Marcus Maye looks like a strong New York Jets trade candidate
The NFL trade deadline is quickly approaching, commencing at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
After going over a few trade targets the New York Jets could look to acquire, it is time to pinpoint a few potential destinations for one of their own players who looks to be a possible trade candidate: Marcus Maye.
Maye, who is currently on injured reserve with an ankle injury that is expected to keep him out 3-to-4 weeks (he has missed 2 weeks), is playing on the one-year franchise tag for $10.6 million.
The writing on the wall continues to accumulate regarding a potential Maye trade.
Maye and the Jets discussed a contract extension in the offseason but did not come remotely close to striking a deal. Joe Douglas seemed unwilling to pay Maye as one of the top safeties in the league, which is where Maye’s camp wanted the deal to land.
In July, Maye told the media that he “wasn’t happy and wasn’t satisfied” with how negotiations went.
In September, Maye’s agent responded to a tweet about Maye’s ankle injury by writing, “Should be back fully healthy just before the trade deadline.”
Last week, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Maye would “welcome” a trade.
There appears to be a realistic chance that Maye’s Jets career will be coming to an end soon. These three teams could be the first ones to drop Joe Douglas a line in hopes of landing the fifth-year safety.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are their usual selves offensively, dropping 30.8 points per game, but they own a disappointing 2-3 record due to their abhorrent defense. They have allowed a league-high 32.6 points per game.
Terrible play from the safety position is one of the top reasons for Kansas City’s brutal defensive production. The Chiefs’ safeties have allowed 402 receiving yards in coverage (80.4 per game), which ranks third-worst in the NFL. They have combined to miss 17 tackles, which is the worst total among all safety units.
Tyrann Mathieu is having a solid season for the Chiefs at safety, but Daniel Sorensen has been an enormous liability for Kansas City’s defense, leading all NFL safeties in missed tackles (12) and yards allowed (284).
There should be room for the Chiefs to lock up Maye to a long-term deal if they so please, as they are projected by Spotrac to have $32.8 million in cap space next year (ranking 18th).
Kansas City has all of its picks in the 2022 NFL draft through the fourth round. New York could also look to fetch right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif in a Maye deal. The veteran right guard would be an upgrade over Greg Van Roten and could be seen by the Chiefs as expendable considering his expiring contract and the wealth of depth that Kansas City has on its offensive line.
The Chiefs need to figure out the defensive side of the ball if they are going to compete for the Super Bowl. Turning that unit around can start by replacing their worst starter with a stud in Maye.
Joe Douglas should look to take full advantage of a desperate Chiefs team.
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The Jets and Colts have been frequent trade partners in recent years. New York acquired Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston, Henry Anderson, and Thomas Hennessy from Indianapolis. The two teams also paired for the big trade-up move in the 2018 draft that brought Sam Darnold to the Jets.
New York’s assistant general manager, Rex Hogan, worked as the vice president of player personnel for the Colts from 2017-18. The two teams have established a strong connection.
Indianapolis has had a decent season offensively. Carson Wentz is returning to form as he has thrown seven touchdowns and only one interception while owning a 99.4 passer rating. The Colts are 16th in points per drive (2.06).
Defensive woes are the reason for the Colts’ 1-4 start. Indy is 28th in points allowed per drive (2.59).
Coordinator Matt Eberflus (who interviewed for the Jets’ head coaching job in 2021) is overseeing a defense that has stopped the run very well, giving up a league-low one rushing touchdown and ranking 11th-best with 4.0 yards per carry allowed. They are second-best in rush defense DVOA.
However, the Colts have been awful against the pass. They have given up a league-high 15 touchdown passes and rank 29th with 8.0 net yards per pass attempt allowed, placing 30th in pass defense DVOA.
The safety position has been burnt toast in coverage for the Colts. Their safety unit is tied for second-worst in touchdowns allowed (6) and is fifth-worst in yards per target allowed (10.6).
There is also a long-term safety need in Indianapolis. The Colts’ only safety under contract in 2022 is Khari Willis – who is the main culprit for the unit’s struggles this year. He has given up 168 yards and three touchdowns on eight targets.
