Jets Stuck Between Rock & Hard Place on Marcus Maye Extension

Marcus Maye

Getty New York Jets safety Marcus Maye makes a diving pass defense on October 13, 2019.

The Jamison Crowder and Morgan Moses sagas have concluded with resoundingly positive results for the New York Jets and general manager Joe Douglas.

The Marcus Maye situation on the other hand is still far from settled, and the Jets only have until July 15 to get something done.

How does that Jackie Kennedy quote go? “The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.”

Crowder showed love for the Jets when he took a pay cut, while Moses wasn’t absolutely necessary with George Fant on the roster but the Jets could afford it so why not? This Maye extension is about long-term companionship.

The Jets do not have any players from the 2015 draft that are still on the roster. After Jordan Jenkins walked in free agency, they have no players from the 2016 draft on the roster.

Maye is the last remaining piece of the 2017 draft that’s still rocking green and white. He deserves to be here, and it’s time the Jets actually extend someone they drafted.

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Thanks a Lot, Justin Simmons

According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the hold-up is most likely due to a difference in valuation of Maye’s APY (average per year) salary.

Cimini notes a comparison for Maye’s career that Douglas might agree with as a model for an extension, former Los Angeles Rams safety John Johnson III who just signed with the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

The two were both drafted in 2017 and have almost identical stat-lines for their respective careers.

Johnson agreed to a three-year, $33.75 million deal with the Browns ($11.25 million average). The problem is that Maye might be arguing that he deserves closer to what Justin Simmons just received in Denver.

Simmons is now the highest-paid safety in the NFL at a $15.25 million APY and many expect former Jet Jamal Adams to push that price tag up even more once he eventually works out a new contract.

It doesn’t help Douglas that Pro Football Focus ranked Maye as the better all-around safety earlier this month on June 1, 2021.

For what it’s worth Marcus, Johnson is third on that list.

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Douglas Doesn’t Have the Leverage

Douglas had all the leverage with Crowder and Moses but this time he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The fanbase has offered overwhelming support in favor of a Maye extension and the GM has already stressed that it is a “priority” to keep the safety, according to New York Post beat reporter Brian Costello.

Because of all this, Maye’s agent Erik Burkhardt has the Jets right where he wants them and hasn’t been shy about resorting to social media tactics in the past.

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Time to Play Some Chess

Douglas has two clear options;

  • Let Maye play out the 2021 season on his rigid $10.612 million franchise tag.
  • Give in to demands and pay him more money long-term, but with more short-term flexibility against the cap.

Allow me to explain. If Maye agrees to a new deal, the Jets are then allowed to go about finding loopholes in the cap as every NFL team does. The APY could be significantly higher than that $10.6 million tag, but Douglas could frontload some money into a bonus or incur a larger cap hit in the later years of the contract.

For example, the Broncos only have a $5.75 million cap-hit from Simmons in 2021. It’s set to rise to over $18 million the following three seasons but Denver most likely has a plan to lower that number when the time comes.

Head coach Robert Saleh has backed an extension at every turn, telling reporters that the front office is working “relentlessly” on the deal. If it falls through, the Jets would look dishonest based on everything they’ve told fans.

The Silver Lining

All parties involved seem to want to get this thing figured out, but there are a couple of backup plans if it doesn’t.

Maye will be 29-years old next offseason, which could explain some hesitation on Douglas’ part. A younger replacement might be strong safety Jessie Bates III, who ranked eighth on that PFF list above.

The Cincinnati Bengals star safety is also a free agent in 2022 and his franchise is famously frugal. Bates would be a likely scheme fit for Jeff Ulbrich and he’ll be just 25-years old in 2022, four years younger than Maye.

One more option is PFF’s fourth-ranked New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams, who turns 26 near the start of the 2022 season. The Saints franchise-tagged him this March and an extension may be unlikely as the franchise embarks on its post-Drew Brees era.

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