With less than a week before the NFL Draft begins and again, an All-Pro Safety has been connected to the Dallas Cowboys. Just like two years ago leading up to the draft when the Dallas Cowboys spoke with then Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas, the buzz is growing toward a fever pitch for another All-Pro safety.
This time, it’s Jamal Adams of the New York Jets.
In the fall, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys made a concerted effort to acquire the All-Pro safety from the New York Jets for draft pick compensation. Unfortunately, it never really seemed like the Jets were interested in dealing as they set the price so high that the Dallas Cowboys eventually backed off.
Whether it was two firsts a second and either Zack Martin or Tyron Smith, or a first and two seconds, both price tags were out of range of what the Dallas Cowboys were willing to pay for Jamal Adams.
Like Earl Thomas, Jamal Adams is seeking a contract extension from the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2017, and he’s done nothing but make plays for New York while they’ve floundered. The Jets seem reluctant to pay that man his money, and again, the Dallas Cowboys may have an opportunity to trade and sign Adams, who would be an impact player for their defense.
The big questions are, how much would the Dallas Cowboys have to pay, and could they afford him?
To answer the first question, we’re looking at the top safety contracts over at OverTheCap.com.
In January, the Chicago Bears signed Safety Eddie Jackson to a five-year extension paying him an average annual salary of $14.6 million for the life of the contract. Kevin Byard, Tyrann Mathieu, and Landon Collins each have an average yearly value on their contracts at $14 million a year. Therefore the number for Jamal Adams would likely have to start at or above $14 million a year.
Jamal Adams believes he’s the best safety in the NFL. While that’s a subjective argument, most would say he’s one of the best safeties in the NFL. His versatility in coverage and as a blitzer makes him extremely valuable. He’s more than “just a strong safety.”
The Dallas Cowboys would likely have to consider a contract that would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL at around $15 million a year. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but you’re getting playmaking, leadership, and the right kind of guy for that money. He’d be an immediate impact player for the Dallas Cowboys.
Currently, the Dallas Cowboys have a little more than $13 million in cap space per OverTheCap.com. Their rookie pool allotment, which is based on where they’re selecting, is a little more than $7 million. Per OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys would need to have at least $3 million in cap space to account for their rookies since each rookie signed would replace a player that counts in their effective cap space or the top 51 contracts on the team.
So the Cowboys effectively have $10 million to work with right now if you take the money needed to sign the rookies away. To get Jamal Adams in at $15 million a year and stay compliant with the salary cap, you’d only need another $5 million.
There are several ways the Dallas Cowboys could clear up another $5 million in cap space.
First, if they were to trade for Adams, they could structure a long-term contract extension to have a year one cap hit low enough to get him under the salary cap and still have some money to work with. Remember, while the salary cap is a hard cap in the NFL, the contracts are pliable and can be molded to pay the player and work for the team.
Secondly, they could sign Dak Prescott to a long-term contract.
Though Dak Prescott has yet to sign the franchise tag, once the Cowboys place the tag on Prescott, that put a hold on $31 million on the cap, per OverTheCap.com. Until a long-term agreement is reached, the Cowboys have to account for the franchise tag.
When the Cowboys and Prescott reach an agreement, they could structure the contract in such a way to lower the year-one cap hit to be significantly less than the $31 million in cap space he currently counts for 2020. They could structure his year one cap hit at say $26 million, and that would help them save $5 million on their 2020 salary cap freeing up space to pay Jamal Adams.
Third, they could restructure Amari Cooper’s contract to lower his 2020 cap hit from $20 million. If they were to restructure Cooper’s contract to lower his cap hit in 2020 to say $10 million, the $10 million difference would then be spread out over the final four years of his contract. His base salaries would then be $22.5 million over the final four years instead of $20 million.
The final options have to do with Tyrone Crawford. They could cut him, which they probably won’t do. And they could ask him to take a pay cut. Crawford has reportedly said he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Dallas Cowboys, but the Dallas Cowboys are unlikely to ask him to do so.
While the excitement has grown about the possible addition of Jamal Adams, it still seems improbable that a trade would come to fruition. The New York Jets would have to lower their reported asking price as I don’t think the Dallas Cowboys would be interested in paying three draft picks for Jamal Adams.
However, as Mike Fisher of Cowboys Maven on SI writes, the Dallas Cowboys have been and are still interested in acquiring Jamal Adams to play safety for them. Even though they’ve added Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in free agency, they’ve shown interest in safeties Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney, and both remain possibilities for the Dallas Cowboys at 17th overall.
The Dallas Cowboys have been through this before only not to pull the trigger. The difference here is that the Cowboys are pursuing a safety entering the prime of his career.
Jamal Adams is one of the best defensive backs in the game and is only 24 years old (turns 25 in October) and has three years of experience under his belt. Much like the Amari Cooper trade back in 2018, the Cowboys can feel confident about sending a first-round pick for a player that is one of the best at his position because he’s got a lot of years left to play. There’s a strong likelihood that the player would see the end of his contract.
Jamal Adams is a player worth trading for, and he’s a player worth paying. It wouldn’t even take much cap maneuvering to fit a new long-term contract extension under the salary cap. And with the cap expected to make a significant jump over the next two years, the Cowboys can afford Jamal Adams and his big-time contract.