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 Jets positional preview 2021: Secondary

What does the post-Jamal Adams era look like for a New York Jets secondary riddled with free agents? ESM investigates.

The Position: Secondary
On the Roster: Bless Austin, Corey Ballentine, Javelin Guidry, Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson, Elijah Campbell, Sauqan Hampton, Ashtyn Davis, J.T. Hassell
Free Agents: Marcus Maye, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bradley McDougald, Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, Kyron Brown
Reserve/Future: Zane Lewis

The Jamal Adams roller-coaster finally returned to the loading station for the last time over the summer, as the disgruntled defender was dealt to Seattle. As far as the Jets are concerned they won’t have to think about Adams again, at least for the time being, until the Seahawks visit MetLife Stadium in 2024. The Jets even netted a solid consolation prize in a pair of Seattle first-round picks.

But, a question lingered, almost forgotten in the hullabaloo Adams caused on his way out: what would become of the secondary he left behind?

Leadership duties turned over to Adams’ fellow SEC alum and 2017 draftee Marcus Maye, who took full advantage of a new year in the spotlight. Maye set new career-bests in almost every major defensive category and ensured the Jets at least appeared in the SportsCenter Top 10 with a pair of jaw-dropping interceptions. His efforts were rewarded with the 2020 Curtis Martin Team MVP Award.

But Maye is set to be a free agent this spring and the situation behind him is quite murky. Injuries prevented some of the Jets’ defensive youngsters from taking the next step in their development, though some (like fifth-round rookie cornerback Bryce Hall) managed to make the most of their opportunities.

It’s great to see the Jets managed to make something of an ugly situation, vis a vis Adams’ departure. But it’s going to mean nothing if they can’t settle their own affairs on the homefront.

Free Agents-to-be

Kyron Brown

Brown, who partook in three games (one start) in 2019, spent all of last season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. As an exclusive rights free agent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a camp opportunity.

Matthias Farley

Farley may be brought back for not only defensive veteran leadership, but for his work on the Jets’ special teams. He held special teams captaincy last season and led the Jets with seven tackles on kickoffs and punt returns.

Bennett Jackson 

The versatile Hazlet, NJ native has partaken in ten games over the past two seasons with the Jets and Ravens after a nearly half-decade absence from regular season action. His versatility, having played both cornerback and safety, could warrant him a new opportunity in green.

Arthur Maulet

Another defender who made his mark on special teams, Maulet possibly earned some brownie points with Jets brass when he did a serviceable job at safety over the final games. It’s possible Maulet could return on a third one-year deal.

Marcus Maye

Shortly after his hiring, new Jets head coach Robert Saleh sang of Maye’s praises.

“I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “From my understanding, he’s a very, very, very talented young man. And within our scheme, safeties are, obviously, they’re important to everybody, but with how we do things, it sounds like he’d be a very versatile piece.”

In terms of the Jets’ own free agents, Maye would likely be at the top of the list of terms of potential returnees. He probably isn’t worth the Eddie Jackson-numbers that Adams was seeking just yet, but the Jets’ plethora of cap space could make him an intriguing candidate for the franchise tag (circa $10-12 million).

Bradley McDougald

In 2020, McDougald became the answer to a New York sports trivia question, as he’s thus far the only yield from the Adams trade with a name. Unfortunately for McDougald, he failed to make an impact in the secondary was one of those afflicted by injuries (seven games). There’s no doubt that McDougald is talented, and the Jets could bring him back on an affordable short-term deal, though he’d probably have to battle for reps with Ashtyn Davis.

Brian Poole

One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019 season, Poole was brought back on a second one-year deal and posted solid numbers before the injury bug cost him seven games. Through his time in Atlanta and New York, Poole has developed a strong reputation as a reliable slot defender. He’s more than earned another one-year deal, but, set to turn 29 in October, he might be seeking more long-term stability this time around.

Will They Draft?

It’s probably not a question of if, but when the Jets address their secondary on draft weekend. It also feels like these issues can be addressed as early as one of their Seattle picks at No. 23. Top prospect Patrick Surtain Jr. will likely be gone by then, but former receiver Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech could be around, as well as more of Maye’s fellow SEC options like Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) and Tyson Campbell (Georgia).

Veteran Possibilities

Richard Sherman, San Francisco

The big difference between the hiring of Adam Gase and the modern arrival of Saleh is the difference in who was praising the moves. When Gase was brought in, it was mostly hot-take artists who felt like Gase was an outside-the-box hire. When Saleh came to town, it was the players who were responding positively to the move. No one’s praises have been louder than Sherman’s from afar, as Saleh has worked with him in their shared NFC West stops in Seattle and San Francisco. Sherman told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer that Saleh would ” turn that entire culture around” and he personally congratulated the Jets on Twitter after the move was announced.

