On Thursday, March 15 of 2012, Denver jumped into the free agent pool and came out clutching veteran free safety Mike Adams in its hooves. Was it the money or the atmosphere that brought him into the Broncos fold? According to Gray Caldwell, Michael ‘Pops’ Adams began by saying, “Nice to be here: the weather’s nice.”
It was your basic 70-degree March day in Denver. Happily, the Broncos signed him before the next traditional spring snowstorm rolled on in (and I’m sorry to hear about the late drought along the front range - all the best to those who were or are displaced by the forest fires that are plaguing that area). Regardless - one of the things that clinched his decision was the warmth within the facility, far more than the weather without. The coaching of John Fox went a long way toward greasing the wheels to a mutual agreement.
“I knew of Fox when he was with the Giants,” Adams said. “I was born and raised in Paterson, NJ, and I heard nothing but good things about him. Even when he went to Carolina – nothing but good things about him. It was proven once we all met today and it was a no-brainer to not take any more visits and just stay here.”
“Coach Jack Del Rio – he played the game 11 years, so he knows and he understands what defensive players go through, when he needs to back off or when he needs to push guys,” Adams said. “As a player, that’s what you want. You want a coach that really understands. (Fox and Del Rio) definitely do.”
In the end, Adams said that it just ‘felt right’ on both sides. Adams brings a mixture of skills to the Broncos. He wasn’t really looking for a new team to move to, but surprisingly, Cleveland didn’t make him an offer. What’s strange about that is that Cleveland has been weak in the secondary for the past few years and Adams has been, according to reports out of Cleveland, one of the few consistent players they’ve had. He started 16 games for them last year. He’s also been a special teams ace despite his age and has proved to be a top mentor for the younger players around him, a reputation that had to play into the Broncos’ interest in him considering the age of their safeties other than Brian Dawkins. Denver signed Adams on March 15 to a two-year, $4 million contract with $2 million in guarantees.
“(Being a mentor) is part of it — that’s part of my job being in the league going on nine years,” he said. “Whatever knowledge I have, I’m definitely going to give it to Rahim (Moore) and ‘Q’ (Quinton Carter). I’m going to give it to both of them and try to help them out as much as possible so they can be successful in this league.”
Adams was a safety out of Delaware, where he played for the Blue Hens. Some of you might recall that the University of Delaware played a major role in the growth of the Wing T scheme under Coaches Dave Nelson and Mike Lude (along with Coach Harold Westerman of the University of Maine). Pops started 23 of 43 games while at Delaware and graduated with a degree in communications along with 213 tackles, 11 interceptions, and 14 pass breakups to his credit. He was a captain over his senior year (2003) and went out with a bang - the Blue Hens won the NCAA Division I-AA national championship that year, in a 40-0 win over Colgate.
The undrafted Adams was picked up by San Francisco and after being waived and brought back, he found himself on the 49ers practice squad for the first half of the 2004 season. He was moved to the regular 53-man roster on November 13 of that year and proceeded to recover his first fumble the very next day in his NFL debut. He also grabbed an interception two weeks later. Like most rookie defensive backs, he was in on special teams, and he turned in five tackles in eight games that year, also ending up with four tackles on defense, that interception, the five ST tackles and his fumble recovery. The following year he was in 14 games and started 10 of them, ending with 77 tackles. He started the 2008 year with a 10-tackle game and played in all 16 games, with eight starts.
As a free agent the next year, he was lured to the Dawg Pound of the Cleveland Browns. By last season he was starting in all 16 games and had 64 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed. It’s somewhat surprising that Cleveland didn’t make a better try to keep him, since they have two players who might be best suited for strong safety, but they must have faith in one or be willing to get one in the draft. Either Mark Barron or Harrison Smith could potentially quarterback their defense if they want to go that route early - they do have the 4th- and 36th-overall picks in the draft. Regardless, now Adams is a Bronco.
I think that Adams fits the team best at free safety, where he can use his experience, his coverage skills, and his knowledge in defensive playcalling to best advantage. From what I’ve seen of him, he’s generally solid in coverage but lacks physicality in run support, so to the extent that Denver uses their safeties differently, he’s best suited as the centerfielder and as the defensive quarterback of the team. Adams doesn’t see that as a weakness.
“I’m not the typical 215-pound, 220-pound safety,” he said. “I’m a 200-pound, versatile safety that can add flexibility to the defense. I think that’s one of the things that attracted Coach Fox and Coach Jack to me, the fact that I can be flexible.”
“They can expect a lot of enthusiasm, for me to go hard every play,” Adams said. “They can expect us as a defense playing together. That’s what the Broncos fans can expect.” It will be. I don’t know if Adams will play on special teams in Denver, but he had double-digit ST tackles in four of his last six seasons in Cleveland. He’s more than willing to do it again, even if the Broncos will probably not add him to that roster. Denver’s STs were very good last year, but they’ve lost the 10 tackles that Dante Rosario provided and someone will need to make them up.
Denver will still give both Quinton Carter, who impressed last season with his tough tackling and his willingness to get dirty as well as to cover, and second-round pick Rahim Moore an opportunity to compete. Moore was less than impressive in his 2011 starts, but many safeties take time to develop. Moore also needed the time to improve the musculature of his slightly built, 6-1, 196-lb frame in order to handle the rigors of the NFL. Since Pops is also lighter, he may be able to help the young man. Rafael Bush played well in a limited role last season, while Kyle McCarthy moved on to Kansas City. Denver has apparently chosen its safeties for next year.
People are quick to do so, but I also wouldn’t count out David Bruton entirely. He may continue to make his bones solely as a special teams ace and backup safety, and that’s a perfectly good role for him if that’s as far as he reaches. I pulled out some film of his strong safety work last year and noticed that much of it was better than the common party line. I found that several times when he was chasing men down the field, it was because he caught the problems quickly and was often running down other people’s miscues - his gap was covered. He did made mistakes of his own, but he’s going to try to take back his on-field time and I wish him well at it. He’s a tough player and he’s been in an essential role for Denver.
As noted, ‘Pops’ Adams is there in great part to mentor the younger players. That’s a role that Brian Dawkins has always been willing to fill, but the team hasn’t shown a lot of interest in bringing him back. Although some kind of arrangement still might beckon, it may, sadly, be time to move on, and Adams can let them do that and still know that there’s a quality veteran back at FS. He’s likely to hold a starter’s role and to spend a lot of time training the players who will eventually take his place.
When Elway told the fans that the Broncos were in a three-year rebuilding process, he didn’t know that Peyton Manning would be the QB for 2012 and that the Broncos would have a new pair of TEs and a new WR for him to utilize. The offense may need a RB and perhaps a center, but the D has holes that had to be covered by veterans. FS was one of them. Denver’s done a nice job of getting a solid mentor for the younger safeties while filling their void at that position with a quality, value pickup. It’s not a flashy acquisition like Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen might be and as Peyton Manning certainly is, but it’s a very good way to beef up the back end while younger players mature. Kudos to Denver on a solid choice.