With the Super Bowl just two days away, NFL free agency is right around the corner.
The New York Jets have several impending free agents that fans will keep an eye on as we head toward March but one five-year veteran of Gang Green has become a ghost in recent months. Safety Marcus Maye has been discussed so infrequently since his torn Achilles injury that it almost feels as if he’s off the roster already.
Fans and analysts are mulling over safety targets for the Jets in free agency, others are debating a tantalizing prospect in Kyle Hamilton, some even like what Robert Saleh has found in prospects like Jason Pinnock or Elijah Riley.
Virtually no one is talking about a Maye reunion, however, but at least ESPN’s Rich Cimini finally mentioned the former 2020 team captain in a recent article on free agency rumblings.
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Cimini: ‘Would Be a Surprise if Maye Returns’
As the Jets beat reporter went through the franchise’s impending free agents one by one, he took a moment to focus on Maye.
The former second-round pick might have been the team’s best player in 2020 — or at least top three — and now he’s an afterthought. Cimini wrote:
Frankly, it would be a surprise if Maye returns; a lot has happened (none of it good) since last offseason’s franchise tag. He got bad advice and misplayed his hand by spurning the Jets’ long-term offer (a reported $20 million in guarantees) even after his DUI arrest, which he hid from the Jets for several months. (League discipline in the form of a suspension is likely.) Then he suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in November. GM Joe Douglas was noncommittal when asked at the end of the season whether the team wanted Maye back. He called Maye a ‘valuable member of the team,’ but added, ‘Any decision that we make, in regards to Marcus or any other player on expiring contracts, the decisions are going to be made in the best interest of the team now and moving forward.’
Between the DUI arrest, age and the injuries, Maye’s fall has been dramatic and significant. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the seventh-best safety in football heading into 2021, ahead of a Super Bowl contender in Jessie Bates III and an ex-teammate in Jamal Adams.
The latter just received a $70 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks, including $21 million in guarantees. Maye on the other hand might have to settle for a “one-year prove-it” deal according to Cimini.
He concluded that although Maye still has some supporters within the Jets organization and the cost should be “reasonable,” it “sounds like this relationship has run its course.”
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Should the Jets Bet on Maye?
2021 was about as bad as it gets for the safety but if agent Erik Burkhardt is willing to patch things up with Douglas, it’s certainly possible that Maye stays for one more season.
If he has to settle for the old prove-it contract, why not here?
Saleh’s coaching staff was excited to work with him the first time around and the veteran still commands respect as a leader in this locker room, even if Burkhardt burnt some bridges with the front office. Logistically speaking, he wouldn’t have to relocate either.
Of course, there are some downsides like the potential of the league hitting Maye with a 2022 suspension. The torn Achilles is another clear deterrent — not everyone recovers from this injury the same way and he’ll be 29 in March.
Having said that, there’s no guarantee a top free agent like Marcus Williams or Bates would choose Gang Green, even if they do make it to the open market. Safer options do exist like a former Saleh disciple in Jaquiski Tartt, but the Jets could do a lot worse than Maye if they strike out on big-name talent.
Cimini’s right, a Maye reunion is really unlikely, but I’m not ruling it out just yet.