The New York Jets and Marcus Maye couldn’t get a deal done before the Thursday deadline, as expected.
Thus, now the narrative shifts to how both sides will handle this impasse going forward.
For Maye, the 28-year-old safety about to enter his fifth NFL season, he must decide whether to try to force a trade, or play this season on his already-signed franchise tag of $10.612 million. But he would know full well the Jets could tag him again next year, although that tag would be $12.73 million because it would be a second consecutive one-year franchise tag, and thus subject to a 20% increase from this one.
The Jets made multiple offers, according to multiple reports. But obviously, those offers were not to the liking of Maye and his agent, Erik Burkhardt. They would like to see something above that $12.73 million Maye is likely to make next year if the situation doesn’t change dramatically; the Jets, less than that. The two sides couldn’t find a landing spot.
For general manager Joe Douglas, the options also are somewhat daunting. He has made clear throughout his two-year tenure in that position that he simply will not budge from what he believes is a player’s true value, and he was not going to overpay, in his mind, for Maye. Despite being named the MVP of the 2-14 Jets after his best pro season in 2020, Maye has never had more than two interceptions in one year, nor has he made a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team.
Still, he is by far the best player on a lackluster secondary. And his thinking is understandable, given he plays a position not noted for a long NFL lifespan. He may not have another chance for a major payday.
Thus, does Douglas want to repeat what he did with similarly disgruntled safety Jamal Adams and trade Maye? If Maye plays well in the first half of the season, he certainly would have value by the time the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline rolls around. Of course, he then must find a long-term option at the position.
The Jets have yet to adequately replace Adams, who was dealt to Seattle last year for two first-round draft picks, one each in 2021 and 2022. Veteran safety Bradley McDougald, a throw-in as part of the trade, was ineffective and later injured and has not been picked up by another team after the Jets chose not to re-sign him.
Safety Ashtyn Davis, a third-round pick from California last year, was erratic at best and missed the final four games with a foot problem. The book isn’t closed on him and he has potential, but is hardly a sure thing. Maye sat out voluntary spring practice because of the dispute, only showing up for mandatory minicamp.
His position of free safety was held down by veteran free-agent signee LaMarcus Joyner, who was impressive at times. The Jets are hoping Joyner, who struggled at slot cornerback with the Raiders the past two seasons, can rejuvenate his career by moving back to safety. But even if he does, at 30 years old, he doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer. Put it this way—Douglas is well within his rights to decide a productive player’s worth and not go above it, but if the Jets eventually part ways with said player, it’s up to Douglas to get that position filled, and filled properly.
As for Maye, he can hold out for up to five days from the start of training camp without financial penalty, per the collective bargaining agreement ratified last year, but could be penalized as much as 15 percent beginning on the sixth day. Also, no matter what, even holding out for one day means the forfeiture of an accrued season. That doesn’t matter in terms of free agency—he has already qualified for that—but it would hurt Maye years down the road in losing a year of credit toward pension benefits after retiring from the NFL.