5 New York Jets who could make the leap into the NFL Top 100

new york jets, zach wilson

Corey Davis, an active New York Jet, appeared in NFL Network’s annual late-summer rankings. Who’s on pace to join him?

As a team struggling to gain traction and stability on the national football scene, the New York Jets will take any form of visible signs of improvement and stability. NFL Network’s annual countdown of the best 100 players from the prior season provided some welcome advancement.

In the annual rankings hosted by the network and determined by the league’s players, Jets receiver Corey Davis came home 91st. Last year’s postings, annually released in late August, featured no active Jets; their lone representative (safety Jamal Adams) had been traded to the Seattle Seahawks by the time the rankings were unveiled.

Who could potentially earn the respect of their peers next to Davis in 2022’s list? ESM investigates…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

OT Mekhi Becton

One of Joe Douglas’ most fateful moves to date has been the choosing of Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall selection of his first draft. The selection was called controversial at the time…the Jets left several elite receiving prospects on the board…but Becton has provided a solid foundation and has become a reliable anchor for an offensive wall set to protect treasured skill players.

The lack of conventional, numerical statistics makes it hard for offensive linemen to leave their mark in the Top 100. This year’s list featured only a dozen blocking representatives, the highest being Indianapolis guard Quinton Nelson at No. 33. But the arrival of Becton could commence a green offensive resolution in New York, even if his contributions won’t appear in the box score. Such contributions cannot and should not go unnoticed.

(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

S Marcus Maye

In the midst of metropolitan chaos, Maye emerged as a leader in the secondary and, at the very least made sure the Jets made regular appearances in SportsCenter‘s Top 10. His efforts were rewarded with the Team MVP award named after Curtis Martin.

Maye, however, is still left with something to prove enter the 2021 season: a long-term contract was not to be, a franchise tag bestowed in its place. At only 28, Maye is an elder statesman in New York circles as the longest-tenured Jet entering his fifth season). He looks downright ancient in the secondary after the Jets’ recent transactions bid farewell to third-year man Bless Austin in an effort to highlight rookie selections. If Maye can succeed in a larger role, he can earn not only the expensive, lengthy contract he desires but a spot amongst the Top 100 as well.

elijah moore, jets

WR Elijah Moore

Could Moore join his fellow New York newcomer Davis in the Top 100? It’s certainly possible if he lives up to the hype that followed him from Mississippi.

It’s been a long time since the Jets had a consistent, lasting, homegrown, big-play threat. In fact, there haven’t been many efforts in finding one: at 34th overall, Moore was the highest receiver who heard his name called by the Jets since Santana Moss went 16th in 2001’s opening round.

Moore is expected to become one of the biggest faces of the Jets’ offensive makeover. He already has an Offensive Rookie of the Year vote from former collegiate teammate A.J. Brown. The Tennessee Titans star appeared in the 62nd slot in the most recent list.

“I (saw) him working out, I know what he wanted to do. I know the dreams he has. He’s going to go crazy this year with the Jets,” Brown said in an appearance on the Raw Room podcast earlier this summer. “He’s a real sleeper. I would put my money on him for Offensive Rookie of the Year over anybody. I ain’t even discrediting the guys who went in front of him, but yeah, ain’t nobody messing with him … Nobody that came out (of the draft is) messing with him.”

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

DT Quinnen Williams

Carl Lawson would’ve been a prime candidate to appear on 2022’s Top 100 list, but the football gods had other plans. The deities of the gridiron continued to toy with the Jets’ front seven after Lawson was lost for the season, likewise taking away Vinny Curry for the whole year and Jarrad Davis for the five-week slate prior to the Jets’ open date.

Thus, Williams has a prime opportunity to put the “V” in MVP, as he’ll take on a leadership role while the Jets’ defenders try to tread water. The third overall pick of the 2019 draft enjoyed a breakthrough season with a team-best seven sacks last season. If the Jets’ defense is able to hold opposing offenses in check while Lawson heals, it’ll no doubt come with a healthy dose of Williams’ antics.

Williams remembered a special source of inspiration toward his sense of leadership going into the 2021 season: late NBA star Kobe Bryant.

“The No. 1 thing he told me: Nobody’s going to follow someone who’s not doing their job,” Williams told team reporter Jack Bell in March. “And that was the main thing that stuck with me. You got to set in stone that you’re a dominant player first. You got to go in there and take over and make sure everybody knows like whenever Q says something or whenever this person says something, they’re going to automatically follow because they see you doing the right thing, they see you doing everything first.”

zach wilson, jets

QB Zach Wilson

If one were ranking a Top 100 players of the 2021 NFL preseason, one would undoubtedly have to consider two crucial factors: first, seek help, because you’re ranking 100 players from the NFL preseason. But if you were to continue such a fruitless endeavor, Wilson would undoubtedly appear in the top ten, maybe even the first three or five slots.