This, of course, raises the question…if Sherman is such a big Saleh fan, would be willing to join him in his first head coaching endeavor? Sherman would be a great fit, as the regaining of his trademark brand of smashmouth football, as well as his championship experience, would be perfect for this team to pick up.

Jason Verrett, San Francisco 

The more Niners the merrier, it would appear, as Saleh comes over from the Bay Area and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich represented the team as a player for a decade. That concept will probably only increase as players will seek to gain traction and stability in Saleh’s new schemes. Verrett would a comparable option to Sherman, though he’s younger and potentially more affordable.

Xavier Woods, Dallas

While there’s plenty of talent available in this secondary free agent class, many of them are expensive names that are either past or nearing the end of their prime. Woods is nearing the end of his rookie deal after four serviceable seasons in Dallas, but he struggled in coverage in the Cowboys’ beleaguered secondary. While the Jets truly can’t afford to help someone else pen a redemption story, as they’ve spent a decade trying to write their own to no avail, they could make an exception for Woods and his flashes of potential.

Outlook

Already in a tenuous spot, the Jets need to do something to bolster their secondary in the post-Adams age. Bringing back Maye, even if it’s through a franchise tag deal that would allow them a year of relatively consequence-free football to see if he fits in Saleh’s system, would be a vital first step in achieving that goal. Adding Maye back would also combat the issues of a free agent class relatively deep in experience while giving the youngsters whom the Jets have high hopes for (Austin, Davis, Hall, etc.) a familiar face to work with.

Signing Maye probably isn’t going to become the ultimate difference between the postseason and another trip home in January. But, if they miss out on him, the Jets better have one heck of a backup plan.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets finalize roster for Sunday’s Kansas City visit

New York Jets

The New York Jets have all hands on deck for their Week 8 visit to battle the Kansas Chiefs, announcing several roster moves on Saturday.

The New York Jets have announced several roster moves prior to their Sunday matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, CBS). ESM documents each and the impact they’ll have on Sunday’s daunting matchup…

Placed CB Bradley McDougald on injured reserve

McDougald, thus far the lone acquisition from the trade that sent Jamal Adams to Seattle, injured his shoulder should Sunday’s loss to Buffalo. He’s eligible to return, but third-round Ashtyn Davis will likely be called upon to handle increased duties, and possibly even veteran Matthias Farley, who has mostly been working on special teams. McDougald has started each of the Jets’ first seven games thus far, accumulating 36 tackles (including 10 against Indianapolis in Week 3) and two pass breakups.

Signed K Sergio Castillo

Sam Ficken was a limited returnee to practice this week, but his groin injury will keep him out for a second straight game. In his place once more will be the CFL/AAF/XFL veteran Castillo, who successfully converted a field goal and an extra point in his first substitute effort against the Bills last weekend.

Activated CB Arthur Maulet

Maulet’s second season with the Jets, one earned through a strong substitute effort last season, was paused when he suffered a groin injury in the Week 2 defeat to San Francisco. The cornerback is best known in green circles for scoring the Jets’ first touchdown in nearly three years at Gillette Stadium last season, when he recovered a muffed punt in the end zone during a Week 3 get-together.

Promoted WR Jaleel Scott and LB Bryce Hager

With Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman, the Jets called up the third-year receiver Scott from the practice squad. A former fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens out of New Mexico State, Scott had one reception for six yards last season. Another injury, that to Blake Cashman, also might’ve led to the promotion of Hager, a veteran who entered the league with the artists formerly known as the St. Louis Rams. Hager made his New York debut last week against the Bills, earning one tackle.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets newcomer Bradley McDougald goes on the recruiting trail

If social media is to be trusted, Bradley McDougald is making sure he won’t be the only Seattle transplant with the 2020 New York Jets.

Bradley McDougald has yet to play a down with the New York Jets, but he’s already trying to make a big play.

The newly acquired safety, thus far the only named acquisition from the Jamal Adams trade, is apparently trying to make sure he’s not the only former Seattle Seahawk to suit up for the Jets this season. A Monday night Twitter post featured a screenshot of a FaceTime conversation between him and former fellow Seattle defender Jadeveon Clowney. According to McDougald, Clowney is interested in a reunion, this one in a new shade of green.

Spoke to my boy (Clowney) today, told me to the tell the (Jets) to come get him!!” McDougald happily declares in the caption accompanying the photo. “Let’s make it happen.” 

