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Like with Amari Cooper, Jamal Adams is worth the high-cost trade

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It would cost to get Jamal Adams, but sometimes you have to pay to get to the next level.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Remember the Earl Thomas saga? The Cowboys needed a stud safety and Thomas, arguably the best safety in the NFL at the time, wanted to come home to Texas to play for his favorite team in the Cowboys.

Dallas was interested, but wasn’t willing to give up more than a second-round draft pick in 2018, which they ended up using on Connor Williams. When Thomas entered free agency a year later, Dallas showed some mild interest again but wasn’t willing to spend the kind of money that Thomas - who ended up signing four year, $55 million deal with the Ravens - wanted.

The Cowboys are now halfway to repeating that same process with Jamal Adams. They reportedly offered a first-round pick and Anthony Brown for Adams during the 2019 season, but New York wanted more. Dallas held onto their first-round pick, turned it into CeeDee Lamb, and re-signed Brown to a three year extension. But now Adams is once again in the crosshairs for Dallas:

Under the previous regime, Dallas had become fairly risk-averse when it came to adding players via trade, which is why they didn’t offer enough for both Thomas and Adams. But the Mike McCarthy era has already shown they’re willing to take chances to improve the team, whether it was spending money on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, signing Andy Dalton to backup Dak Prescott, or trading up for Tyler Biadasz in the draft.

The one time recently with the previous regime that they took the plunge on a risky trade was the one that netted them Amari Cooper. Needing a star receiver to help their offense, Dallas sent a first-round pick for the former fourth overall selection, and Cooper immediately elevated the team as they went 7-2 after the trade to make the postseason.

Since all the Cowboys surrendered was a single first-round pick, which ended up being late in the first round due to Cooper’s contributions, they essentially traded the 27th overall pick for the fourth overall pick (except for the cheap contract that 27th pick would have been on for the next four to five years). That’s a massive steal, and it’s part of the reason Dallas just invested $100 million into Cooper for the next five years.

The Cowboys now have an opportunity for something similar with Adams. If the reports are true that New York is seeking a first- and third-round pick, then Dallas is in a great position to meet that request. If the 2020 Cowboys play up to expectations, their first-round pick should be a late selection - and if Adams is the missing piece, he should push that pick closer to the end of the first round.

Additionally, the Cowboys are projected to earn a third-round compensatory pick next year for the loss of Byron Jones this offseason, which would offset the loss of their original third-rounder they’d have to give up for Adams. From a draft selection standpoint, they’d be losing one of their two third-round picks and trading a first-round pick in the high 20’s/early 30’s for the sixth overall pick. Without considering the financial aspect, that would be a no-brainer.

More than that, though, Adams is a proven commodity in the NFL, unlike any player Dallas might select in the first round of the 2021 draft. Through three seasons in the league, Adams has made two Pro Bowls, been named both first- and second-team All Pro, and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie team. As a captain, he’s been the vocal leader of a team that was short on leadership, and finished top three on the team in tackles each year while finishing second in sacks in 2019. Adams is a versatile defender who would thrive in the multiple kind of defense the new coaching staff is looking to implement.

But the prospect of Adams joining the Cowboys involves more than just the trade. It would likely be dependent on getting Adams signed to a contract extension immediately, which the Jets reportedly aren’t keen on doing just yet.

However, as Gary Myers pointed out, the Cowboys are only $5.6 million under the cap, with Dak Prescott’s franchise tag taking up a large chunk of that space. In order to give Adams a long-term contract extension upon trading for him, Dallas would likely need to first clear up space by extending Prescott. If the front office really does want Adams, that gives Dak’s camp that much more leverage.

As far as the team goes, though, it’s a very good thing to get their quarterback locked up long term and it’s also a very good thing to get a potentially game-changing All Pro safety onto the roster. If you can do both at the same time while also not sacrificing too much draft capital, that would seem to be the ultimate win-win for Dallas.

Unlike the Cooper trade, this potential trade requires a few more dominoes to drop, but it has very similar levels of medium-risk, high-reward that the Cooper trade had. And if the Cowboys can clear space via an extension for Prescott, then they should absolutely pull the trigger. It could end up being the difference between winning a Super Bowl or not.