The indifference and irrelevance bestowed toward preseason statistics notwithstanding, it’s hard not to at least be excited over Wilson after his summer slate. New York scored on four of Wilson’s six preseason possessions (all but one of which ended in opposing territory) and his passer rating of 137.7 would’ve led all passers had he partaken in the final exhibition game against Philadelphia.

We’ve seen first-year quarterbacks immediately launch themselves into the players’ Top 100 through awe-inspiring freshman showings. Chargers selection Justin Herbert (No. 56) was the revered rookie this time around, following in the footsteps of recent entries Baker Mayfield (2019), Dak Prescott (2017), and Robert Griffin III (2013).

Perhaps unfairly, the Jets’ long-awaited turnaround is going to be judged by the performance of Wilson, the latest entry to the team’s everlasting audition to replace Joe Namath. Even with the undeniable improvements from the rock-bottom endeavors of 2020, making the playoffs is going to be a tall task for Gang Green. If Wilson starts his career on the right note, his peers must take notice.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets LB Jarrad Davis on scheme, values, and mental health

new york jets, jarrad davis

Davis considered “walking away” from football, but the New York Jets’ call has afforded him a chance to reclaim the narrative on his career.

No matter their genre, fictional characters have embarked on new quests by hiring an expert in the field in question to complete their goals. Peter LaFleur brought in dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan to save Average Joe’s Gym. Norman Dale enlisted the services of former Hickory Husker Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch to help capture Indiana high school basketball glory.

In the real world, linebacker Jarrad Davis is in a similar position as he arrives in Florham Park for his first New York Jets training camp. Entering his fifth season out of Florida, Davis is a noted practitioner of 4-3 defense, which is set to make its return to New York under new head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

The 4-3 has played host to Davis’ finest gridiron hours: his work under Geoff Collins and Randy Shannon’s system at the University of Florida made him a first-round pick of Detroit Lions (21st overall) in 2017. He was a strong fit for a similar system overseen by Teryl Austin, earning all-rookie team honors.

Davis returned to the 4-3 on Wednesday when he partook in the opening camp practice on One Jets Drive. He offered a positive review of what Saleh and Ulbrich had to offer in his first post-practice comments.

“The defense is so layered. On the front end, we have to cause havoc, stress quarterbacks out, get them off the spot,” the new front seven member said of the defense, per video from the Jets. “Linebackers, we need to help protect the middle of the field. We got to make sure our reads are sharp, our keys are where they need to be, eyes are where they need to be on our keys. We just got to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to take care of our jobs.”

“This defense, as with almost any other defense in the league, it’s about all 11 doing their job. If there’s somebody out of position, then it’s going to make somebody in the backend look bad, someone who may have done everything perfectly, because the timing isn’t there. It’s all about everybody just doing their job, just simply put.”

Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Though Austin was dismissed through the controversial firing of head coach Jim Caldwell, Davis enjoyed a productive sophomore season under Paul Pasqualoni (100 tackles, 10 for a loss, 6 sacks), even earning on-field playcalling duties. But Davis, like many, fell victim to the Matt Patricia cesspool in the Motor City. Injuries ate away at his 2019 season and he spent most of last season in a rotational role, playing a career-low 330 snaps over 14 games. Detroit declined to pick up his fifth-year option as they went back to the drawing board.

Faced with an uncertain football future, Davis entered a period of “soul searching”.  What made his Detroit demotion so painful, he said, was the fact that he was “making the game everything”.

“I was making myself the game. And when I was doing that, it just, it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “This is such a competitive sport at this level. You have to put your everything, you have to put your all into it. But there has to be balance. I had a personal life but it wasn’t as important, I didn’t really care. If my personal life got in the way of football, it couldn’t exist. Living like that, I burnt myself out.”

As a result, Davis admitted that he seriously contemplated “walking away” from football. Instead, he began a new offseason endeavor.

“Living like that, I would burn myself out,” Davis said of his relative all-or-nothing approach. “I had to go do some things to take care of myself personally, mentally, and emotionally and get back right.”

To that end, Davis met with a Super Bowl champion: Denver-based sports psychologist Dr. Rick Perea, Ph.D.

Described as “one of the nation’s most energetic and dynamic practitioners in Performance Psychology“, Dr. Perea was on the Denver Broncos’ staff during their run to Super Bowl 50 in the 2015-16 season. His services have also been employed by the Nuggets and Rockies, as well as several other NFL squads.

Davis previously worked with Dr. Perea during the 2017 draft process. This time around, the linebacker learned how to “revalue” things moving forward.

“Football was top of the top (of my values), nothing could knock it down. Nothing could knock down the foundation that football was standing on,” David recalled. “But we personally just cleared it. We just took it off the radar, like took it off my list. It’s just something I do now. It’s not who I am anymore.”

Don’t let the wording fool you: Davis believes that his revaluing process will make him a better player on the field. For example, a mistake that would haunt him for the rest of practice is forgotten by the next down.

