The New York Jets and defensive captain Marcus Maye were unable to strike a long-term deal before Thursday’s 4:00 p.m. EST franchise tag extension deadline, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport anticipated Tuesday afternoon.
According to Rapoport, sources said negotiations took a turn weeks ago when New York offered the 28-year-old a deal that had an average-per-year (APY) “about 20% below” the franchise tag amount of $10.61 million. This would mean Maye was offered a deal worth around $8.5 million APY, significantly less than the approximate $14 million annually that ESPN’s Rich Cimini and the Athletic’s Connor Hughes suggested Maye was hoping to get weeks ago.
The situation between the two parties is “really not in a good place,” Rapoport added.
Some have begun to criticize general manager Joe Douglas’ approach to the situation suggesting that Gang Green needs to start compensating their own. Since Douglas was hired in June of 2019, the team has extended four players: tight ends Ryan Griffin and Daniel Brown, nose tackle Steve McLendon, and offensive tackle Conor McDermott — no big-ticket, big-name extensions to this point. New York notably parted ways with defensive lineman Leonard Williams, receiver Robby Anderson, safety Jamal Adams, and quarterback Sam Darnold; a plethora of players who lived and grew wearing green and white in their early days.
Maye’s situation, though, is not comparable to Adams’. Just one similarity seems to rhyme: Jets Nation is once again analyzing the significance of the safety position. Adams, a then 23-year-old superstar safety with elite versatility, was widely regarded as one of the best at his position and maintained a major trade market despite being vocal about wanting out of New York and looking to reset the market at his position. Adams claimed he wanted to be paid, Douglas was willing to do it at a later date, and the situation escalated after a trade deadline massacre. Douglas was able to flip the All-Pro safety for two first-round picks, a third-round pick, and veteran safety Bradley McDougald.
Maye, a 28-year-old safety who plays at an above-average level, isn’t making waves or forcing his way out — he simply wants long-term security and to be paid. He believes he’s worth a contract and Joe Douglas believes he’s worth another. In Maye’s case, not only does he not generate enough trade value to be moved in a manner that benefits New York, but he’s working against age.
The reality is that both parties are at a stalemate. The questions will stand at least for this upcoming season: Who will bite? Where will this end? From Maye’s perspective, it makes sense to play hardball. Any athlete who plays a lesser premium position and is approaching the age of 30 wants long-term insurance. Maye, drafted by the Maccagnan regime back in round two of the 2017 draft, has earned his leadership role and been voted team captain by his teammates. He’s progressed every year, even putting together a career year in 2020 amidst a 2-14 disastrous Jets downfall. Over 1,137 snaps, Maye defended 11 passes and snagged two interceptions, earning an 82.9 overall PFF grade while allowing just 61% of passes his way to be completed in 2020.
Even after a depressed offseason financially, an offer of 20% below his current franchise tag — a number that would slate Maye below Packers’ Adrian Amos in APY at 15th among safeties — is irrational and disrespectful. Maye’s production suggests that he is worthy to be paid in the ballpark of Patriots’ Devin McCourty ($11.5 million APY) and Browns’ John Johnson III ($11.25 million APY), just outside of the top five at his position.
From the Jets’ side, it also makes sense to play hardball — and that’s where Joe Douglas flourishes. As seen in the past, Douglas is not one to hand out money under pressure. He believes a player is worth a certain number and isn’t one to overpay. It’s understandable that Douglas would be hesitant about paying a safety with no All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors top-tier money into his early 30s. The team may view Maye’s contract as money that could be invested elsewhere; One example may be restructuring receiver Jamison Crowder’s contract in order to sign tackle Morgan Moses this offseason. It’s a tough decision, but one a general manager may need to make from time to time. Under the tag, Douglas now has an extra season to get production out of Maye before making any decisions. 2021 will be a year of determining the safety’s market value and evaluating his future with the team.
Maye’s one-year tag is now essentially locked in; He is guaranteed the full $10.61 million on his one-year tag — tied for seventh-highest among safeties in yearly cash and ninth-highest in APY. The two sides can revisit negotiations again after the team’s final regular-season game of the 2021 season, the CBA states; this assuming no unexpected hold-outs or trades occur. The Jets can also place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Maye again next offseason at a price inflated to 120% of his 2021 salary if they wish.
As of now, Gang Green’s 2020 Curtis Martin Team MVP is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Should New York look to replace Maye despite Joe Douglas’ repetitive reassurance that inking him to a long-term deal is a priority, they may not find too much trouble; The team’s safety room consists of second-year speedster Ashtyn Davis and 30-year-old Lamarcus Joyner, currently on a one-year deal. Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu and Saints’ Marcus Williams headline 2022’s deep free-agent safety class.
At the end of the day, this all comes down to money, age, and position. Will Maye and his agency be the first to bite? Will we see Douglas crack and pay upwards? This will be a situation worth monitoring throughout the following year.