New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Safeties

Marcus Maye’s lack of a long-term deal leaves the New York Jets in a prickly situation as year two of the post-Jamal Adams era looms.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. We come to the penultimate portion of our reviews, with a look back on safeties in part nine…

(Photo: Getty)

How It Started

The Jets timeline is closing in on the one-year anniversary of the Jamal Adams trade with the Seattle Seahawks. It’s a deal that requires more time to fully grade and assess, as not all of the components have revealed themselves yet.

So far, it looks to be a push. Adams was an All-Pro with Seattle but was dealt mixed reviews otherwise and has yet to obtain the pricy long-term deal that led to his napalming of every bridge he head in New York. On the other side of the country, the one original piece with a name (Bradley McDougald) is already gone. The Jets later dealt the 2021 pieces (the 23rd and 86th selections) over to Minnesota in the opening round of the draft in April. Seattle’s last shipment is a first-rounder to be used next spring in Las Vegas.

The hullaballoo almost blinded the Jets and their fans to the fact that a 16-game season laid ahead. Adams’ attitude perhaps wasn’t missed, but his on-field intensity certainly was. The newly vacated strong side was originally occupied by McDougald before injuries forced third-round project Ashtyn Davis into the role prematurely. Undrafted free agents and spare parts from foreign practice squads had to take over when Davis, who struggled in coverage, was likewise lost for medical reasons.

Adams’ departure opened an opportunity for free safety Marcus Maye, the lone survivor from the Jets’ 2017 draft class. The second-round choice would embark on a career-best season that ended with a hoist of the Jets’ team MVP award named after Curtis Martin.

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

Maye’s 2021 offseason saga recently reached its climax and it suggests a bit of a macabre future for the Jets’ ongoing renovations.

The two sides failed to close on a long-term contract leading Maye to play the 2021 in a bit of lame duck scenario: a franchise tag of over $10 million. While things won’t sink to the depths of the Adams saga…it’s probably too late in the offseason to make a trade anyway…watching homegrown, talented silver linings slip away is becoming a dangerous trend of Joe Douglas’ tenure.

As we previously discussed in the cornerbacks conversation, the Jets’ depth charts was in such dire straits that it was almost guaranteed some area would be neglected. The secondary was the unlucky department as there are no proven contributors locked up beyond 2021. LaMarcus Joyner, a versatile former Raider, is coming in on a one-year, $4.5 million deal. He can probably help stem the immediate bleeding, but, considering he’ll turn 31 in November, it’d be silly to fully rely on him as a long-term solution.

The safety spotlight now turns back to Davis, who has a lot to prove in his sophomore season. His will and fight can’t be denied: the former track star became one of college football’s most talked-about walk-ons after starring at Cal-Berkeley. He has earned positive reviews for his athleticism and physicality but often struggled to adapt to NFL coverages (ranking 85th amongst his safety peers, per Pro Football Focus). If Davis falters in an expanded role, the Jets may have to start from scratch.

Fifth-round choice Michael Carter II emerged from Duke as a safety, but the Jets will likely use him more often at cornerback. Behind Davis and Maye, several of the misfits who filled in are making their way back (i.e. Elijah Campbell and J.T. Hassell). The Jets also added Sharrod Neasman on a late, affordable deal (one year, $990,000) in June. Neasman’s shared Atlanta tenure with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich could prove beneficial.

ashtyn davis, new york giants

Are They Better Off?

The conclusion of the Adams era deserves praise. Douglas was able to essentially turn a disgruntled safety that could never resist airing his grievances publicly into two premier draft choices. One was used to fortify the Jets’ anemic blocking, as the trade with the Vikings was made to select USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.

But while the distraction of Adams is gone, it’s time to replace the production he took with him. The Jets are laden with questions about the future at safety and a majority must be answered by the end of the 2021 season.

This season might well be the perfect time to do it. It’s a bit much to ask these Jets to make the postseason leap. At the same time, last year’s two-win nightmare was so garish that there’s little to no chance of diggings a deeper hole.

Thus, the Jets are, as a team, blessed with a season of having nothing, if anything to lose. Individuals, however, must make their case to stick around for the potential good times ahead. That applies for the secondary, particularly in a safety spot where there is no proven, consistent NFL talent locked up beyond Week 18. Essentially, this is a “prove it” season for the whole unit.

Davis bears perhaps the heaviest burden from a New York standpoint. Maye will be mostly playing for himself, showing not only the Jets but also their 31 brothers exactly why he should be paid like an elite safety. Davis, on the other hand, will likely get an opportunity to make an immediate and vital New York impact.

Adams is gone and the Jets earned an immediate cash out upon his departure. But the hard part still looms: finding the next Adams, the next hopeful to push this defense into the future.

Final Offseason Grade: C

Who will step up in the post-Adams era? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Giants: NFL’s Gil Brandt has ‘faith that Jones will answer the doubters’

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The pressure is mounting for New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones entering his third season in the NFL, but there is hope he can take his game to the next level with the bolstering of the offense. Last season under coordinator Jason Garrett, the offense sputtered to a minimum, as Jones posted less than 3,000 yards and only 11 touchdowns.

