Less than a year ago, the New York Jets elected to franchise tag safety Marcus Maye for the 2021 NFL season. In doing so, the Jets retained their stud defensive back on a one-year deal, allowing him to hit the market following the season. Especially considering Maye’s career year in 2020, it was a no-brainer move for the Jets. With new Head Coach Robert Saleh coming to town, having a veteran presence in the backend of the defense would be huge… if Maye was able to stay on the field.
Instead, halfway through the 2021 NFL season, the Jets are without both starting safeties from Week 1. New addition LaMarcus Joyner went down in the first game with a torn triceps and Maye with a torn Achilles Week 9. Now, Maye will be coming off of a serious injury when hitting the free agent market in 2022. Therefore, could the Jets move to bring back their 2017 second-round pick next year?
With questions at safety moving forward, the Jets would be smart to bring back Maye once again in 2022…
New York Jets Should Retain Marcus Maye for 2022
Future at Safety is Murky
Currently, the Jets employ four safeties on the 53-man roster. Ashtyn Davis is a former 2020 third-round pick whose athleticism has not translated to results through two years. Six-year veterans Sharrod Neasman and Jarrod Wilson help provide a band-aid, while Elijah Riley just joined the team. In other words, the Jets safeties have done everything but prove they belong in an improved secondary in 2022.
Both Maye and Joyner are set to hit the market following this season. The same goes for Neasman, Wilson, and Riley (exclusive rights free agent), as Davis remains under contract through 2023. As Davis has not proven to be a starting-caliber NFL safety, the Jets are going to need to figure out where their future lies at safety. After all, it has been one of their biggest weaknesses in 2021.
Marcus Maye is a Top Safety (When Healthy)
Now, the Jets are going to have other positions of need that will take priority of safety. However, Maye’s price tag may not be as high as it once was. Prior to the injury, Maye was struggling to replicate his breakout 2020 performance. His six starts tallied 46 total tackles (four for a loss), one sack, and two pass deflections. Most notably, Maye had struggled in coverage, giving up 19.9 yards per completion and 97.1 passing rated when targeted. Ultimately, Maye finished 2021 with a 59.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, more than 20 points below his grade in 2020. In essence, between injury and lackluster performance in a contract year, Maye might wind up being in the perfect price range for the Jets.
Therefore, the question becomes do the Jets think Maye can get back to his pre-2021 form? The Jets have seen the best of Maye (2018-2020), including Maye finish as the fifth-highest graded safety in 2020 (82.9 overall grade). They are also aware of Maye’s injury history, which now includes two season-ending injuries in five years.
Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is Marcus Maye is a Jet. It has only been five years, but the Jets know what he is capable of. The Florida product is a playmaker in the secondary, who will only be 29-year-old in 2022 coming off his Achilles injury. Between his familiarity with the team and need at safety, it makes sense for the Jets to be willing to offer Maye another one-year deal that would allow him to prove he can return to his 2020 self.
Jets Can Begin Piecing Defense Together
From there, New York can piece together a much-improved defense this off-season. The Jets will once again be among the teams with the most cap space, as well as most draft pick slot value too. With that, the Jets would be able to add more to the safety room, giving Maye a running mate and allowing Davis to shift back to a third safety/bench role. Losing Maye this season was a big blow to the Jets. Therefore, if he can get back to full strength, there is no reason why the Jets should be letting Maye walk this off-season.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images