Adam Schefter sent the tweet heard around the Jets fanbase yesterday.
When the NFL’s voluntary virtual off-season program opens this month, Jets’ All-Pro safety Jamal Adams is not expected to participate, per league sources. The Jets have not expressed any official interest in extending Adams thus far in the off-season, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 17, 2020
Since then the discussion has turned to whether Jamal Adams will be traded. On the surface it seems like Adams is skipping these virtual workouts to send a message to the team he is unhappy with the lack of progress on a new deal. It certainly doesn’t feel like an accident that Adam Schefter found out.
While I can’t guarantee you that Adams will eventually sign a long-term contract with the Jets, I don’t think anybody can say this guarantees his time with the Jets is over. Why would I say this?
Skipping offseason workouts is a time honored tradition among NFL stars unhappy they don’t have a new contract. Many eventually do sign an extension.
Julio Jones, Aaron Donald, Zack Martin, Bobby Wagner, and Kawaan Short are among the list of star players who sat out OTAs in recent years over a contract dispute and eventually signed a long-term deal with their team.
Of course there are situations where a player sits out OTAs over his contract, and it foreshadows that player departing for his team. That is about the contract dispute, though. Skipping OTAs in itself is not an action that makes the two sides irredeemably apart, though.
A few days ago we found out that the quarterback of the team at the center of most Adams trade rumors, Dak Prescott, will be skipping Cowboys virtual OTAs over his own lack of a long-term contract. I don’t think anybody believes that relationship is beyond redeeming.
I understand the reasons for the frustration over the Adams situation. As fans we are conditioned to think about things from the team perspective. If a player hasn’t reached a contract extension at a reasonable rate, that isn’t good for the team.
However, contract negotiations are frequently messy. Frustrations can boil over. Sometimes these disputes get resolved, though, and everybody forgets they ever happened.
How many players have been as identified with one team as Ray Lewis? He was Mr. Baltimore Ravens and indisputably one of the greatest locker room leaders in the history of the league. We tend not to remember his multiple contract public contract disputes, his trade demand, or the rumors that he dreamed of playing for the Dallas Cowboys that somehow became public. We forget these things because Lewis eventually did work out his issues with the Ravens. Sometimes these negotiations get messier than we would like.
And while it is enticing to think of team loyalty and easy contract negotiations as a sign of leadership, the reality of the situation is more complicated for these players. This is a job for them. Their window to maximize their career earnings is short and could be ended on any play with a career-altering injury. When a player underperforms his salary, the team can demand he take a paycut or simply release him. When a player overperforms his salary, he does not have many tools at his disposal to try and gain leverage with the team. Skipping OTAs is one of the few. It’s a pretty small and ultimately pretty irrelevant protest. Contractually speaking, these are purely voluntary. Players are under no obligation to attend.
If you think skipping OTAs shows a lack of leadership from Adams, I will pose this question. Do you think Sam Darnold is equipped to lead this team into the future. Before you answer let me remind you that he held out of training camp as a rookie over a contract dispute, which is more significant than sitting out virtual OTAs.
Situations like Adams’ happen every year. It’s an easy storyline for the media to create drama at a relatively slow time for news.
(To this point you could say the same about the Adams trade rumors. For all of the talk about this being months in the works, the two sides never came close to working out a deal in October, and the Jets did not come off like a team desperate to unload Adams considering the enormous package they demanded. Could it be that, “The Jets fail again! They can’t keep their star! LOLJETS!” is another easy storyline for lazy writers to latch onto?)
Mind you I’m not guaranteeing that Jamal Adams will end his career with the Jets. I’m not even totally dismissing the idea of a trade as soon as this coming week.
I would say that it is an enormous leap to use Adams’ upcoming absence from virtual OTAs as definitive proof a trade is likely.
I will conclude by providing you with another example of how important the offseason program is. Three years ago Fletcher Cox of the Eagles skipped some early offseason workouts. The media created drama over it. In his case, Cox had already signed his lucrative extension and was supposed to show he was a leader. Of course, that season Cox was an All Pro and a Pro Bowler. The Eagles won the Super Bowl.
Whether you think OTAs are significant can probably be determined by whether you would ever make the following statement.
“Yeah, maybe Fletcher Cox led the Eagles to a Super Bowl, but he skipped offseason team activities.”
I have a feeling I know where most of us stand on that.