Even in a most unusual and difficult year, the Jets' trade of Jamal Adams wasn't a white flag waved toward 2020.
General manager Joe Douglas made that much clear when speaking with reporters Monday.
"I would disagree we're punting on 2020," Douglas told reporters, per ESPN's Rich Cimini.
Why, then, would Douglas ship out a Pro Bowl safety who is still on a rookie contract?
Distraction (and the elimination of such) is a legitimate reason, but that could have also been addressed with a new contract, one Adams said he was promised would come and never materialized, per the New York Daily News. Douglas had even publicly said the plan was to make the Pro Bowler a "Jet for life" in February.
Douglas pushed back on such an assertion Monday, telling reporters, "I never promised him an offer," per NFL Network's Kimberly Jones.
Adams was also hurt by the news the team had taken calls on him in 2019, an act which Adams seemed to view as betrayal and one he never quite let go of.
Instead, the Jets let go of him in the deal with the Seahawks, bringing into question the future of Gang Green. If a first-rounder on a rookie contract isn't worth extending -- even after his first All-Pro selection -- what exactly is this organization's plan for future success?
Any time a team tears itself down in a rebuilding effort, we're all subjected to the same righteous tropes about building a team "the right way" and acknowledging past struggles while emphasizing those in power are doing everything possible to ensure this is the movement that finally turns the team around. In fact, Douglas used that first phrase Monday.
"My message is to the team and fan base is we're trying to build this the right way," Douglas said, per the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta. "I think this deal does that. We're trying to build a foundation."
The foundation had a really strong piece in Adams, who is now gone to Seattle in exchange for a haul of picks, including first-rounders in 2021 and 2022. Those are nice assets to jump-start what those in Florham Park hope is the legitimate push to a bright future.
It's not foolproof, of course. Cleveland's experiment -- a grand tear-down launched in 2016 that yielded massive draft capital and is going on its fifth year now -- still has yet to prove whether it really worked or not (although the Browns at least retained their first-round defensive star on a long-term extension).
New York's plan, by comparison, isn't all that different. Back when former Browns GM Sashi Brown was rapidly shipping out talent for picks, he was also fixing the offensive line, spending lavishly on center J.C. Tretter and guard Kevin Zeitler. Douglas has adopted a similar focus, drafting Mekhi Becton and attempting to plug holes with guard Alex Lewis and center Connor McGovern less than a year after his predecessor's new-look line fell flat.
The question for the Jets, though, is an important one. As the comparison (Cleveland) continues pushing forward with the same capital-turned-players it amassed with one large tear-down, where do the Jets stand now? Their high pick in 2018 was spent on handpicked franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold, and a healthy chunk of their cap space was spent last season on star running back Le'Veon Bell and premier linebacker C.J. Mosley. Adams was on a rookie contract -- one he wasn't happy about being on, but still was under team control -- yet Douglas shipped him west for future assets.
So where are the Jets headed? The windows created by key contributors playing on rookie deals are already starting to close. One was destroyed with the Adams deal, and the other has three years left on it at the most. The Jets can't cash in on those acquired picks until next year and the year after. The target time frame seems uncertain.
Might this not be the last big name Jet to skip town?
"I don't feel like this sets a precedent for a guy to shoot himself out of town," Douglas said, per The Record's Andy Vasquez.
A strong finish to 2019 gave the Jets' fan base reason to hope. Douglas said Monday it wasn't a soft schedule, but a team putting it together to win six of its final eight games.
That team had Adams, and now, it doesn't. We'll see what that means for its future.