“If I mess up in practice, I mess up in practice. I can bounce back from that and come back and make a better play the next play now,” he said. “Before, I messed up, now I think about that all practice. I can’t even focus on anything else. I can’t even see the fullback taking me to the gap I need to go to anymore because I’m thinking about this play that happened 20 minutes ago.”

The Jets’ call meant more for Davis under a new focus. New York inked him to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million in March, reuniting him with fellow former Gator Marcus Maye. The safety was chosen 18 picks after Davis in the 2017 draft, just three months after they capped off their Gainesville careers with a 30-3 over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

An opportunity to return to a familiar scheme drew Davis to the metropolitan area.

“To get that phone call early in free agency from the Jets, it was a blessing to know that I had such an opportunity as this to come in and really get back to work,” Davis said. “I’m coming back to the scheme, the familiarity. We did stuff similar to this in college and being able to play fast and just be myself out there just excited me.”

Davis is one of many athletes who have shared their struggles with mental health in recent times. His discourse coincided with decorated American gymnast Simone Biles’ highly publicized withdrawal from several events at the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo due to such concerns.

Though Davis admitted he was not up to speed to comment on Biles’ situation, he hopes that his own situation will remove stigmas and inspire his teammates to ask for help if they need it.

“Why do we have to think getting help and not being okay, and saying that you’re not okay is a cool thing to do before you can actually say it?” Davis rhetorically asked. “If you’re not okay, you’re not okay, and it’s okay to ask for help. I guess it’s a very simple question, but it’s a powerful one.”

“People do need to understand that. When we do, we’ll be able to build and grow in life.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets add defensive lineman Jeremiah Valoaga

New York Jets

Valoaga, a fifth-year veteran, joins the New York Jets after previously working with Robert Saleh during the 2019 season.

The New York Jets announced the signing of veteran defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga on Tuesday night.

Valoaga, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of UNLV in 2017, spent the last two seasons with the Raiders franchise in both their Oakland and Las Vegas incarnations, though he did not play last season after opting out in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. He previously worked with Jets head coach and former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh during a shared season (2019) in the Bay Area and enjoyed a lucrative preseason, leading the team in sacks during the summer exhibition quartet (4.5).

The Oxnard, CA native has become an NFL veteran despite some struggles with academics in college, but he recovered and eventually earned a rookie contract from the Detroit Lions. He also spent most of the 2018 season on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad. Over 13 regular season games with Detroit and San Francisco, Valoaga has earned seven tackles, including one sack.

Valoaga was one of several roster moves the Jets made as they descended upon One Jets Drive for training camp on Tuesday. He takes over a roster spot from blocker George Fant, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. His arrival should help the Jets bide time on the defensive line until Quinnen Williams, Kyle Phillips, and Vinny Curry are activated. Williams and Phillips landed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list over the weekend, while Curry is in the Active/Non-Football Injury group.

Elsewhere, the Jets got three of their defenders back. Safety Marcus Maye and Valoaga’s new fellow lineman Foley Fatukasi were activated from the NFI list while another front seven attendee, final draft pick Jonathan Marshall, came off the PUP group.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why the New York Jets can make the playoffs

new york jets, zach wilson

It won’t be easy…but it can happen. ESM has three ways the New York Jets can pull off the unthinkable in 2021.

The world was a different place the last time the New York Jets partook in an NFL playoff game. It was a freezing January evening in Pittsburgh, as the Jets fell one step short of their Super Bowl dream for the second consecutive season in the AFC championship contest.

At that time, MetLife Stadium didn’t exist…well, the building itself was there, but it was free of corporate sponsorship under the identity of New Meadowlands Stadium. A basketball team called the Nets was no longer stationed at the arena next door…then known as Izod Center…but they still played under a Garden State branding. At the cinema, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a mere three movies old and the idea of expanding the Star Wars galaxy was merely fanfiction.

In short…it’s been a while. The Jets’ playoff drought now stands at a decade, a record inherited when the Cleveland Browns clinched a spot last season. What’s scarier is that the second-most dire active drought has made to only five years, a dubious distinction shared by Arizona, Cincinnati, and Denver.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the trend isn’t ending any time soon. The Jets are trapped in a division where one reign of terror in New England gave way to another in Buffalo. Their conference’s wild card landscape isn’t any more forgiving, as established contenders pepper the other divisions. Even their own rivals in the East, Miami and New England, will be back with a vengeance. Combine that with a first-year head coach and franchise quarterback working with a mostly new cast and it’s difficult to see the Jets make major headway in the win/loss columns. Many observers agree that the Jets got better this offseason…but it comes with the caveat that the 2020 season was so brutal that there was nowhere to go but up.

