NY Jets: Joe Douglas must keep Marcus Maye at all costs

NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /

The NY Jets can’t afford to lose standout safety Marcus Maye this offseason.

The NY Jets are in the midst of a widespread search for a new leader of their franchise. In recent times, Gang Green’s failings and the results of 2020 proved that leadership is something that the franchise desperately needs.

Especially at the position of head coach.

In recent days, Jets owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas have made it quite clear that they are looking for someone at head coach that can be a great communicator and a leader for the entire franchise.

It sounds like the typical cliche, but coming off Adam Gase and his coaching style, those words ring more true now than ever.

When it comes to leadership in the locker room and on the field, to paraphrase a famous quote from the Wizard of Oz, Jets management doesn’t need to look any further than their own backyard.

On the field, the 2020 season provided very few glimpses of optimism for the Jets. Some of the team’s young players like Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims provided flashes of brilliance and the promise of what is yet to come. Quinnen Williams started to live up to his potential as an elite difference-maker.

However, in the midst of it all, through all the adversity of a 2-14 season, there is one player on the Jets who stepped up as a leader on the field and in the locker room. And that’s safety Marcus Maye.

In his first three seasons with the team, when healthy, Marcus Maye has been one of the Jets’ best all-around players, but his growth as a player and leader in 2020 is what really stood out.

The analytics crowd and any entity that rates player performance all graded Marcus Maye very highly on the field in 2020. Pro Football Focus had Marcus Maye as its fourth highest-graded safety in the entire NFL (82.8).

The Jets MVP finished the 2020 season with career highs in tackles (88), passes defended (11), forced fumbles (2), and fumble recoveries (1). Maye was the only Jets player to receive multiple votes (4) for the AP NFL All-Pro Team.

However, the most significant area where Maye scored really well was amongst his teammates and coaches. The team captain, Maye, led a Jets secondary that saw so many changes and an influx of inexperienced players throughout the season.

There was a time, not long ago, where Maye was overshadowed by his former partner in crime, now Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. Partly because of Maye’s injuries, but mostly because of the salary cap.

It appeared that Adams would be the franchise’s centerpiece and that Marcus Maye would be the odd man out.

In many ways, the Jets’ safety tandem of Adams and Maye could be described as the odd couple. Despite playing similar positions, no two players are more polar opposites than Maye and Adams.

Both on and off the field.

While Jamal Adams is a force of nature and one of the league’s best tacklers and in-the-box safeties. The truth is that Marcus Maye is the better overall player and leader.

At one time, Adams was considered a keeper and the Jets’ best overall player. However, he forced his way out, and Joe Douglas maximized what he could in value for Adams’ services.

The reality is that the player who was the real keeper all along was Marcus Maye. And he proved that this past season.

Douglas and the Jets can’t afford to lose one of their best players again. Not at a time, where the team is extremely young and devoid of talent. Unlike the Adams situation, parting ways with Maye will net the Jets absolutely nothing in return.

The NY Jets can’t make the same mistake with Marcus Maye they made with Robby Anderson

At midseason, the Jets general manager admitted that he made a mistake in evaluating wide receiver Robby Anderson’s value to the franchise.

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One of the cardinal mistakes that bad teams make is undervaluing their own talent. Often times, losing teams will let a player walk because the feeling is that, if we lost with him, he can’t be that special, to begin with.

In Robby Anderson’s case, the Jets offense lost a homegrown star and fan favorite, but more importantly, the offense lost it’s best big-play threat and Sam Darnold‘s favorite weapon.

The Jets have 20 players who will be unrestricted free agents this March. None of the players are more important for the franchise to retain than Marcus Maye.

Make no mistake about it — there’s going to be a market and multiple suitors for Maye if he hits unrestricted free agency. Safeties like Maye, who have a complete game and bring to the table the type of character he does, are worth their weight in gold, and teams will go after him.

No disrespect intended towards quality veteran players like Jordan Jenkins, but the Jets won’t be able to let Maye test the market and have him come back to them with a more reasonable offer — much like Jenkins did last offseason.

If Maye hits free agency, kiss him goodbye.

There is a sense of optimism that the Jets will work extra hard to get a long-term contract done with Maye before free agency. However, despite all the positive feelings that Jets management has for Maye and vice versa, the lure of joining a winning franchise will be tempting for Maye.

He has had to watch while his former Jets teammates have had success and are currently playing on playoff teams.

For whatever reason, should Douglas and Maye reach an impasse and are unable to get a long-term deal done, the only recourse that must be taken is franchising Marcus Maye.

He must be kept at all costs. The franchise tag for safeties in 2020 was $12.735 million. It’s an exorbitant number and the last resort, but it’s the only choice if all other options fail.

The Jets have a ton of cap space, and when you are in that position, you have to utilize it, even if that means using a franchise tag at the safety position.

The Jets have had difficulty finding and then keeping their best players. Joe Douglas and Gang Green can’t afford to go down that path again.

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The old saying goes that you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. Jets fans historically — and Joe Douglas recently — know that feeling all too well. Except, in this case, the Jets know what they have in Marcus Maye.

They have to keep him from being gone. Whatever it takes.