Maye could be a short and long-term solution for the Colts. Indy is projected to have the seventh-most cap space in 2022, according to Spotrac ($55.8 million), so they could afford to lock up Maye long-term.
Indianapolis does not have its first-round pick in 2022 (owed to Philadelphia), but the Colts do have the rest of their own draft picks (save for the sixth round).
The Colts also have a pair of solid tight ends in Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox, both of whom are good blockers who have proven they can produce efficiently as receivers over a low volume of targets. With the Jets possessing a big need at tight end, it could make sense for the Jets to try and get the Colts to toss Doyle or Alie-Cox into a package for Maye.
Cleveland is another AFC team that has a good offense being held back by a disappointing defense. The 3-2 Browns are eighth in points per drive (2.62) but 18th in points allowed per drive (2.21).
Just like the Colts, the Browns can stop the run but have been shredded through the air. Cleveland is fifth in rush defense DVOA but 19th in pass defense DVOA.
Cleveland has a fantastic pass rush led by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney backed up a good cornerback unit of Denzel Ward, Troy Hill, Greg Newsome, and Greedy Williams. The Browns’ top linebackers, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Malcolm Smith, have also been impressive in coverage.
There is one reason that the Browns have a below-average pass defense despite all of the aforementioned positives: the safety unit.
Teams have carved up the Browns’ safeties to an extent that no other safety unit even comes close to. Cleveland’s safety unit leads the league in yards allowed (452) and (7) despite being targeted only 27 times, which ranks 23rd.
In turn, the unit’s 32nd-ranked average of 16.7 yards per target allowed is in its own stratosphere. The difference between that mark and the 30th-ranked Titans’ mark (11.0) is 5.7 – greater than the difference between Tennessee and the 3rd-ranked Patriots’ safety unit (5.5).
The Browns signed free safety John Johnson to a three-year, $33.8 million deal after an elite season with the Rams in 2020, but he has been a disappointment. Johnson has given up a 156.3 passer rating on throws in his direction, yielding 130 yards and two touchdowns on only eight targets.
Grant Delpit and Ronnie Harrison have been the two primary safeties next to Johnson, and both have been picked on. Delpit has allowed 4-of-4 passing for 142 yards and a touchdown. Harrison has allowed 6-of-9 passing for 133 yards and four touchdowns.
Being a win-now team, Cleveland could certainly look to get aggressive in pursuit of Maye. The coverage of the safety unit is the only thing preventing the team from fielding an elite defense. Like Kansas City, Douglas could catch the Browns in a spot where they’d be willing to pay a hefty price for Maye.
The Browns have all of their own picks in 2022 through the sixth round, in addition to a fourth-round pick from Detroit.
Cleveland also has some potential tight end options for the Jets. Davis Njoku, Austin Hooper, and Harrison Bryant have all gotten at least 10 targets this season.
Hooper is the second year of a four-year, $42 million contract that the Browns cannot reasonably escape without a large dead-money hit until after the 2022 season. That makes Njoku and Bryant potentially expendable.
A first-round pick of the Browns in 2017, Njoku has been buried since a solid second season in 2018 that saw him catch 56 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns. Since then, he only has 38 catches for 514 yards and four touchdowns over 22 games.
Njoku came back to life in the Browns’ most recent game, grabbing all seven of his targets for 149 yards, a touchdown, and three first downs against the Chiefs.
Bryant was a fourth-round pick in 2020. He caught 24 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie but only has six catches for 69 yards and zero touchdowns over five games this season. Bryant has been a fairly average run-blocker and strong pass-blocker.
Keep a close eye on Cleveland and Kansas City in the Maye saga. They are win-now teams who have arguably suffered more from bad safety play this season than any other team in football.
Indianapolis is also a top contender. The Colts are not as much of a win-now team as the Browns and Chiefs, but their long-term hole at safety adds to the appeal of Maye, and their availability of tight ends for the Jets to inquire about makes them an intriguing trade partner.