But…ESM is going to look at things a little more optimistically. We have three ways the Jets’ improvements can lead to a long-awaited postseason revisit:

New York Giants, Corey Davis
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Not Sorry, Wilson

This time last year, the Jets were going into the 2020 season with an offensive cabinet that left much to be desired. Year three of the Sam Darnold era was expected to rely upon a first-round washout (Breshad Perriman), a Le’Veon Bell who was constantly denying that he was arguing with Adam Gase, and an assortment of veteran reserves in the skill positions. A rare silver lining of hope, Denzel Mims, missed almost all of the summer preparation with hamstring issues. Darnold was also working with his third different center in three NFL seasons. Needless to say, the Jets’ offense played a major role in their two-win downfall and Darnold posted the worst numbers of his career.

Granted the second overall pick in April for their troubles over the fall, the Jets opted to start from scratch (again). Before they used that premier pick on one of the touted quarterbacks of the draft…later revealed to be BYU’s Zach Wilson…management did all they could to retroactively atone for the mistakes of the Darnold era. What they’ve assembled for Wilson is, at least on paper, is better than anything Darnold had to work with.

Corey Davis, coming off a career-best year in Tennessee, is the projected top target. Free agency endeavors also brought in Keelan Cole, who tallied 2,242 yards over the last four seasons despite endless quarterback turnover in Jacksonville. They’ll welcome back Mims and reliable slot target Jamison Crowder and when Elijah Moore fell to their grasp with the second pick in the second round at the draft, they immediately pounced. At running back, they found a potential day three draft gem in Michael Carter and signed Tevin Coleman a two-time Super Bowl participant with something to prove, to a one-year deal. Though questions linger at tight end, vis a vis Chris Herndon, they did add red zone option Tyler Kroft to the fold as well.

Wilson will also be able to take in the benefits of a revamped offensive line. Mekhi Becton was well worth the risk of passing on several elite receiving talents last season. He’s now joined by USC protector Alijah Vera-Tucker, who indirectly comes from a pick used in the infamous Jamal Adams trade (a pick acquired from Seattle was traded to Minnesota to move up the board). New York enjoyed a late-offseason surprise in the form of the consistent tackle Morgan Moses, who is expected to take over on the right side.

The depths to which the Jets sank on offense last season (only six games over 300 yards, nine games with 14 points or less) should be impossible to reach at the NFL level. But those called upon are reliable names with championship panache. If the newcomers rise to their potential, the Jets could reopen the scoring floodgates and repopulate East Rutherford’s end zones.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Treated

Perhaps no intermission interview during a hockey broadcast is complete without the phrase “pucks on net” being uttered, to the point it’s become a bit of a meme. The football equivalent could be “pressure the quarterback”.

The NFL is undoubtedly a league ruled by offense, evidenced by its inflated scoreboards. But, every so often, we’re reminded that defense wins championships. MetLife Stadium’s turf knows about the concept better than anyone, playing host to the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 dismantling of the historically explosive Denver Broncos offense in Super Bowl XLVIII. Even the might Patrick Mahomes isn’t immune to the dangers of a strong pass rush. The Kansas City Chiefs are 44-10 (including postseason) with Mahomes as their starter; half of those losses (a 7-5 mark overall) have come when he’s sacked at least three times. One of those losses came against Todd Bowles’ relentless rush in last year’s Big Game.

The Jets’ downfall has only been exacerbated by a lack of pressure. They’ve applied pressure on only 21.4 percent of opposing dropbacks over the past two seasons, ranking 25th in the league in the category last season…a bit perplexing for a unit overseen by Gregg Williams. When you’re trapped in a division that bestows you two guaranteed matchups with Josh Allen for the foreseeable future, having a fearsome pass rush will be vital.

New York plans to start from scratch again with head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in tow. The team is set to run a 4-3 base for the first time since the Herm Edwards/Donnie Henderson days. They spent the offseason bolstering the front seven in an effort to prepare for the transition.

For better or worse, the Jets’ most impactful free agency signing for not only the coming season but for the next few years could likely become Carl Lawson. The narrative behind Lawson is that his on-field influence goes far beyond the number in his sack column (no more than 5.5 after 8.0 in his debut campaign out of Auburn in 2017) and he has the less conventional numbers to prove it.

Though the Jets recently announced some their defensive breakouts won’t be available for the start of training camp, it’ll be interesting to see what Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers can do for an encore with a little extra help. The transformation in the front seven further continued with the arrival of Jarrad Davis, whose finest gridiron hours have come in 4-3 sets with the Florida Gators and Detroit Lions. While Davis has struggled to live up to his first round billing since Teryl Austin and Jim Caldwell were dismissed from Detroit, he has kept his pressure numbers consistent. A return to a familiar 4-3 setting could help him up the ante not only as a backfield invader but as a a leader as well. Championship contenders Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry have likewise joined the fold.

Questions, of course, still linger in the secondary. For example, Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis (the latter recovering from surgery) are respectively on the Non-Football Injury and Physically Unable to Perform lists, further depleting a safeties group desperate for answers. But the Jets are going to make life a heck of a lot easier for themselves if they can make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable again.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the New Boss

Say what you will about the Todd Bowles era: its final chapters were penned in poignancy, as players were disappointed not for themselves, but that they let a strong football mind and a man of great character down. They sang of Bowles’ praises to the very end and many were upset to see him let go after the 2018 season.

