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NY Jets: The curious case of ‘Money’ Marcus Maye

Mar 3, 2021, 11:58 AM EST
NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
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NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

The NY Jets drafted “Money” Marcus Maye in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, immediately after selecting Jamal Adams with the sixth overall pick.

It is extremely unusual for a team to draft two safeties in one draft, let alone consecutively with the first and second-round picks.

Inherently, with these moves, the Jets’ front office invested roughly 2,150 points in “league-accepted NFL Draft Value”. The franchise was all in. Hindsight is 20/20.

The relationship between these two marquee safeties and the Jets have had completely different trajectories, to say the least. The Jets and the Jamal Adams saga started with a seemingly mendable financial discrepancy, and quickly turned into an ugly divorce, with public parting shots.

Nevertheless, both parties have benefited from the transaction, wherein Adams went to Seattle and broke the defensive-back sack record.

And the Jets are, as a result, sitting on a treasure trove of draft assets and cap space, which is especially valuable this year due to a leaguewide decrease in the salary cap, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maye, on the other hand, has been nothing but a consummate professional, both on and off the field — and as the old adage goes — numbers never lie.

Next: 1. Building the case for Marcus Maye

NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

1. Building the case for Marcus Maye

Marcus Maye has had the wherewithal to withstand the well-documented off-field media storm surrounding the other safety position and the talent to play ‘Superman’ for the New York defense, due to the sheer lack of experience and depth in the secondary.

After Adams “George Coztanza’d” his way out of New York by co-signing a hit piece in the NY Daily News by a previously scorned Jets writer aimed at insulting team management and ownership, Maye quietly and confidently maneuvered himself into his natural free safety position.

Maye even sacrificed his jersey number (26) to Le’Veon Bell as a sign of respect for the player and the organization.

Maye immediately took advantage of his new role and took “free safety” to another stratosphere. Wherein, in the last two years, Maye lined up at free safety for about 400 snaps, strong safety for 200 snaps, and as the nickel slot cornerback with around 150 snaps, all while not missing a single start.

While the most common cliché in football is “the best ability is availability,” Maye was always on the field, but his best ability was to be a menace in the secondary.

During the abysmal 2020 season, wherein the Jets were publicly scolded by the masses for winning football games, Maye quietly was ranked as the fifth-best overall safety by Pro Football Focus.

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He racked up a career-high 11 pass break-ups, about 90 tackles, a pair of picks and sacks, tossed in with a couple of tackles for loss and quarterback hits in the backfield.

Maye was not only voted as a team captain at the beginning of the season, but by the end was awarded the Curtis Martin team MVP award.

Unfortunately, in the cutthroat world of the NFL, nearly-perfect production and professionalism could still land a player coming off the rookie deal with no extension — in contract purgatory, otherwise referred to as the franchise tag (exclusive or non-exclusive) or the transition tag.

Next: 2. Tag! You're it!

NY Jets, Marcus Maye

NY Jets, Marcus Maye Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2. Explaining the franchise/transition tag options

Article 10 of the NFL and NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement sets forth three types of contracts the team and player may exercise upon becoming a free agent, called the exclusive-rights franchise tag, the non-exclusive-rights franchise tag, and the transition tag.

The non-exclusive-rights franchise tag is the most popular franchise tag. This contract allows a player to negotiate with any team, the current team has the right to match, and upon refusal, is awarded two first-round draft picks by the new team.

This contract is valued at the greater of the average salary of the top-five players at the respective positions over the last five years, or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s cap number.

The exclusive-rights franchise tag does not allow a player to negotiate with other teams, and worth the average of the top-five salaries at the position, in the current year. As such, this number is yet to be determined for the 2021 season.

The transition tag allows the player to negotiate a contract with another team, the current team has seven days to match the offer and receives no compensation if the option to match is declined.

The transition tag pays the player the greater of 120 percent of his prior year’s salary or the average of the top-10 highest-paid players at the position.

The first order of business of the 2021 NFL offseason begins with decisions regarding franchise or transition tags, which commences on February 23rd and ends March 9th at 4 p.m.

The players then have until July 15th to either sign the designated tag or negotiate a contract extension with the team.

Next: 3. Perspective of the Jets' front office

NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

3. From the perspective of the NY Jets’ front office

Joe Douglas constantly receives rave reviews across the board — from general managers, analysts around the league, front-office staff, and fans alike. However, the jury is still out when it comes to the Jets’ players.

