Despite insistence from Joe Douglas that signing Marcus Maye to a long-term deal was one of the team’s top priorities, the Jets have failed to reach an extension with their captain and team MVP.
New York had until Thursday, July 15 to come to terms with Maye, whose agent has been outspoken about the Jets’ choice to not “take care” of his client.
Maye will play out this season under the franchise tag before entering free agency in 2022. Reportedly, the Jets were offering Maye a deal worth $8-9M per year, well below the tag amount for 2021, which rests at $10.6M. It’s a low-ball offer for a guy who graded out as Pro Football Focus’s fourth-ranked safety in 2020.
For comparison, John Johnson (PFF’s third-ranked safety) signed a deal this offseason worth $11.25M per year over three years.
Maye and the Jets brass were so wildly far apart that the two sides essentially ceased negotiations in the days leading up to the deadline, and any hope of a compromise evaporated.
Now, a year after trading away Jamal Adams, there is legitimate concern that New York will lose the second half of its once top safety tandem. In fact, at this point, the question is not whether this will be Maye’s last season with the Jets, but rather if he will make it through this season in New York at all.
Depending on where New York stands at the trade deadline, Maye could be shipped to a contender by early November. He will probably yield a third or fourth round compensatory pick should he walk next offseason, so if the Jets aren’t making a playoff push and they receive a third rounder or higher, look for Douglas to pull the trigger.
Several teams reportedly offered more than the $10.6M mark before the Jets tagged Maye, who finished last season with two interceptions and 88 tackles.
If New York doesn’t elect to trade Maye, there are two scenarios in which he could remain with the team beyond 2021.
The first is if the Jets win the bidding war in free agency. This would require either a down season on Maye’s part that would lower his asking price or a major change of heart from Douglas, who would have to close the massive gap that currently exists between the two sides. Perhaps the Jets brass want to see whether Maye excels within Saleh and Ulbrich’s system before opening up the checkbook, which would account for their relatively low current offer.
Still, this seems unlikely given the large valuation chasm between the two sides. Douglas has been nothing if not stringent when it comes to long-term deals and is essentially allergic to overpaying. Unless Maye builds considerably on his already stellar 2020 season, Douglas likely won’t match the figure that his top safety is looking for. Even if he does, Maye would have to choose the Jets over his other potential suitors.
The second, more feasible way for the Jets to retain Maye is by franchising him again. This would net Maye 120% of his 2021 salary, which would put his 2022 figure around $12.7M. It would also likely create a rift between the two parties.
Given the fact that he will be turning 29 going on 30 by the time that one-year deal would be set to expire, it’s likely that Maye would be extremely reluctant—if he doesn’t simply outright refuse—to sign the tag. For a guy who just finished his rookie deal, Maye is on the older side, and wants to capitalize on the ephemeral window to secure a long-term deal. Douglas can stand his ground and try to franchise him again next year if he thinks it’s worth it, but it might just alienate a player who has been a locker room leader in recent years.
Even with those two options on the table, all signs point to this being Maye’s last season in green and white. And while there are certainly merits to Joe Douglas standing his ground and refusing to overpay, the reality is this:
The New York Jets have a general reputation for not rewarding their best homegrown talent, particularly their locker room leaders, with a second contract. This move will only feed into that reputation.
As far as replacing Maye goes, the Jets still have time for that. He is on the roster for this year, and alongside newly-signed Lamarcus Joyner, safety is more of a strength than a weakness in the short-term. That will likely change in 2022, though. Joyner, who is on a one-year deal, will be a free agent as well. Ashtyn Davis has shown flashes, but there’s still a lot of room for growth in his game.
Luckily for New York, next offseason looks to be loaded with safety talent. Anthony Harris, Harrison Smith, Quandre Diggs, Jessie Bates III, Marcus Williams and Tyrann Mathieu will all hit the open market. Finding someone who fits the Jets’ timeline will be the priority. Bolstering the secondary through the draft might help fill that void as well.
Those problems are still a year away, but the Jets could have alleviated them by paying their star, or at least extending an offer that hovers around market value. Instead, Marcus Maye will likely be added to a laundry list of draftees that couldn’t ink long-term deals in Florham Park.
Maybe this is a move that will pay off for Douglas in the long-run. Only time will tell whether keeping the checkbook in the pocket was the right call.
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