Those warm feelings didn’t seem to translate to the ousting of Bowles’ successor. When the woebegone Gase was let go after two disastrous seasons, there was an aura of “good riddance”. The players’ relative silence on the matter spoke volumes, though fans were more than happy to chime in.

The hiring of Saleh, most recently the overseer of the lauded San Francisco 49ers’ defense, comes at an interesting time on the pro football timeline. It’s a move made as the league values offense, posting scoreboards that flirt with those from the defunct Arena Football League. One would also foresee an offensive mind coming in with a new franchise quarterback to mold and develop.

Yet, the players’ response to what Saleh is advertising could slowly signal the return of good vibes to Gang Green football.

Saleh had a tall task to deal with upon his arrival: convince outsiders and prospects that a two-win team that the internet turned into a football meme bank had something to work with, something that hinted at a championship climb. What he did was immediately get to work, adopt a catchy yet inspirational mantra that quickly caught on to players and fans alike, and slowly got momentum back on the green side of the New York football bridge.

What Saleh (along with general manager Joe Douglas) did this offseason was from a free agent unit of not exactly what the Jets were looking for, but finding parts that they needed. Lawson brings pressure, Davis brings knowledge of the 4-3. Saleh mostly avoided stocking up on former Bay Area pupils but the major holdover (running back Tevin Coleman) brings knowledge of offensive boss Mike LaFleur’s system and what it takes to compete for a championship. Wilson’s offensive cabinet is stocked with no true No. 1 receiver, but a series of skill players eager to proves themselves…which could well describe the state of the Jets as a whole in this point in time. Financials likely played a large role, but Saleh’s plan was apparently able to convince Jamison Crowder (by far the most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons) to stick around for at least one more season.

Saleh himself has admitted on several occasions that his New York restructure and tenets  are going to take some time to fully install. Votes for Coach of the Year might be more realistic at this point…after all, it won’t take much to improve upon the horrors of 2020. But faith in the right coach is capable of doing some incredible things.

Do you think the New York Jets can overcome the odds and end their postseason drought? If so, how can they do it? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

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: 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: A player at each position in a make-or-break year (Defense)

No one’s expecting much from the 2021 New York Jets, who thus have little to lose. These defenders, however, would beg to differ.

The symptoms of dealing with the New York Jets’ endless search for a franchise quarterback have often been treated with a healthy dose of defense.

Mark Sanchez’s early struggles were offset by the disruptive weather patterns on (Darrelle) Revis Island while the early days of Joe Klecko helped them survive the Richard Todd era. More recently, Jamal Adams gave Jets fans a reason to stay tuned during the first two years of Sam Darnold’s reign before a highly publicized divorce that saw Gang Green earn two first-round assets in the settlement.

This offseason brought about an interesting irony: the Jets appear to have their new franchise man in Zach Wilson under a defensive-minded head coach in Robert Saleh. While they surrounded Wilson with plenty of talented, developmental pieces through both free agency and the draft, the defense is a relatively muddled hodgepodge of veterans both arriving and returning. After all, the Jets waited until the fifth round of the draft to address the defense, using the 146th overall pick on Auburn secondary man turned linebacker Jamien Sherwood.

Though New York has relatively little to lose in 2021 as a team…few expect them to rise out of the AFC East cellar…the defense is full of veterans looking to prove themselves, justifying their metropolitan existence for the potential good times ahead. ESM has a player from each position group to keep an eye on in that regard…

  • For offensive players in a make-or-break situation, click HERE
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Defensive Lineman Kyle Phillips #98 of the New York Jets makes a stop call against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Defensive Line: Kyle Phillips

Phillips was one of the green breakout stars of the 2019 season. During the Jets’ second half mirage…a long-forgotten 6-2 stretch earned mostly against teams in even more dire straits…the undrafted Phillips was particularly impressive as a run-stepper.

Pro Football Focus graded him 17th amongst edge rushers in run defense and Phillips earned further notoriety when he picked up a crucial sack in a win over Pittsburgh in the Jets’ home finale (to date, their last game with fans at MetLife Stadium). His pass rushing skills left much to be desired, but the Jets were very satisfied with the value found in the rookie free agency pile.

Unfortunately, Phillips was unable to capitalize on his rookie success, as he partook in only six games last season due to an ankle injury. In his place, the Jets’ front seven enjoyed a few breakout years amidst the chaos of Adam Gase’s last stands. Most of the attention went to Quinnen Williams but John Franklin-Myers held down the fort in Phillips’ absence.

Phillips is an interesting situation, but the arrival of Saleh and his 4-3 tendencies should provide some stability. While Phillips moved around a lot in Gregg Williams’ 3-4 looks, he should be seen in his traditional role on the line at end more often. But with the Jets bringing in veterans Vinny Curry and Ronald Blair through free agency, immediately getting his primary duties back is no guarantee.