Clowney and the Seahawks have been unable to come to terms on a long-term deal. He is currently listed as a free agent.
The 27-year-old defensive end didn’t secure a long-term deal with his original employers in Houston, having been franchise tagged last offseason. Houston dealt him to the Seahawks eight days before their opening week contest in exchange for Jacob Martin, Barkevious Mingo, and a third-round draft pick (which they later dealt to the Raiders). Clowney picked up 31 tackles, including three sacks, last season in Seattle to accompany four forced fumbles and his first career interception. He has earned 27.5 sacks over the last four seasons between his time with the Texans and Seahawks. In comparison, Jordan Jenkins is the current Jets’ leader in sacks in that span with 20.5.
Clowney is reportedly seeking a deal in the circa $20 million range, a landmark only three active defensive linemen (Aaron Donald, DeForest Buckner, Chris Jones) have reached. The Jets currently have just over $21 million in cap space with training camp set to open this week.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: Four fun facts about newcomer Bradley McDougald

The New York Jets’ historic trade of Jamal Adams netted them McDougald, who has built a solid NFL career out of Kansas.

For better or worse, Bradley McDougald is already a part of New York sports lore, forever the answer to the final trivia question involving Jamal Adams.

Until next April’s draft, McDougald, 29, is the only name attached to the New York Jets’ compensation for Adams, who was dealt to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a trio of picks, two of which reside in the first round. The safety is an experienced veteran who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013. After some time as a reserve in Kansas City and Tampa Bay, McDougald made a bit of a name for himself in Seattle, stepping up in the secondary when Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor dealt with injuries.

McDougald, an alum of Kansas University, celebrated his New York arrival on Twitter and was warmly welcomed by fellow green newcomer Mekhi Becton.

What should Jets fans know about the man filling Adams’ lofty cleats? ESM has you covered…

He Has More Interceptions Than Adams

Perhaps lost in the relative glory of Adams’ Jets career was the fact that he only earned two interceptions in green (one last season). While McDougald has had the advantage of far more NFL service, he has earned a respectable 10 interceptions over the last six seasons, one of only 32 NFL safeties to earn double-digit interceptions in that span. McDougald also has a multi-interception game under his belt, doing so in 2018’s season opener in Denver. The first interception in his career came against Drew Brees in a 2014 season finale. His propensity for “receptions” should come of little surprise. McDougald emerged from Dublin, Ohio as a receiver, but opted to fully transition to safety after his sophomore year in Lawrence (going both ways over his first two seasons). The only career receiving touchdown McDougald earned turned out to be a big one. It was a 20-yard score that served as the Jayhawks’ first points in an upset win over ranked Georgia Tech.

He’s Another Multi-Sport Athlete

Does Sam Darnold have a new partner in the perimeter? McDougald starred on Saturdays at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, but he wouldn’t have been so out of place at the more renowned Allen Fieldhouse on the Jayhawks’ campus. Over at Dublin Scioto High School, McDougald was an all-district selection on the hardwood (in addition to the gridiron) while starring for the Fighting Irish. It was a basketball coach, in fact, that first discovered McDougald’s athletic potential. Elementary school mentor Robert Jefferson, affectionately referred to by McDougald as “Coach J”, remains an influential figure on the defender’s life, even setting him up on a path for life after football.

“He was a very influential person in my life,” McDougald said in a 2010 feature on Kansas’ athletics website. “If I could do for someone else what he did for me, I would be happy. I am majoring in communications, but when I graduate I want to do the Teach For America program.”

He Has a Special Source of Inspiration

Bradley plays with the strength of two McDougalds out on the field, as he plays the game in honor of his brother Brandon. The elder McDougald had his left leg amputated during a fifth grade battle with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Brandon now serves as an inspiration to his younger brother, as Bradley was happy to reveal to the Seattle Times in a January 2019 feature.

“His situation definitely changed my outlook at an early age,” Bradley McDougald expounded to Mike Vorel. “Take nothing for granted. Just go out there and enjoy it. Don’t get lost in the days. Make all the days count. All those cliché things you hear all the time, really apply them, because it really hits close to home when I have a brother who’s not able to go out there and enjoy the game that I love playing.”

“I really live through my little brother,” Brandon added. “He played football, basketball all through high school, middle school. Just being able to go to his games and see him compete at this level is just really a blessing. It’s just amazing even to live through him and see him play and be doing so well right now.”

He Came Up Big Last Postseason

McDougald was a major factor behind the Seahawks’ 17-9 win in Philadelphia during January’s NFC Wild Card playoffs. He led all defenders with 11 tackles, including a sack of Carson Wentz. His biggest plays of the afternoon came in the second half, first sharing a third-down tackle for a loss with Poona Ford in Seattle territory (leading to one of Philadelphia’s three field goals) and later stopped Dallas Goedert short of a crucial first down on Philadelphia’s penultimate possession, leading to an unsuccessful fourth down try. McDougald would later earn four tackles (one for a loss) and pass breakup in Seattle’s unsuccessful Divisional playoff trek to Green Bay.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags