1. Marcus Maye, S, NY Jets
While, I do believe that ultimately, the Jets will not trade Marcus Maye this offseason, the possibility of a deal can’t be ruled out if Joe Douglas gets an offer he can’t refuse.
Excluding Quinnen Williams or Mekhi Becton, the lone player on the Jets that would net the most return in a trade scenario is Marcus Maye. And the fact that the Jets haven’t signed Maye to a long-term deal suggests that a trade could happen.
There are some valid reasons to believe that the Jets could be positioned to move on from Maye if not in 2021, then in 2022. The uncertainty of Maye’s future with the Jets beyond 2021 is why he could be traded now.
Maye wants to be paid a high premium at his position. The top five safeties, on average, in the NFL, make roughly $14.5 million per season. Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons recently signed a four-year deal worth $61 million.
Maye will be looking for a similar type of payday.
Will the Jets make that type of long-term commitment towards him? If they don’t decide to, it could create a contentious situation throughout the entire 2021 season between Maye, management, and the new Jets coaching staff.
It’s a less-than-ideal situation for Robert Saleh to deal with in year one of his program.
Marcus Maye is undoubtedly one of the Jets’ best players and leaders, hence the franchise tag. However, at 28-years-old, age could determine whether the Jets decide to sign Maye to a long-term deal.
2020 was, no doubt, a breakout year for him. Maye stepped out of the gigantic shadow of the scenery-chewing Jamal Adams and had a significant impact on and off the field. The Jets might want to see if Maye can stay healthy and duplicate that type of success again in 2021.
The Jets are oddly log-jammed at the free safety position without having what would be considered a traditional starting strong safety on the roster. Maye’s two top running mates at safety play the same position that he does.
More and more, NFL defenses are breaking away from the conventional secondary by utilizing interchangeable safeties. The Jets’ current configuration at safety is a curious one.
Last year, the team drafted Ashtyn Davis in the third round. At the time of the selection, it appeared that Joe Douglas drafted him with the mindset of replacing Maye when he was a free agent.
Davis projects as a cover safety on the back end of a defense, rather than as someone who can play in the box and take on blockers.
The former Cal standout may have to adapt to find a role in the Jets’ new defense if Maye returns. If the season started today, Davis would project as New York’s starting strong safety. Maye can also play in the box against the run, but it’s not his forte.
To further complicate or strengthen the safety position — depending on how you want to look at it — the Jets went out and signed Lamarcus Joyner, who will be back to playing free safety after a shaky stint at cornerback with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Free safety is a position that Joyner excelled at when he was a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Joyner had so much success in Los Angeles that he parlayed it into a massive contract with the Raiders.
The veteran defensive back is expected to assume the same type of role with the Jets that Jimmie Ward had with the 49ers under Robert Saleh. A hybrid type of safety, who can also play one-on-one man coverage.
The question is — what role will Jeff Ulbrich have in store for Marcus Maye in 2021? Provided that he is still on the team when the season starts, of course.
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Ultimately, I believe that the Jets should sign Marcus Maye to a long-term deal even if it goes against the conventional wisdom of paying premium dollar for a safety nearing his 30s.
I would personally sign Maye as a good-faith gesture towards one of the team’s best players. And I would do so to get Robert Saleh’s ship sailing on the right course, team chemistry-wise. Joe Douglas should set an example and retain Maye for the long run.
But the question is, will he?
Like all the players listed in this article, the ongoing theme is two parts. Number one, Joe Douglas did not draft or sign them, and number two, they are all in contractual situations that don’t favor them being on the team in 2022.
In the case of Marcus Maye, it’s a matter of whether the Jets want to wait a year before deciding to tag him again. And if it happens next offseason, the likelihood is that Maye will be traded, even with a cap that figures to escalate significantly in 2022.
The Jets will not tag Maye a third time so that the second tag will be a precursor to a trade.
As evidenced by last year’s Jamal Adams trade and, to a lesser extent, the recent trade of Sam Darnold, if Joe Douglas sees the long-term value, he’s not afraid to trade the team’s most notable players away.
If the price is right, he will do it, even amid potential scrutiny. Especially if they weren’t his players, to begin with.
Here’s hoping that he makes an exception and doesn’t follow the same trend with Quinnen Williams down the road.