Nov 17, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions middle linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) runs off the field after recovering a fumble during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker: Jarrad Davis

Conventional wisdom says that the New York linebacker most desperately facing a make-or-break season is C.J. Mosley, who has appeared in two games over his first two New York seasons due to medical absences. The former Baltimore Raven already faces a tall task as one of the final marquee signings of the Mike Maccagnan era. But even if this year doesn’t work out for Mosley (who nets the Jets $13 million if they trade him after this season), his previous resume (four All-Pro nominations) shouldn’t make it hard for him to find another job elsewhere.

Davis, the Detroit Lions’ 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) doesn’t have quite that luxury just yet. His NFL career got off to a decent start under the reliable watch of Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin but fell apart amidst the toxicity of the Matt Patricia era. A one-year “prove-it” deal bestowed by the Jets has given him a chance to get his career back on track…and the 4-3 gives him the perfect opportunity to do so.

Davis’ best showings have come in the 4-3, first under Geoff Collins as a Florida Gator before working in Austin’s system in the Motor City. It provides a chance to not only post some strong stats but showcase his leadership skills, as his experience in Saleh’s preferred set can be used as a safety blanket. But if he struggles this time around, it will probably become difficult to extend his NFL career further.

New York Jets, Bless Austin
New York Jets, Bless Austin

Cornerback: Bless Austin

For all intents and purposes, Queens native and Rutgers alum Bless Austin was born to succeed as a New York Jet. He overcame injury issues in Piscataway (limiting him to five games in his last two seasons as a Scarlet Knight) to become an NFL draft pick and did well for himself when some veterans ahead of him weren’t up to snuff. He partook in 11 games last season, the most since a sophomore season that saw him finish second in the Big Ten in pass breakups.

Over his first two NFL seasons, Austin has developed a reputation as a strong hitter but has struggled in coverage. Those issues could prove especially deadly in year one of Saleh and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s watch, as the duo have been known to run zone schemes. Austin has fared slightly better in man sets, but hasn’t shown anything to suggest he’s ready for full-time starting duties at the NFL level.

The Jets were in such a macabre situation after last season that they had to sacrifice some areas in their 2021 renovations. Cornerbacks are by far the most exposed group. Free agent arrival Justin Hardee is expected to contribute more on special teams while returnees Corey Ballentine and Bennett Jackson are low on experience. The Jets did spend a majority of the draft’s final day on secondary help, bringing in Jason Pinnock, Michael Carter II, and Brandin Echols, not to mention the undrafted Isaiah Dunn.

Austin is currently set to be the top man next to Bryce Hall. While the second-year Hall has time to develop, Austin is facing a more desperate situation with younger prospects behind him.

Cole Beasley of Buffalo and Marcus Maye of the Jets make contact after Beasley made a catch in the second half as the Buffalo Bills met the New York Jets at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on October 25, 2020.
The Buffalo Bills Vs The New York Jets At Metlife Stadium In East Rutherford New Jersey On October 25, 2020

Safety Marcus Maye

Once the necessary Adams divorce was finalized, Maye was tasked with not only being a defensive leader but for keeping the ensuing season at least somewhat tolerable. Maye did that and then some, enjoying a strong season that at least kept the Jets in the SportsCenter Top 10. The 2020 campaign also ended with his name on the Curtis Martin Team MVP Award.

The issue with accolades, especially club-based honors, in a two-win season is the question of whether the award says more about the honoree or the team. It seems like Maye has the talent and skillset to remain an NFL staple for the foreseeable future. Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson in fact ranked Maye as the seventh-best safety in football entering 2021…three spots ahead of Pacific Northwest-dwelling friend and former teammate.

Jets management apparently still isn’t convinced that Maye, one of only two Maccagnan draft choices slated to start on defense this (Austin is the other), is the future. Long-term contract talks appear to have broken down and there have been no developments with the deadline eight days away. In the meantime, Maye’s desire for a big payday has been temporarily satisfied through a franchise tag granting him just over $10 million, making him the sixth-best paid safety this season (tied with Marcus Williams in New Orleans).

A big season thus lies ahead for Maye, who will be looking to prove to both the Jets and their 31 brothers that he can be a vital contributor on a respectable NFL squad. If he carries on the promise of last season and makes MVP endeavors the new normal, he won’t have to worry about the desired money and stability for a long time. But if he falters, his price tag could take a slashing.

Who else is facing a make-or-break season? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Analyzing the fateful moves of Joe Douglas’ tenure (so far)

Today in 2019, the New York Jets named Joe Douglas their general manager. ESM looks back on his most impactful moves, for better or worse.

Two years ago, a man named Joe opened a campaign that ran on change and reform. Today, he’s at the helm of one of the most renowned, yet volatile, systems in the world and trying to get his constituents back on track in the face of an ongoing crisis.

