Over the past week or so, speculation has been rampant over pro bowl safety Jamal Adams' future with the Jets organization. Right now, he seems intent on forcing his way out, but the Jets control his rights so they're not obliged to accommodate him.
Of course, these situations can degrade to a point where the team is forced to take action before the player tanks his own value or threatens to be a distraction until he gets his way.
Whatever the Jets will do next is uncertain, but losing Adams will be a tough blow for a Jets team that has arguably based their entire offseason strategy on building the defense around him. Losing Adams not only undermines that strategy, but threatens to leave the Jets short of the personnel required to make it work.
Whether this has been a long-term strategy or just a formula the Jets stumbled upon last season is unclear, but basically everything the Jets have done on defense seems geared towards building on what they achieved down the stretch last season.
As we've discussed at length, the Jets played a lot of zone defense at the end of last year. This began when Gregg Williams benched Nate Hairston for Bless Austin during the Giants game and employed Austin and Arthur Maulet on the outside in zone coverage.
That game ended up being one of the best of Adams' career as he was constantly in the backfield making plays, including one where he ripped the ball away from Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and ran it in for a score.
The assumption is that the Jets stuck with that plan because they didn't have the personnel at cornerback to play effective man-to-man coverage. However, at the same time, there was perhaps a realization that playing such a defense enabled Adams to roam around a lot more freely and make more of an impact all over the field.
Sure enough, Adams - who had only blitzed 49 times in his first nine appearances of the season - was able to do so a lot more often thereafter. He had 52 pass rush attempts in the final five games. That included three games where he blitzed 13 times - five more than his highest total from the first nine games.
In this year's offseason, the Jets have acquired Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson and Bryce Hall - all players who would fit in with the team running those same zone coverages in 2020. They haven't really looked to add a bump-and-run style lockdown corner who can play on an island.
With CJ Mosley also due to return, this shores up the middle and affords the Jets even more flexibility in terms of how they employ their safeties.
In other words, they've setting themselves up to try and make Adams even more impactful than he's been in the past...which creates a big problem if he's not going to be here.
Helpfully, Adams missed two of the games down the stretch through injury, giving us a look at how this system might operate without him.
With Darryl Roberts filling in as the deep safety, the Jets opted to play Marcus Maye closer to the line of scrimmage a lot more than he did in any of the other games in his career so far, but it wasn't the same as how they use Adams. Maye made a few plays in the box, but didn't really rush very often and often dropped into a basic cover-2 alignment in the secondary.
Maye played quite well in his first start in this role, with the Jets scraping a last-gasp win over Miami. However, he was exploited for a couple of big plays in coverage by the Ravens in a blow-out loss the following week.
If Maye moving into that strong safety role is the team's Plan A in terms of a solution to Adams being unavailable, that's likely to weaken the Jets at two positions. Maye isn't going to be as good in the box as Adams and whoever replaces Maye in the deep role is going to be a downgrade too.
Maye is out of contract himself at the end of this year and might not react well to the offer of an extension given the fact that the Jets drafted Ashtyn Davis, a player widely assumed to be his replacement, on day two in April. If Adams were to depart, the two would presumably now start alongside one another.
It looks like the Jets had a plan for their defense in 2020. Adams trying to leverage his way off the roster is one thing they won't have provided contingencies for. However they respond to this situation, the Jets will need to weigh up the ripple effects trading Adams could have before they make that call.