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Jets injury Marcus Maye makes Jets free agency situation tricky

The Jets have money to burn, the urgency to tackle the NFL’s lowest-ranked defense and a top-notch in-house free agent who might need a soft landing spot after a injury.

This has everything it takes for the Jets to re-sign Marcus Maye. The only question is whether this ship could have sailed beyond what makes sense to both parties.

When Earl Thomas twisted his middle finger on the Seahawks sideline in 2018, it set the bar for a broken relationship between a safety and his team, after an injury turned a contract dispute into a free agency conundrum. . Maye, who tore his Achilles tendon Nov. 4, and the Jets haven’t reached that tipping point, but that doesn’t mean the past is forgotten.

This time last year, the prevailing view in NFL circles was that the Jets erred in not extending Maye’s contract until they traded Jamal Adams, increasing Maye’s influence in the negotiations. But then, last offseason, Maye took a calculated gamble — which he lost — when he declined an extension offer of around $11 million a year and played on the franchise tag. a year of $10.6 million. Maye’s agent was campaigning for a trade just before the injury.

Marcus Maye is a free agent.
Getty Images

Maye, who will be 29 when free agency opens, may have to consider a one-year contract between $5 million and $6 million, according to CBS Sports contract expert Joel Corry.

“My idea would be to get back to where the tag number was through incentives — mostly playing time,” said Corry, a former NFL agent. “He was probably looking for $13m a year before the injury, and if he can bounce back to where he was in 2020, then he should be able to get back there. Another reason he might want to wait is the plateauing environment. of 2023.”

NFL teams are operating with a conservative cap estimate of at least $225 million in 2023, according to Corry. That’s about $208 million in 2022 and a depression of $182.5 million in 2021.

With roughly $48 million in salary cap space available and a need for security that would only grow without Maye, the Jets could make a reduced proof bid. This would allow Maye to focus on his rehabilitation in familiar surroundings without worrying about learning a new defense before his second shot to improve his year-long production of walking above 46 tackles, one sack and no interceptions in six games.

Marcus Maye
Marcus Maye is helped off the pitch after rupturing his Achilles.

It’s a good idea in theory, less so in practice.

“Most players would see it this way: if I have to play for less, it will be for someone else,” said a longtime NFL personnel executive. “I wouldn’t want to be the first team to offer less because then you’ll be the bad guy. I think someone will pay for it [respectable value] because I don’t think the Achilles will affect his game long term.

In 2021, Bengals tight end CJ Uzomah had a career-best season a year after a torn Achilles and Rams running back Cam Akers returned to action just five months after tearing his Achilles. It changed the way the injury and recovery timeline is viewed.

Pro Football Focus ranked Maye 4th among free agent safeties – 22 safeties are included in the top 200 free agents – and slated for a one-year, $6 million deal ($4.5 million guaranteed). ). That’s a moderate increase from the contract the Eagles gave safety Anthony Harris as a flyer from his disappointing season playing on the franchise tag in 2020.

Marcus Maye makes an interception.
Marcus Maye makes an interception.
Getty Images

“A two-man Super Bowl game coming out of Achilles tears kept that year-long flyer number for Maye maybe a little stronger than it might end up being in reality,” said Brad Spielberger , PFF salary cap analyst.

The Eagles could be a prime suitor for Maye as their starting safeties are free agents and older than Maye, while Philadelphia defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson was Maye’s coach with the Jets in 2017-20. The Ravens, Lions, Saints and Commanders will be players in the security market.

If Maye was healthy, PFF’s projection would have been around three years and $30 million, according to Spielberger, who cited recent three-year deals for Jimmie Ward ($28.5 million) and Tashaun Gipson. ($22.5 million) as an age-29 comparison.

Eight safeties have signed free agent contracts or extensions worth more than $14 million a year since 2019, but that group has combined for 23 Pro Bowl selections and nine First-Team All-Pro selections. before signing. The two highest-paid safeties are Adams ($17.5 million a year) and 32-year-old Harrison Smith ($16.5 million a year).

“Smith gave the players hope in terms of being able to get paid as an older security, which would give me more comfort in a proof deal,” Corry said. “Although they’re doing two different things, when Adams gets $17.5 million a year and Maye played with him, that enters the equation in his mind. Not that he gets that much, but ‘I am not half of what he is”.

Maye was not a Pro Bowler or All-Pro, which was reflected in the Jets’ offer being in the same ballpark as John Johnson’s top contract (three years, $33.75 million) the last offseason.

“The free agency safety market was brutal last offseason for Maye and others, and could look like this again,” Spielberger said. “Calling them all ‘safety’ doesn’t take into account the vastly different styles of play the position encompasses, but it could still be difficult for a team to pay for any of the available options if they know there are so many solid players available.”

New York Post

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