On this day two years ago, Joe Douglas became general manager of the New York Jets.

Douglas inherited a ghastly gridiron crunch from Mike Maccagnan after the latter’s shocking post-draft firing in 2019. The Jets were in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought and hadn’t had a winning record since 2015, the first year of Maccagnan’s star-crossed term.

Two years later, however, much hasn’t changed in terms of on-field numbers. Douglas has overseen a mere nine wins over two seasons (besting only Detroit, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati) and saw the franchise plunge to new single-season lows last season through a 2-14 ledger. Even though they bested the single win of Rich Kotite’s doomed group in 1996, the Jets endured a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak to open the year, leading Douglas to start almost entirely from scratch in 2021. The playoff drought has been extended to a decade, the longest active streak in the NFL after Cleveland and Tampa Bay each earned postseason invites last winter.

In his brief time, Douglas has made several transactions that will affect the Jets’ future fortunes and perhaps his own metropolitan future. ESM looks back at the most impactful moves to date, for better and worse…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Better: The Drafting of Mekhi Becton

For his first draft pick at the helm of the Jets, Douglas opted to select Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice in the 2020 proceedings. There was no shortage of talent in the middle stages of the virtual draft’s opening night, as Henry Ruggs, Tristan Wirfs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson all heard their names called with the next eleven selections after Becton.

Analysis: For the time being, the draft of Becton is Douglas’ magnum opus. He made the selection in a thankless position: for every one fan/analyst/scout who wanted a blocker, there was another likely upset that Douglas passed on the plethora of receiving talent available in the slot. But after Becton served as a rare silver lining in Adam Gase’s dirge, Douglas publicly declared that he would base future decisions around Becton.

“I think he’s a player that is going to help us long-term,” Douglas said in November, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “We’re excited about working with him every day because you talk about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart. He’s tough as nails and has rare size and athleticism. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be so we’ve made it our mission to bend over backward to try to help him reach his goals.”

The selection of Becton also snapped a dangerous streak in Jets history: he was the first opening-round offensive lineman chosen by the Jets since the legendary pairing of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006, ending a period of blocking negligence exacerbated not only by Maccagnan but by Mike Tannenbaum and John Idzik before him. Additionally, shrewd maneuvering by Douglas allowed the Jets to pick up a big-play receiver anyway, using a second-round choice on Baylor’s Denzel Mims.

LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 17: Alex Lewis #71 of the New York Jets looks on prior to the game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 17, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Worse: The Veteran Building Block(er)s 

Douglas’ blocking renovations didn’t begin with Becton. In the month before he scribbled Becton’s name onto a draft card, Douglas bestowed over $17 million in 2020 cap space to George Fant, Connor McGovern, and Greg Van Roten. When he took office during the summer of 2019, among his first moves were trading a late pick to Baltimore for Alex Lewis and convincing All-Pro Ryan Kalil to postpone his retirement.

Analysis: Douglas had the right idea: he wanted to stock up on blockers to help his pre-packaged franchise quarterback Sam Darnold out. Alas, the moves he made only hastened the end of the Darnold era.

Part of the issues stems from Douglas signing the wrong names. Jack Conklin was reportedly interested in coming aboard (and Le’Veon Bell pleaded for the Jets to sign his fellow Michigan State alum on Twitter), but he instead embarked on an All-Pro season in Cleveland. Worse yet, the consolation prizes caused the Jets to neglect other areas of need, namely the weaponry necessary for Darnold to succeed. Luring Amari Cooper over from Dallas was probably always a pipe dream, but they missed out on serviceable parts like Emmanuel Sanders. They also made little effort to retain Robby Anderson, who went on to post career-best numbers in Carolina.

In the absence of marquee blocking signing, the Jets were forced to make do with washouts from first rounds past (Breshad Perriman) as well as former Patriots without the Belichick touch (Chris Hogan). The tough luck created a football situation where no good Douglas deed went unpunished.

New York Jets, Jamal Adams
Dec 29, 2019; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams (33) warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Too Soon: The Jamal Adams Trade

Once it became clear that Adams, the face of the franchise during the Maccagnan era, wanted out of New York it was on Douglas to somehow salvage the situation. Adams didn’t make things easier by telling metropolitan horror stories any chance he could. Despite Adams’ tales, Douglas eventually worked out a deal with Seattle in August 2020. The deal netted two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and veteran cornerback Bradley McDougald.

Analysis: It’s hard to fully analyze the Adams trade as there are still lingering aftershocks in the 2022 draft; the Jets own Seattle’s first-round choice while the Seahawks own a metropolitan fourth-round pick.

As of this moment, a lot of the Adams fallout has shifted toward the Jets’ favor. While McDougald partook in only seven games and doesn’t appear to be heading back (continuing a disturbingly common trend of Douglas’ veteran acquisitions not panning out), the Jets used the Seattle capital to bolster their offensive line, trading the 2021 first-rounder to Minnesota that led to a move up the draft board for Alijah Vera-Tucker. The fact that Adams’ cantankerousness followed him to the Pacific Northwest…he has yet to sign a long-term deal…only further shifts the current lead in the Jets’ direction.

