The surreal saga between the Jets and Jamal Adams might be coming to an end.
Seven months after Adams capped off an All-Pro season that vaulted him into superstardom, general manager Joe Douglas has told one of the game’s most dynamic players that he is open to trading him before the start of the season.
Adams confirmed to the Daily News on Thursday that the Jets GM has indeed conveyed his willingness to move the team’s best player if the right deal presents itself after intense acrimony this offseason. However, the Jets still have not given Adams’ camp permission to discuss trade parameters with interested teams.
The News has uncovered details of how Douglas made a series of bizarre decisions that created a cavernous divide between the organization and their biggest star.
“It’s definitely mixed feelings,” Adams told the News in his first comments amid the contract stalemate. “But at the end of the day, my happiness is more important. I know my worth. I’m going to stand on my beliefs. I’m going to stand on who I am as a person. And I’m not ever going to change who I am for somebody who’s judging me. Either you accept me for who I am and you work with me and support me or you don’t. It’s okay if you don’t.”
Douglas’ curious communication coupled with Adams’ eroding relationship with head coach Adam Gase created a tension that bubbled to the surface. The News first reported last month that Adams had requested permission to seek a trade before citing that Gase was one factor why the two-time Pro Bowler felt uncomfortable with his long-term future with the team.
“I don’t feel like he’s the right leader for this organization to reach the Promised Land,” Adams said. “As a leader, what really bothers me is that he doesn’t have a relationship with everybody in the building.
“At the end of the day, he doesn’t address the team,” Adams added. “If there’s a problem in the locker room, he lets another coach address the team. If we’re playing sh—y and we’re losing, he doesn’t address the entire team as a group at halftime. He’ll walk out of the locker room and let another coach handle it.”
Gase’s recent claim that his relationship with Adams “has been good since the time I’ve gotten here” and “there’s been a lot of dialogue between us” appears to be the latest in a series of exaggerations and/or prevarications. Adams told the News that he hasn’t spoken to Gase since his exit interview on the day after the end of the regular season (Dec. 30).
Gase did not respond to a message for comment.
The player-coach relationship notwithstanding, Adams was taken aback by a series of events with Douglas this offseason. The timeline reveals a disjointed organizational plan filled with contradiction.
Poor communication and stonewalling engendered a deep mistrust with Adams.
“If they would have just simply said, ‘You know what, Jamal — we’re not going to look to pay you this year, we want to keep adding players — I would have respected that more,” Adams said. “I would say, ‘You know what? I respect it. As a man, I get it. I understand it’s a business.’ But for them to tell me that they’re going to pay me and then not send over a proposal after they said that’s what they were going to, that’s where we go wrong. And then for you to ignore me, that’s why I have a problem.”
So, what really happened?
The details are disturbing on myriad levels.
In January, Douglas told Adams’ camp that he would go to ownership/management to initiate the process to craft a first proposal for a contract extension. It seemed promising.
When no proposal arrived weeks later, the sides agreed to pick up discussions at the Scouting Combine in February when Douglas announced that he wanted Adams to be “a Jet for life.”
But there was no progress. Something seemed amiss to Adams.
Douglas inexplicably pivoted after the Combine. The forthcoming first offer talk was replaced with this message to Adams’ camp in the run-up to free agency: We’re going to get him better players.
The News reported at the time that the Jets had been telling people that they had cash flow restrictions during free agency. The result was predictable: Douglas signed a litany of second- and third-tier players to one-year or de facto one-year deals. Any suggestion that the pandemic played a role in the Jets’ offseason strategy was a red herring. The reality is that the Johnsons set a tight budget this offseason long before anyone became aware of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Adams waited to receive the initial proposal that Douglas promised in January.
Free agency came and went. With the draft approaching, Adams understandably wanted a status report. Douglas publicly said that he would address Adams’ situation after the draft rather than tell Adams’ camp privately.
It was a peculiar tactic.
When the draft was over, Douglas came out of hibernation to let Team Adams know that he wanted to talk. Optimism swelled despite the rocky first few months.
Surely, a first offer was on the way.
However, the conversation in early May took a bizarre turn.
Rather than make a first offer, Douglas said that the team wanted to table contract talks until next offseason. In the meantime, the powers that be wanted to monitor Adams to see if he was all-in with the Jets and all-in with football. The GM wanted Adams to prove his loyalty to the franchise.
Adams felt like he had entered the Twilight Zone.
Monitor him? Why? He had already exhibited a maniacal work ethic and produced more than anyone on the team for three years. He had never gotten into any trouble. He was the heart and soul for this star-crossed franchise. He was their shining light.
It didn’t make sense on any logical level.
“It was very insulting,” Adams said. “You know I bust my ass for that organization every day. I work my ass off. For them to say that to me, I was like ‘Okay… Whoa! That was little bit too far.’”
Adams was understandably perturbed, but hoped that time would calm the situation.
The GM’s position had shifted to this: Is Jamal going to honor his rookie contract or not?
Douglas’ inexperience in high-stakes negotiations was painfully obvious. He had changed his message too many times to remember, jumping from one stance to the next over the course of five months, alienating the team’s best player along the way.
Douglas did not respond to a request for comment.
“Why would Joe come out and say, ‘We want to make Jamal a Jet for life?’” Adams said. “Why would you say that and then not even give me an offer?… Don’t B.S. me. I’m a straightforward guy. You don’t have to B.S. me, because I’m going to keep it honest.”
The animosity was strong, the divide needlessly manufactured by an inexperienced negotiator who appeared out of his depth.
When Adams decided that he wanted permission to seek a trade last month, Douglas levied the final insult: If Jamal keeps acting the way he’s acting, nobody is going to want him.
Adams was a two-time team MVP, a respected leader and the emotional engine that wanted to turn around a wayward franchise. Now, he had been marginalized by team decision makers, who inexplicably let it all spiral out of control.
In the span of six months, Douglas went from promising to send over a first contract proposal to pretending as if he had never made such a promise, which would have been an affront to any person in Adams’ position.
Meanwhile, Jets fans were caught in the middle.
“I love the Jets fanbase,” Adams said. “It’s so strong. They’re very passionate. And it goes along with my personality. If they don’t like something, they speak about it. Just like I speak about it. I have nothing but love and respect for the Jets fans. They’re some loyal fans as far as sticking with the team. Showing up to the games, wearing jerseys. I respect it. But when an organization starts to disrespect you like this, it’s just time to move on. And it has nothing to do with the fans.”
The entire offseason has taken its toll on Adams, too.
“My happiness is way more important than the rest of this,” Adams said. “I can’t deal with all that anymore. It’s draining.”
Whether or not Douglas is able to trade Adams in the coming days or weeks remains to be seen. Regardless, Adams will report to the start of training camp when veterans are scheduled to arrive on July 28.
New York Jets coaches past and present
“I’m showing up for my teammates,” Adams said. “Obviously my love and passion for the game is very simple. You just turn on the tape and watch. No matter if we’re winning or we’re losing or we’re getting blown out, I’m still the same guy. I won’t change my tempo as far as how I play on the field. I’ll never slow down. At the end of the day, I’m trying to be the greatest player to ever play the game at my position. Or at least one of them. That’s my goal. I won’t let anybody knock me off that goal.”
“I want to win,” Adams said. “I want to be with an organization that wants to win and do things the right way.”