New York Jets: Three aftershocks from the Marcus Maye franchise tag

Maye will officially play the 2021 season on a franchise tag. How will that affect the New York Jets’ ongoing rebuild?

Tag, Marcus Maye is it.

Thursday marked the deadline for Maye and the New York Jets to come to a long-term deal. With the 4 p.m. cutoff long breached, Maye will play the 2021 season on a franchise tag worth over $10 million.

While the tag has Maye listed as the sixth-richest safety in football, there seems to a lingering sense of iciness between the safety and the team. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has claimed that tensions rose long before Thursday’s final horn, saying that the Jets’ offer went drastically lower than what Maye would be offered with the tag. Thus, 2021 has the makings of a lame duck season for Maye, who is coming a career-best campaign.

How does this affect the Jets this season and beyond? ESM investigates…

ashtyn davis, new york giants

Ashtyn Can’t Butcher An Opportunity

After the Jamal Adams saga ended in a fruitful trade, Maye stepped up and perhaps created this whole controversy in the first place. A similar opportunity awaits Ashtyn Davis, a second year strong safety who is projected to line up next to Maye this season.

Davis, a third-round pick out of Cal during the virtual draft of 2020, went from walk-on to projected day two choice, perhaps falling out of the second round due to surgery following his senior campaign. His rookie season was a bit of a wash, as he struggled when thrust into action after Adams was traded and Seattle arrival Bradley McDougald was lost to an injury. Davis likewise fell victim to a foot injury that ended his year after six games (one start).

Praised for his athleticism and physicality, the Jets hope that Davis can enjoy a breakout campaign similar to what Maye experienced last season. Beyond him, the secondary depth chart is disturbingly thin: Las Vegas import LaMarcus Joyner, 30, brings experience but will need a truly impressive season to factor in the Jets’ long-term plans. At cornerback, the Jets stockpiled project defenders like Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols. Starters Bless Austin and Bryce Hall have a lot of upside, but are no guarantee.

Needless to say, a Davis breakthrough would definitely give their defense a clearer path toward the future.

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Safety First

There’s plenty of time for Maye and the Jets to change each other’s minds and it’s probably far too late in the offseason to consider a trade. But all signs currently point to a separation come next spring, so the Jets have to start planning now.

Both the 2022 free agency and draft classes have some strong names to keep an eye on. Marcus Williams, with whom Maye is tied in 2021 salary, should be one the marquee names, followed by Jabrill Peppers. The incoming rookie class is headlined by Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton (who could very well be a top ten pick) while redshirt sophomore Brandon Joseph could be an intriguing pick with the latter first round pick from the Seahawks. New York is currently projected to work with over $71 million in cap space in 2022, third-best in the league behind Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

Frankly, the potential Maye exit always applies a certain amount of pressure of the offense. The past offseason saw the Jets in such dire straits that it was a near guarantee that at least one area was going to be neglected. A majority of the Jets’ offseason resources were shifted toward the offense and front seven, including free agency dollars (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Carl Lawson, Jarrad Davis). Their primary draft picks were dedicated to the offense, as each of their first four choices (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter) have been hired to put points on the board. If the anemic offense shows no signs of improving the season, the  secondary could wind up woefully neglected again.

New York Jets, Joe Douglas
Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Off-Broadway Joe

It doesn’t do anyone much good to write Maye’s New York farewell song just yet. But, if these next 17 games make up his final hours in green, it continues two disturbing trends in recent Jets history.

With Maye’s New York future in doubt, the 2017 draft class is officially an endangered species. Nothing more needs to be written about top pick Adams, but the class has been a scourge on not only the Jets, but the league as well. Three of the nine picks (including third-round receiver ArDarius Stewart) are already out of football and only one beyond the safeties (Texan-turned-Lion Chad Hansen) appeared in 2020 regular season action.

The Jets have not only had trouble drafting, they’ve had troubling keeping the homegrown talent that appears to have a future. Maye appeared to be on pace to break that trend, but the past few weeks have only commenced a countdown to his departure.

Could this serve as a commentary on the Joe Douglas era?