Douglas has already repented for letting Robby Anderson walk out the door, seemingly had a rift with Adams, who was considered to be a franchise player, over money and shipped him out of town (trade aged like fine-wine).

He’s also had some failed out-of-network “get-rich-quick” schemes in Ryan Kalil which cost $8 million, and some questionable depth signings in Ryan Griffin, Greg Van Roten, and Josh Andrews.

The Jets have had an absolutely atrocious track record as it pertains specifically to their second-round draft picks over the last two decades.

Prior to Marcus Maye, the Jets’ second-round picks selected in order were as followed: Christian Hackenberg, Devin Smith, Jace Amaro, Geno Smith, Stephen Hill — David Harris in 2007 — Kellen Clemens, Justin Miller, Victor Hobson, Jon McGraw, and LaMont Jordan.

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Notwithstanding Denzel Mims, the wide receiver from Baylor with “sky’s-the-limit potential,” who was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Undoubtedly Joe Douglas, Hymie Elhai, Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur, and Brant Boyer are a vibe — or instilling a culture change, if you will. However, when it comes to roster decisions, and specifically Marcus Maye, there are two sides to the coin.

As Maye is in his prime, PFF’s 21st-ranked free agent in 2021, and top-five safety, Maye wants (and deserves) to be paid.

Joe Douglas and the Jets, on the other hand, have the tag options, which were bargained for during union negotiations, but also have player optics and relationships to maintain and manage as well.

The Jets must re-sign Marcus Maye. But for how long? At what price?

Next: 4. Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

NY Jets, Marcus Maye (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

4. The NY Jets might have “too much money”

The rumors regarding the safety market floating around NFL circles are that Anthony Harris, the safety out of Minnesota, who is coming off a franchise tag and mediocre production season, is looking for a long-term deal.

Meanwhile, Justin Simmons is about to reset the safety market in Denver with the highest guaranteed contract for the safety position, just shortly after Budda Baker got nearly $15 million guaranteed annually from the Arizona Cardinals.

The Jets will likely have over $80 million in cap space by the time the 2021 free agency window opens, and six draft picks within the first 100, including the second overall pick.

While it is difficult to comprehend why these may be issues, look no further than the previous Jets general manager, Mike Maccagnan, who spent all of John Idzik’s savings account at the metaphorical Gucci store, breaking the running back and linebacker market with Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley, respectively.

The transition tag is unlikely to be used on Maye due to the likelihood that another team offering an eight-figure contract will scoop the Jets’ captain and MVP, leaving the team with no compensation to show for it.

Additionally, the exclusive-rights franchise tag is unlikely to be used on Marcus Maye due to the anticipated contracts that will inevitably reset the safety market.

That leaves two options — the non-exclusive-rights franchise tag ($11.19 million) or [speculating] a three or four-year deal, worth about $13-14M a year, based on the safety market and lack of NFL team cap space.

Moreover, the Jets tag Maye for $11 million and his agent finds a team willing to pay more, New York can essentially net four first-round picks and a third for those two consecutive first and second-round safety picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.

…Yet refuse to take care of their best player, Captain, & team-voted MVP in his prime who had several All-Pro votes…and who played out his entire rookie deal and even changed positions on his contract year (after they got rid of last yrs All-Pro safety). ✌?

— Erik Burkhardt (@ErikBurkhardt) March 3, 2021

It is safe to say that Erik Burkhardt, who is part of Maye’s representation team, does not seem thrilled and hints that a franchise tag is looming, but with extensions allowed to be discussed until July 15th, negotiating through the media might not be the best idea (see: Deshaun Watson).

From the optics side, Douglas could shift the blame of the inability to a long-term extension this offseason on the new defensive coaching regime and the willingness to see Maye in the new scheme before fully committing.

And at the same time provide wisdom that if he performs well this year (which would make it three consecutive seasons), the $11 million tag in addition to his eventual contract extension would actually earn Maye higher net career earnings, due to the propensity for NFL teams to underpay in guaranteed money.

Next. NY Jets add a new franchise QB in 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

As March 9th is the franchise/transition tag deadline (from the team side), Maye’s birthday, my birthday, and Christopher Wallace’s memorial (Notorious B.I.G.) — it is only appropriate to capture the likely sentiments of all parties involved in these negotiations.

That includes “Money” Marcus Maye, his agent(s), Joe Douglas, and the NY Jets front office.

“I don’t know what they want from me It’s like the more money we come across The more problems we see”

– Mo’ Money, Mo Problems – Notorious B.I.G.

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