LANDOVER, Md. -- If the New York Jets trade safety Jamal Adams in the offseason, they will have to hire extra security because their New Jersey facility will be blitzed by an angry mob. Adams is the best player on the team, their best since Darrelle Revis, circa 2011. You don't trade players like that -- you build around them.
Jets CEO Christopher Johnson expressed that sentiment last week, saying, "I would love to have him on the team for the rest of his career" -- and yet he left the door ajar. He said the long-term plan would be up to Adams and general manager Joe Douglas, which suggests there might be some business to discuss in the offseason -- i.e., a new contract.
Some NFL people believe Adams, 24, will seek to become the league's highest-paid safety, and he's making a strong case for himself. He delivered another dominant performance on Sunday, recording a career-high three sacks in the Jets' 34-17 win against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. It brings his total to six, a single-season franchise record for defensive backs and only two shy of the NFL record by former Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson (2005).
"The picks are not coming my way, so I thought I'd do something different," Adams said with a smile.
He's right about the picks -- he has only two career interceptions -- but Adams has taken box-safety play to a new level. In the past two games, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has unleashed Adams as a blitzer, turning him loose against a pair of rookie quarterbacks, Dwayne Haskins and Daniel Jones. Adams has his own position: A Jamal in the Box.
And the two-game results jump off the page: Five sacks. One forced fumble. One fumble recovery. One touchdown.
With Adams as the catalyst, the Jets suddenly resemble the old New York Sack Exchange with 16 sacks in the past three games, their most in a three-game span since 1981.
"To me, it starts with the energy and the attitude," coach Adam Gase said of his star safety. "I mean, you feel him the whole game -- the sideline, the field, he's bringing everything he has. He's just laying it all out there. Some of the plays he's making, it's very impressive to watch him play."
Adams loves to blitz. He's good at it because it requires timing, instincts and a feel for angles, and he has those traits. To be a truly great safety, though, he must show he can make plays on the ball. Sacks are nice, but picks get the big headlines -- and the big bucks.
At some point, probably after the season, the Jets will have to place a value on Adams, who will be eligible for a new contract. He's making $5.6 million per year on his rookie deal, which runs through 2021 (counting a team option). The highest-paid safety -- the Tennessee Titans' Kevin Byard -- is at $14.1 million. If Adams demands a new deal, the Jets will have to make a decision: Pay elite "cornerback" money for a safety or trade him for multiple assets, helping to rebuild the roster.
Unless they're blown away by a ridiculous offer, the Jets should pay him. You don't sell off a blue-chip player unless there's an ugly contract standoff. They performed due diligence by listening to offers before the trade deadline, which infuriated Adams -- and he wasn't shy about expressing his displeasure. That led to a one-week chill in which he refused to speak with Gase and Douglas.
There was a sense around the team that Adams sulked for a week, which might have contributed to the team's bad energy in the embarrassing loss to the previously winless Miami Dolphins. Was he trying to prove a point? After that, he went back to being the old Adams, which is to say nonstop electricity. He challenged his teammates to match his intensity before the Week 10 win against the New York Giants, and he brought that same mindset to FedEx Field on Sunday.
He said his goal is to "keep elevating [my game] and making those around me better. That's what I'm about."
After fleecing the Giants, highlighted by his pickpocket of Jones, Adams said it was just the start, that he was planning to take his game to a higher level. Asked Sunday if he accomplished that, he replied to a reporter, "I'm asking: What do you think?"
In a couple of months, he can pose that question to management.