It’s easy to view this situations from both sides: Douglas and company want to see how Maye performs in year two of the post-Adams era and they save some money in the short and long-run (maybe the immediate savings could go toward secondary help and a backup quarterback…?). Maye believes he’s a top ten safety and wants to be paid as such.

No one can deny that Douglas knows the team’s needs and can work with an offseason budget, at least on paper. But there could be a lingering side effect of free agents being scared away by Douglas’ unwillingness to deal pricy long-term deals?

Simply put, there’s a little more pressure on the 2021 Jets to perform now, to showcase visible signs of improvement. Again, asking them to make the postseason leap seems like a little much: they’re trapped in a division with America’s powerful football sweethearts in Buffalo and there are too many established contenders to leapfrog for the wild card. But there has to be at least some semblance of hope out there, a “throat-clearing” year of sorts, something similar to what the Los Angeles Chargers did with Justin Herbert in tow.

Entering Herbert’s rookie year, there wasn’t much to be excited about from an LA perspective. They seemed destined for a rebuild period and were struggling to attract fans even when they were allowed to play in front of a crowd. But the Chargers went on to surprise a lot of people. Herbert had an exemplary rookie season and the team won seven games. Even their losses were impressive: they took Kansas City and New Orleans to overtime and sheer bad luck probably kept them away from a winning record.

Seven of the Chargers’ nine losses came by single digits and they won each of their final four games following a December shellacking from New England. Los Angeles is now everyone’s NFL preview dark horse and the good vibes attracted new starters like Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Matt Feiler, and Jared Cook to the cause.

Patience has paid off in the early stages of this New York rebuilding stage. But in certain regards, the time is now.

How do you think the Jets’ plans will be affected by Maye’s franchise tag? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and keep the conversation going.

Long-term talks stall between Marcus Maye, New York Jets (Report)

According to Ian Rapoport, there appears to be no long-term agreement in the near future between Maye and the New York Jets.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, no long-term contract deal is expected between the New York Jets and safety Marcus Maye.

According to Rapoport, the Jets “not responded to his last proposal and that offer has been pulled off the table”. The safety was franchise tagged by the Jets in March, signing the one-year tender worth just over $10.6 million two weeks later. Maye’s tag makes him with sixth-highest safety for the 2021 season, tied with Marcus Williams of New Orleans. He will play on that tag unless a long-term can be reached by Thursday.

Both sides have equal footing in the argument for Maye’s long-term deal. Maye has been labeled one of the better safeties in the NFL, boasting an 82.1 Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 (fourth-best amongst safeties). The Jets, on the other hand, may be reluctant to offer a safety that’s set to turn 29 next March a long-term deal.

Shortly after the NFL Draft ended in May, general manager Joe Douglas said that re-upping with Maye was a “priority” after the selections.

“It’s still a priority to keep Marcus here long term,” Douglas said, per Max Goodmanof SI.com. “We have had productive texts back and forth with his agent and we’re hoping to really dive into this now that now that the draft’s over.”

In that same month, head coach Robert Saleh said he understood Maye’s side of the story, but reiterated that Douglas and the front office were working “relentlessly” on a long-term deal.

“I think these kids have earned the right to ask for whatever they can, especially when they do things the right way like (Maye) has,” Saleh said, per Adam Maya of NFL.com. “We had a really nice discussion and obviously him and his agent are working with Joe on trying to get his deal done, and hopefully that happens soon.”

Maye skipped organized team activities but attended the Jets’ minicamp proceedings in June. He’s coming off a season that saw him earn a career-best 88 tackles (4 for a loss, including a pair of sacks) and 11 pass breakups.

Will this reported stall between Maye and the Jets affect the team moving forward

New York Jets: 3 reasons why the Marcus Maye tag works

The New York Jets franchise-tagged the safety Maye earlier this week, which will net him $10.6 million for a one-year deal.

Marcus Maye received a bit of an earlier birthday gift on Monday, as the New York Jets placed the franchise on the fifth-year safety and 2017 draftee. The Jets and Maye have until July 15 to come to terms on a long-term deal.

Maye is the first Jets representative to receive the designation since Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016. The Jets and Wilkerson wound up reaching a long-term deal and general manager Joe Douglas hopes a similar agreement can be worked out with Maye.

