Jets’ Marcus Maye Makes Key Decision Amidst Contract Talks

Marcus Maye

Getty New York Jets safety Marcus Maye intercepts a pass on December 22, 2019.

The wait is over New York Jets fans. Star safety Marcus Maye has arrived in Florham Park.

General manager Joe Douglas elected to franchise-tag Maye before the NFL free agency window officially opened on March 17, 2021. The Jets fan favorite then accepted that tag a few days later, which is worth $10.612 million in 2021.

Since then, Douglas and Maye’s agent Erik Burkhardt have supposedly been in the midst of long-term extension talks, but we have yet to see No. 20 at Jets camp, until now.

Unfortunately, no news of an extension has dropped just yet, but Maye’s presence is encouraging all the same. Many players choose to hold out in a situation like this, but clearly, the Jets’ safety wants to be here.

For the sake of comparison, former Jets teammate Jamal Adams is in the same boat as Maye with the Seattle Seahawks, but the expectation is that he’ll choose to skip the Hawks’ mandatory minicamp.

What’s the Hold-up on an Extension?

The Jets have until July 15, 2021, to negotiate a long-term deal in place of that expensive one-year tag. This type of move makes sense for both sides and is expected to get done, so why hasn’t it?

Three obvious possibilities could explain the delay.

  • Cannot agree on the average annual salary.
  • Cannot agree on the total guaranteed money in the deal.
  • Cannot agree on the length of the deal, or total years.

Douglas and Burkhardt have kept these talks pretty airtight since the draft, so only the parties involved know the true root of any issues or disagreements, which should actually be considered a positive sign.

When these talks go badly, you usually know about it because the agents tend to strong-arm the front office and get very public with their information. Burkhardt actually attempted this back in early March of 2021.

It seems like the agent has put those tactics to rest, at least for time being.

Maye Learning New System

The shouts from fans to extend Maye long-term have been overwhelmingly supportive, and that’s a credit to his 2020 campaign.

Although the Jets franchise had a season they’d prefer to forget, Maye himself had a career year.

With 88 total tackles (four for a loss), two interceptions, 11 passes defended, two forced fumbles (one recovered), two sacks and two quarterback hits, the safety thrived in the position that used to belong to Adams.

After the acquisition of natural free safety Lamarcus Joyner, it was clear Maye would continue this strong safety role in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s 2021 scheme.

Vitor Paiva of Jets X-Factor noted that Maye has excelled in three defining responsibilities of a strong safety; “run support, man coverage and situational pass-rushing.”

That was the Adams role in Gregg Williams’ defense, but it’s the Jimmie Ward role in Saleh’s scheme. Kyle Breitkreutz of The 49ers Hub explained this position in the Niners’ defense when Saleh was the coordinator: “The strong safety is responsible for playing near the line of scrimmage, covering the flat or playing man to man with the tight end.”

Maye’s ability aligns much closer with these traits than it does with the “centerfielder” role in the single-high base defense that Saleh and Ulbrich like to run.

Long-term, this analysis supports a Maye extension, being that one could argue the safety was playing out of position alongside Adams.

Where Does Maye Fall in the Safety Ranks?

Pro Football Focus recently ranked Maye above Adams as the seventh-best all-around safety in the NFL. Number one on their list was Justin Simmons.

The Denver Broncos safety also leads the positional group in terms of average annual salary, after signing a four-year, $61 million extension that includes $35 million guaranteed and $15.25 million per year.

Most expect a Maye deal to fall just under his current tag amount, which could mean around $10 million per year. New York Giants safety Logan Ryan just agreed to a similar amount last offseason at age 30.

Maye just turned 28 in March and is approaching the big 3-0 plateau himself, so this assessment seems accurate. The question is whether Burkhardt wants a raise on this average annual salary that supersedes the tag price, and if so, does the deal get done?

Time will tell, but for now, it’s just good to have you back Marcus.

What is the maximum average annual salary that the Jets should pay to extend Marcus Maye? Let us know on Facebook @HeavyOnJets, or Twitter @obermuller_nyj and @BoyGreen25.

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