It is time for the NY Jets to start thinking about life after Marcus Maye. How can the team prepare to move on without him?
It’s always smart to start planning ahead for the future. When it comes to the New York Jets‘ safety position, it appears that the time to start planning ahead is now.
The July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign a contract extension with their teams has come and gone without Marcus Maye inking a new deal with the Jets. This is becoming all too familiar for Jets fans, who are growing quite accustomed to bidding their favorite homegrown players farewell before they can sign a second contract with the team.
While this is unwelcomed news, it nevertheless means that the team must now start planning for life after Maye. Here are some different approaches to replacing him that the Jets might consider.
Draft a safety in 2022
Maye was not drafted into the NFL that long ago; he was the Jets’ second-round pick in 2017. Maye’s draft age (24) makes him older than most players entering the fifth year of an NFL career. Despite not having been in the league for all that long, he’s already 28 years old and fast approaching the dreaded 30-year-old mark.
Joe Douglas could be looking to get younger at the safety position. Where better to look than the NFL draft?
The 2022 draft class could feature an elite safety talent towards the very top. As it stands now, Kyle Hamilton of Notre Dame is seen as one of the class’ blue-chip prospects. However, the Jets would need to be drafting very highly to get him, which would also entail passing on other elite talents at other positions of need.
Let’s not forget, however, that the Jets possess the Seahawks’ first-round pick in 2022, which is currently projected to be somewhere in the twenties. This could be a perfect spot for Douglas to target Maye’s replacement.
Outside of Hamilton, the 2022 safety class features talented names like Brandon Joseph of Northwestern, Jordan Battle of Alabama, and Tykee Smith of Georgia. These players could all be worth monitoring throughout the upcoming college football season.
Re-sign Lamarcus Joyner
One free agent the Jets added this offseason who has gone somewhat under the radar is Lamarcus Joyner.
There’s a reason this signing has gone under the radar. During the past two seasons for the Las Vegas Raiders, Joyner has been utterly unremarkable. Once seen as a hot free agent commodity back in 2019, he must now rebuild that reputation in New York.
Optimistic fans have plenty of reason to be excited about Joyner in 2021. During his time on the Raiders, he was deployed as a slot corner, which isn’t his natural position. The Jets are planning to put him back at safety, which is the position he played on the Rams. He thrived during his time at safety.
If Joyner returns to his Rams form, it could be feasible that Joe Douglas decides to bring him back on another short-term deal. Joyner is older than Maye (he will turn 31 this November), so that may anger the fan base, although Joyner would presumably be cheaper.
Hope Ashtyn Davis develops
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Ashtyn Davis was a third-round pick just last year. While tons of people are ready to write him off, who’s to say he won’t make a sophomore jump?
Third-round picks are generally players who you don’t expect to make a huge impact until year two or three. Yes, Davis wasn’t great last year, but his athleticism is special and he undoubtedly showed flashes of potential — remember his bone-crushing hit on Cam Newton in Week 9 that wrongly got flagged?
It obviously wouldn’t be smart to bank entirely on Davis having a nice year, but it also wouldn’t be smart to write him off. The guy was a walk-on at Cal and turned himself into one of the better players in the Pac-12, so being an underdog is a position Davis has thrived in.
Sign a free agent safety in 2022
It may look very different after the NFL season, but at the moment, the 2022 free-agent safety class looks promising.
If Douglas doesn’t want to sign Marcus Maye for the amount he’s asking, he may explore other free agent safeties that are either younger, cheaper, or both. Names to keep an eye on include Jessie Bates III, Marcus Williams, and Anthony Harris.
Jessie Bates currently plays for the Bengals and is seen as one of the game’s top safeties. He and Maye are comparable in skill level, but the former is four years younger, meaning signing him for the same price would be a much better deal for the Jets. The big question, though, is whether Bates will even hit the market. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, but he could, like Maye, be franchise tagged.
Marcus Williams of the New Orleans Saints is another one of the game’s top safeties. While his career very well could have been haunted by the Minneapolis Miracle (it was Williams who missed the tackle on Stefon Diggs), he has instead morphed himself into a defensive weapon, causing many to forget he had anything to do with that blunder.
Like Maye, Williams will be playing the 2021 season on the franchise tag. If he hits free agency after the season, expect the Jets to make a push for him.
Anthony Harris has played for the Vikings since he was drafted in 2015. He is a bit older than Maye, but would also likely be significantly cheaper. Coming off a disappointing season, Harris was only able to get a one-year deal with the Eagles this offseason, meaning he is set to become a free agent once again after the season. Perhaps 2020 was just a down year for Harris, who has been very good in coverage throughout his career. If he picks up his play again in 2021, Douglas could very well show some interest in signing him.
Of course, all this could be for naught if it turns out the Jets and Maye end up agreeing to a deal after this season, but as it stands now, that doesn’t look likely.
It’s at least good to know that the Jets have other potential options at the safety position, but seeing Maye play for another team would certainly cut deep for Jets fans.