“Marcus is a valuable member of this organization,” Douglas said in a report from team writers Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg. “Someone that started his career here, someone that’s been a pro’s pro. He’s smart, reliable, and has provided outstanding leadership. Our plan hasn’t changed. We’re in the process of working to have Marcus be here long term.”

With this transaction, Maye, the newly minted 28-year-old, becomes the Jets’ unofficial first acquisition of the 2021 offseason, bringing back a familiar face in what’s sure to be an offseason of change. ESM has three reasons why the Jets got it right…

Nov 22, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson (96) celebrates after a fumble recovery against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Easily Affordable 

We at ESM strongly advise against playing the “Drink every time a New York media outlet references the New York Jets’ excessive 2021 cap space” game. Already peaking at over $70 million as the offseason got underway, that number enjoyed a sizable boost last week upon the release of three-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. The Jets netted back $8.2 million upon Anderson’s release.

Essentially, the Jets traded in Anderson, who failed to live up to the $25 million contract extension he earned in 2019, for a year of experimentation with Maye, who posted career-best numbers and took home the team MVP award named after Curtis Martin last season. Time will tell how Maye’s on-field future pans out in New York, but Douglas’ financial maneuvering is already paying off.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Safety Marcus Maye #20 of the New York Jets celebrates a stop against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

It’s An Audition 

Maye has been a rare silver lining of consistency over the past few seasons for the Jets, but silver linings can only slightly polish a 2-14 record. Sure, he can beautify the Adam Gase era as best as he can, but can he be a contributor for a contender? There will be no better time to figure it out than 2021, as the Jets have opted to leave their future in the hands of a respectable, accomplished defensive name in Robert Saleh.

The former San Francisco defensive boss has been at the Jets’ helm for less than two months, but it sounds like he has some big plans for the Florida alum.

“I know Joe holds him in very high regard,” Saleh said after his opening press conference, per notes from the Jets. “I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room and so being able to get on the tape and just study him and see how he fits and where. 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.”

Maye had his best season as a pro, and the analytics (fourth-best graded safety on Pro Football Focus) indicate he’s on the rise. But how is he going to fit into a new system? The Jets have just bestowed an affordable audition to see if he’s a fit for the future.

It’s a good first step forward

The Jets had enough chaos centered on a talented safety to last them for the rest of the decade…and parts of the next…with the Jamal Adams unpleasantness last season. That process threatened to repeat itself when Maye’s agent Erik Burkhardt brought it up earlier this month, threatening to fracture negotiations between the team and player before they ever truly got rolling.

But a franchise tag takes care of two issues surrounding Maye’s continuing New York career: the Jets can see how he performs in Saleh’s system before committing to the long-term while making it clear that they do appreciate his services and hope to keep him the potential glory days ahead. Additionally, Maye gets a sizable deal, as he is now amongst the 12 highest-paid safeties in football, joining the brotherhood alongside fellow franchise tag holder Marcus Williams in New Orleans.

One would think that there’s little value in bringing back any remnant of the Adam Gase era or even any part of a cursed 2017 draft class that also included Adams and the fact they chose ArDarius Stewart in the third round shortly before Chris Godwin, Kenny Golliday, and Jonnu Smith. But Maye is coming off a career-best season and did his part to at least keep the Jets in the SportsCenter Top 10. His veteran leadership could prove vital, as the Jets plan to showcase a lot of youth in their secondary (Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, Bryce Hall) with the post-Adam era officially underway.

“He’s one of those guys that works hard and doesn’t talk much, but he will speak up if he feels like he has to,’’ former Jets teammate and New York Giants franchise tag honoree Leonard Williams told Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post in December. “I think it’s even more powerful sometimes when you hear something from a guy that doesn’t talk much. You know he means it.’’

An offseason of change likely awaits the New York Jets. But this retainer from some of the Jets’ darkest, even if it’s only temporary, could well pay off as the Jets embark on a new era.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets expected to franchise tag S Marcus Maye (Report)

The New York Jets are expected to use their tag on the safety Maye, who enjoyed a breakout season after Jamal Adams’ departure.

