety, Jeff Heath, landed outside the top-50 safety options in IDP big-play fantasy scoring. This offseason the ‘Boys did upgrade their safety group, nabbing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to play their primary free safety role, which will allow Xavier Woods to return to a strong safety position.
The problem we run into with projecting Adams to the Cowboys for IDP purposes is that his value would take a huge hit thanks to the largely two-deep safety coverages that new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan tends to run.
In his most recent role as the Atlanta DC in 2014, Dwight Lowery and Kemal Ishmael were Nolan’s top safeties and played 35.7 and 25.6 percent, respectively, of their snaps close to the line. That, unfortunately, matches how Heath and Woods were used last season too; they played close on 36.7 and 16.4 percent of their snaps, respectively.
Adams, while his talents would occasionally win out over usage, would be in a much worse IDP spot in Big D.
IDP Verdict: Drops him to S20 or so in single-season rankings, and DB8 in dynasty.
Another Texas team has naturally caught Adams’ eye, and that is the Houston Texans. It’s hard to see Houston scrounging up enough draft capital to trade for the star defensive back, but – assuming they can – what would be the effect?
The only high-snap safety holdover from 2019 is Justin Reid, but the team did sign free agent Eric Murray as the other starter. Reid was a top-15 safety by PFF grades, specializing in coverage, while Murray was just average in only 360 snaps last season. Reid ended up a solid 30th in IDP big-play scoring and the Texans’ second safety, Tashaun Gipson, posted the 40th-most points at the position.
The Texans would seem to be a slight downgrade for Jamal Adams’ IDP fantasy value, as new DC Anthony Weaver was part of outgoing coordinator Romeo Crennel’s staff, under which safeties Reid, Gipson, and Jahleel Addae each played fewer than 40 percent of their snaps in close.
Weaver’s philosophy – also influenced by former NFL coach Rex Ryan – will likely use plenty of two-deep zone safety looks, meaning Adams would get to attack downhill far less often. This would be better than Dallas, but not by much.
IDP Verdict: Drops him to S10 or so in single-season rankings, and DB5 in dynasty.
Kansas City Chiefs
It’s no surprise that the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs make it onto Adams’ destination list, but with veteran Tyrann Mathieu, second-year second-rounder Juan Thornhill, and valuable depth option Daniel Sorensen, it’s not likely KC feels the pressure to make a move for the embattled New York star. Mathieu and Thornhill both ranked as S1’s by PFF grades, and Sorensen came in a solid 74th, so there isn’t a huge hole at this spot.
Assuming they would make the move, though, Adams would likely grab a significant portion of Mathieu’s previous role. The only problem is that Mathieu only played 37.6 percent of his snaps in the box or on the line, despite earning a top-15 ranking in IDP big-play scoring; Thornhill also played just 22.4 percent in close.
Veteran DC Steve Spagnuolo’s coverage scheme is intellectually challenging, good for a perceptive player like Adams, but what he asks his safeties to do isn’t always good for IDP scoring. Add in the depth of talent currently, and they’d cannibalize each other’s value in the short-term.
IDP Verdict: Drops him to S25 or so in single-season rankings, and DB8 in dynasty.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost Malcolm Jenkins to free agency this offseason, leaving 2016 seventh-rounder Jalen Mills alongside Rodney McLeod. Neither Jenkins nor McLeod were highly productive for NFL purposes in 2019, both on the cusp of the safety top-50 by PFF’s grades, so allowing the veteran Jenkins to walk shouldn’t hurt too much. With little depth at this point and Super Bowl aspirations, the Eagles could be a strong bidder for Adams’ services.
This would be great for Adams in IDP as well: the vacated strong safety role that Jenkins occupied saw an in-close snap rate of 54.9 percent last season, leading Jenkins to the 13th-most fantasy points among safeties in IDP big-play scoring.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would likely use Adams in the same way, as a box safety with McLeod as the single-high in Cover-1 and Cover-3 looks. There’s little established linebacker depth to compete with for tackles, also, which will keep Adams’ IDP scoring floor high.
IDP Verdict: Just as good as NYJ.
San Francisco 49ers
The other Super Bowl competitor from last season, the San Francisco 49ers have always loved hard-nosed defensive backs in Adams’ mold. That said, there is a fairly crowded depth chart at the position, headed by Jaquiski Tartt at strong safety.
Jimmie Ward was a top-tier coverage safety last year by PFF’s grades, and Tartt was more of a lower-end second safety, so the latter could find himself upgraded on if negotiations work right.
If Adams made it to the Bay Area, he’d likely displace Tartt to the second team, taking the role that afforded a 48.0 percent in-close snap rate in 2019 but upgrading on the talent that led Tartt to just the 58th-most fantasy points among safeties in IDP big-play scoring.
This wouldn’t be a horrible setting for Adams, who would find another creatively coordinated scheme in Robert Saleh’s Cover-3 that he learned and developed as a member of the Seattle Seahawks’ organization while Kam Chancellor terrorized the middle of the field. Adams could earn plenty of value in a similar role.
IDP Verdict: Slight downgrade to S5 or so in single-season rankings, and DB3 in dynasty.
Speaking of the ‘Hawks, they are also on Adams’ list, but they too have a cramped depth chart, with Brad McDougald and Delano Hill topping the strong safety column. Neither were outstanding last year, though, as McDougald came in among the bottom 25 percent of qualifying safeties by PFF’s grades, and Hill was in the bottom 15.
Assuming Seattle would want to load up to stretch their championship window even further, Adams would assume McDougald’s 37.5 percent in-close snap rate role. McDougald played a fair amount of cornerback in 2019 as the Seahawks swapped pieces around to find their favorite secondary alignment, so perhaps they’d prefer to keep Adams a full-time box safety in their traditional single-high looks, but this is a bit concerning for his fantasy value. This role also created just the 34th-most IDP fantasy points last season.
IDP Verdict: Drops him to S10 or so in single-season rankings, and DB5 in dynasty.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Everyone wants to be part of “Tompa Bay” this season, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are rumored to be trying to assemble an all-star team via whisper campaign a la LeBron James’ Miami Heat tenure.
This secondary is a huge pile of unproven early-drafted options, with Mike Edwards, Justin Evans, Antoine Winfield Jr., and Jordan Whitehead all stacked up. That said, last year, no Tampa safety ranked better than 70th in PFF grades among qualifying options, so Adams would be a massive upgrade for them.
They would be a major downgrade for him, though. Bucs safeties in 2019 played close to the line on just 32.6 percent of their snaps while playing in deep centerfield as a free safety more than 50 percent of the time.
Additionally, Tampa just added fellow hybrid safety Winfield in the second round of the draft this year (whose strength is also to play a downhill attacking role), so he and Adams would likely have to rotate box snaps fairly evenly. No Tampa Bay safety was above the 30th-best in IDP big-play scoring last year, and I can’t imagine they would be this year, even if Jamal Adams was among them.
IDP Verdict: Drops him to S30 or so in single-season rankings, and DB10 in dynasty.