Does the Jamal Adams trade signal an eventual shift back to a defensive focus in Seattle?

Sport

It’s easy and it’s obvious to look at the trade that brought safety Jamal Adams to Seattle and to assume that the Seahawks plan to build a team around Adams on the defensive side of the ball and quarterback Russell Wilson on the offensive side of the ball. But it’s fair to also consider whether the Adams trade is the first step in a potential shift back to the days when the Legion of Boom delivered a pair of Super Bowl appearances.

After the 2017 season, the Seahawks pushed the pendulum toward Wilson and the offense. Through two seasons of a greater emphasis on offense and a rebuilding defense, the Seahawks have lost in the wild-card round and in the divisional round. (But for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz‘s early exit from the 2019 wild-card game, the Seahawks may have not made it out of Philly in January.)

When the defense was the focal point of the organization, the Seahawks had a much more established spot in the upper echelon (or as Simms would say echelonce) of NFL teams. Is Adams’ arrival, then, a sign of a future premised on balance between the units, or a reversion to the days of a suffocating defense and a run-based offense that was good enough, but hardly high-octane?

The answer possibly hinges on the wants and wishes of Wilson. A sense continues to gurgle around the league that he’s never, and never has been, truly enamored with the way the Seattle offense uses him. Before he signed his latest four-year extension in 2019, rumors abounded that he’d like to continue his career elsewhere. And so it makes sense to at least wonder whether the Seahawks are contemplating a not-too-distant future that entails dramatically reducing the salary commitment at the quarterback position from $35 million per year, avoiding the next squeeze play from a baseball agent with only one NFL client (which gives Mark Rodgers freedom to drive an ultra-hard bargain with no consequence to his broader practice) that could drive to commitment to $45 million per year or more, and finding a young quarterback who can be groomed into being good enough to thrive, with a revolving door of power running backs and a defense that constantly positions the offense to score points.

Coach Pete Carroll has a long background in defensive football. As the NFC West skews toward offensive potency, he surely relishes the opportunity to reload his defense with enough talent to neutralize the likes of Kyler Murray, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jared Goff.

Yes, on the surface it would be lunacy to move on from Wilson. But if Wilson wants to move on from the Seahawks (obviously, he’d never take such a mission public, unlike his newest teammate) and if the Seahawks want to stop paying for a high-end sports car that the organization doesn’t seem to quite know how to properly drive, maybe that’s the eventual play.

If it happens, it won’t happen until 2022 at the earliest. With the salary cap set to plummet to $175 million in 2021 and with a 2021 trade triggering a $39 million cap charge, the Seahawks couldn’t afford to devote 22.2 percent of their 2021 cap to someone not on the team.

The first step will be for the Seahawks to see what they have in Adams, and to decide whether to pay him upwards of $20 million per year on a second contract. If/when that happens, it could be time to start thinking about whether Wilson, who plans to play until he’s 45, will spend many more years of his 30s with the team that made him a third-round pick in 2012.