Per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the New York Jets will use their franchise tag on Marcus Maye when the 14-day period opens on Tuesday. Maye, who turns 28 in March, enjoyed a breakout season that led to team MVP honors after the tumultuous departure of fellow safety, 2017 draftee, and SEC alum Jamal Adams via trade.

The placing of the franchise tag will put Maybe in the $10-11 million range for a single season. New York can afford such a deal while going after longer-term endeavors, as they currently have the second-highest cap space in football (just under $68 million). Maye earned 88 tackles, 11 pass breakups, two sacks, and two interceptions, all of which were good for career-bests. He’s an ideal candidate for the franchise tag as the Jets’ excess cap space will afford them a one-year deal that likely keeps Maye satisfied and gives them a year to see whether he fits in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive plans.

Saleh had some positive words for Maye upon accepting the Jets’ head coaching job in January.

“I know (general manager Joe Douglas) holds him in very high regard,” Saleh said, per notes provided by the Jets. “I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room and so being able to get on the tape and just study him and see how he fits and where. 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.”

Vacchiano’s report states that a franchise tag also makes sense for Maye on a personal level, as it could be one of the better deals he gets with the NFL’s salary cap expected to shrink by about $13 million in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

“If you’re a guy like Marcus, not in the top tier, you might not find that big contract this year,” an NFL agent told SNY. “You might have to take a one-year deal, bet on yourself, and take your shot again next year. That’s the same as getting the franchise tag, only the tag is probably worth more.”

The tag period begins on Tuesday and will run through March 9, with free agent signings set to begin on March 17.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The franchise tag might spoil the New York Giants’ free agency plans and dreams

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants are tight on cap space this offseason. However, the team is still looking to rebuild their offense and has been linked to a few expensive, big-name free agents. There are some elite impending free agents that could fill huge needs for the Giants in free agency.

However, just because these players are impending free agents, does not mean they will hit the open market. The Giants are going to be interested in upgrading their wide receiver and offensive tackle positions. Whether that be through free agency or the draft is dependent on who is actually available in free agency.

Giants fans have selected a few impending free agents that they want the Giants to sign. Players like Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson, Taylor Moton, and Shaquil Barrett are all superb free agents that Giants fans would love to see their team sign.

However, it is very likely that none of these players will actually hit the open market. Their contracts are expiring and it seems likely that they depart from their current teams. But the teams do have one move to make to prevent their stars from leaving. Giants fans should not expect to see any of those players make it to free agency as they are likely to franchise tag candidates.

The Giants might lose their top free-agent targets to the franchise tag

If Kenny Golladay were to hit free agency, he would likely be the Giants’ top target. New York had an interest in trading for Golladay near the 2020 trade deadline. He is now an impending free agent and would be the perfect addition to the Giants’ offense. However, they might never get the chance to offer him a contract. According to reports, the Lions are likely to franchise tag the star wide receiver.

Another interesting name that connects to the Giants is Taylor Moton. This stud offensive tackle was drafted by Dave Gettleman during his tenure as general manager of the Carolina Panthers. Now, serving the same role for the New York Giants, a reunion would be a dream come true for the Giants. New York would get a top-shelf bookend on their offensive line if Moton were to sign with them in free agency. But, again, Moton is likely to be franchise tagged and the Giants will not have the opportunity to offer him a contract.

This will continue to be a theme as one starts listing off the top free agents in the 2021 free agency class. Teams are not willing to let their top players walk away for nothing. If New York really wants one of these players, they might have to trade for them while they are on the franchise tag.

Realistically, the Giants cannot afford to give up draft capital for these players either. Giants fans can hope and dream that their team lands a top-tier player like Kenny Golladay. But those fans should temper their expectations and expect to see the Giants shop a tier below. This free agency class is loaded with wide receiver talent. New York could target a less-expensive option like Curtis Samuel or Corey Davis.

If the Giants want to get their offensive playmaker, they will. But the franchise tag will likely prevent them from getting the best offensive playmaker. Alas, the Giants will target the best players they can in free agency, but the true roster-building takes place during the NFL Draft.