There’s no use in grading the trade when several major names from it haven’t played a single regular season down yet. But the fact that Douglas turned a disgruntled superstar into a landmark blocker and a first-round pick to be named later is an inspiring sign. The same philosophy could apply to the trade that sent Darnold to Carolina, a deal that saw Douglas land a second-round choice (in 2022) for a quarterback that has yet to post a passer rating above 85 or throw more than 20 touchdown passes.

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)

Better: Franchise Tagging Marcus Maye

Both the SEC and the earlier days of the 2017 draft are still represented in the Jets’ secondary through the prescience of Marcus Maye. The Florida alum was bestowed the franchise tag in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, a move that makes him the 10th-highest-paid safety in the league in 2021 (over $10.6 million guaranteed).

Analysis: After the Adams debacle, Douglas had to carefully navigate the situation with Maye. The Florida alum was close with Adams and was one of the few name-brand talents leftover once Adams and Anderson donned new helmets. For all intents and purposes, things have gone well in the early going. Maye, who at the very least made sure the Jets appeared in the SportsCenter Top 10, earned a sizable new contract while Douglas and Co. bought some time for Maye to further consider New York and set the table for an affordable long-term deal.

While Maye appears to be holding out of offseason activities, possibly until he gets that longer contract, the conversations surround him inspire hope and optimism, unlike last year’s melancholy Adams situation.

“Marcus Maye fits every system and he’ll be just fine,” new head coach Robert Saleh said in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “I think these kids have earned the right to ask for whatever they can, especially when they do things the right way like he has. Joe and his staff are working relentlessly to get something done. We go with it and we support him all around the organization.”

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Oct 18, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Jets head coach Adam Gase looks at a play card during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Worse: Putting Up with Adam Gase

Douglas took over the Jets at an interesting, if not contemptuous, point on the Jets timeline. His immediate predecessor was not Maccagnan, but rather Adam Gase, who more or less won a battle of wills to remain in New York. Gase was granted interim general managing duties after Maccagnan was let go and was maintained as the head coach upon Douglas’ arrival. He would last two seasons at the helm before Douglas dismissed him, paving the way for Saleh’s hire.

Analysis: The Jets were able to mask a 1-7 start in Gase’s first year at the helm by winning six of their final eight games (mostly against competition equally, if not more, doomed). But an even more brutal start in year two…one that saw the Jets lose their first six games by multiple possessions…should’ve been all the evidence that Gase wasn’t going to be the one to lead New York to the promised land.

Sure, it had been a while since the Jets executed an in-season firing (with Charley Winner getting ousted for Ken Shipp in 1975), but early firings have become more common in today’s NFL. A playoff berth in year one couldn’t save Ben McAdoo with New York’s blue squad. Steve Wilks was granted only one year in Arizona once it became clear they could get Kliff Kingsbury. It’s not like Douglas wasn’t afraid to pull the plug on others; the Jets instituted an early-season fire sale that bid farewell to Bell, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was likewise given the boot after his infamous blitz against Las Vegas cost the Jets their first win of 2020.

To make matters worse, once Gase couldn’t even take advantage of the macabre gift of consequence-free football that could’ve been used as research and development for the future. For example, he chose to give Frank Gore a retirement tour instead of giving young projects like La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams a chance. Letting Gase finish out the season helped offseason questions linger and kept the Jets on a path of uncertainty.

Jan 3, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh against the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Too Soon: The San Francisco Treats

With the eventual purge of Gase and his coaching staff (save for the apparently immortal Brant Boyer) and the drafting of Zach Wilson, Douglas now officially has his signature on this team. The process will now be overseen on a day-to-day basis by a staff headed by Saleh and fellow former 49er Mike LaFleur, who is tasked with awakening an anemic New York offense.

Analysis: It’s foolhardy to grade any transaction without a single down of evidence, so the jury is obviously still out on Saleh. It’s an interesting approach for the Jets to take, for the Jets to go with a defensive-minded boss in an NFL landscape that increasingly favorites the offense (whether it’s inadvertent or not). It’s also somewhat surprising to see them hire a first-time head coach for a team full of unproven misfit toys. Time will tell how the gambit, similar to the Todd Bowles hire in 2015, plays out.

Having said that, the ultimate difference between the Gase and Saleh hires is who is praising the hire. When Gase arrived, it was praised mostly by the hot take artists like Colin “2020 AFC championship tickets at MetLife Stadium” Cowherd. This time, however, the Jets’ hire has been praised by on-field talent both domestically and abroad.

Much like the hire on this day two days ago…a hire where Douglas was plucked from a Philadelphia squad still celebrating its Super Bowl…Jets fans are filled with hope. But hope can only take you so far…it’s time to perform and find results, through, and in spite of, these moves.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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