While Daniel saw his completion percentage increase from 61.9% to 62.5%, his production was mostly disappointing, but the variables that had a negative impact held him back considerably. Ranging from the lack of preseason and in-person training to an arsenal of weapons that would best mimic a Monty Python movie, he was set to fail from the beginning.

However, despite failing to increase the talent levels on the offensive line, the Giants spent an exorbitant amount of capital bolstering the wide receiver corps, adding Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, and John Ross. On paper, the Giants have a much-improved unit, which Jones should benefit from, especially in the passing game.

NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt is confident that Jones will take a big step in 2021 after the bolstering of the offense:

I have faith that Jones will answer the doubters and settle his spot as the Giants’ long-term QB in Year 3, thanks in no small part to the massive improvements made around him in the lineup. The additions of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph, along with the return to health of running back Saquon Barkley, mean Jones will be working with the most firepower he’s ever had at his disposal. Don’t be swayed too much by Jones’ lackluster TD-to-INT ratio (11:10) last season; the fact that he completed 62.5 percent of his passes despite working with pass catchers who had a hard time hanging on to the ball (the Giants ranked 12th in the NFL with 30 drops, per Pro Football Focus) is a good sign. I think the former top-10 pick has a chance to put up 20 TDs and complete over 64 percent of his passes in 2021.

The return of Saquon Barkley should have a major impact on the attention defenses allocate toward Jones and the receivers. It will force teams to operate with more defenders in the box, opening up the deeper portions of the field and shifty route runners like Toney and Sterling Shepard to dominate in space.

Jones has all the tangible traits to be a fantastic quarterback, including mobility, accuracy, and downfield prowess. If he can click on all cylinders and gain confidence as the season progresses, Jones could see that Year 3 jump we desperately need, otherwise the Giants will once again have to revert to the drawing board. Luckily, they have two first-round picks next year they can utilize as a last resort.

Knicks News, 7/19: Julius Randle snubbed hard from Olympic team, Kevin Durant’s dad wanted him to be a Knick

knicks, julius randle

Despite winning the “Most Improved Player” award this past season, New York Knicks’ power forward Julius Randle didn’t earn much consideration from Team USA to qualify for the Olympic squad.

Randle earned himself his first All-Star caliber performance this year, averaging a career-high 24.1 points, 6.0 assists, and 10.2 rebounds per game. He shot 45.6% from the field and 41% from range, proving to be a bonafide star for a team that desperately needed a leader and dominant force.

There’s no question that Randle deserved an opportunity to play for Team USA, who instead rolled with center JaVale McGee, who offers more defensive prowess. Randle was also adequate on defense this past season, with the capabilities to play center, averaging nearly a steal per game and 0.3 blocks. While offense was obviously his MO, he averaged 37.6 minutes and played in 71 games, a reliable figure that deserves more praise.

According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, Team USA never offered Julius Randle a spot:

The U.S. Olympic team, in search of two replacement players for Tokyo, never made Knicks All-Star power forward Julius Randle an offer, according to multiple industry sources.

Kevin Durant ripped his father a new one when he asked him to take a meeting with the Knicks:

Matt Sullivan wrote in his book, “Can’t Knock The Hustle: Inside The Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with The Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow” that Wayne Pratt desperately wanted KD to be a Knick:

“KD texted his dad: What you think about Brooklyn?” Sullivan wrote in his new book. “Like his agent, KD’s occasionally estranged father, Wayne Pratt, was a Knicks fan. When Wayne told his son that he’d taken a video-conference call from the Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry, and that the Knicks were trying to turn away KD’s interest from Brooklyn before free agency had officially begun, the father-son text chain blew up with expletives. KD didn’t think it was on anyone to mess with his personal freedom.

“Plus, this Knicks meeting seemed to be a violation of the NBA’s rules against tampering, to “entice, induce or persuade” one player under contract to sign somewhere.”

After a frustrated Durant confronted his father, it led to a heated exchange.

“Let me explain one f****** thing to you, his dad responded,” Sullivan wrote. “Don’t you ever question my integrity. There’s nobody more important in this world when it comes to you THAN YOU.}

Well, why can’t I do something different?

The Knicks is Mecca, KD’s dad declared. If you want to do it, do it big! If you want to be a New Yorker, be a Knick!”

Despite Durant’s obvious desire to play for Brooklyn, it was the bright lights of MSG and prominent platform that scared him away from being a Knick.

“New York City was the Mecca of basketball, and KD wanted to live there. But he felt like Brooklyn was his vibe: “chill, on the low, all-black everything.” He’d been eyeing the Nets for years now, and they him,” Sullivan added. “Dad shot back: Are you doing this just for Kyrie cuz he your buddy?

No, KD replied. He was making this decision for himself.”

If Durant had chosen to sign with the Knicks two years ago, they would’ve had a fantastic duo with Randle and the perennial All-NBA. This season, he averaged 26.9 points, 5.6 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and shot 53.7% from the field and 45% from range over 5.4 attempts per game. Of course, Durant is one of the best players to ever live and arguably the best offensive weapon to ever step foot on a basketball court, but his desire to stay low-key and off the grid clearly played into his decision.

Hopefully, President Leon Rose can draw attention from big names this off-season, especially with plenty of money to throw around and a playoff appearance to present a convincing factor.