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New York Jets offseason preview Part VIII: Secondary

JC Jackson, NY Jets, Free Agent, Contract, PFF, Pats
J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets have already re-signed two secondary defenders

New York Jets secondary:

  • Players under contract: S Michael Carter II, S Ashtyn Davis, CB Isaiah Dunn, CB Brandin Echols, CB Bryce Hall, CB Justin Hardee, S Jovante Moffat, S Kai Nacua, S Jason Pinnock, DB Javin White, CB Rachad Wildgoose
  • Free agents: CB Javelin Guidry (ERFA), S Marcus Maye (UFA)
  • Reserve/future: N/A
  • Re-signed: S LaMarcus Joyner, S Will Parks, S Elijah Riley

The Position on the Position

While New York Jets fans have fully embraced Seattle schadenfreude since trading Jamal Adams … a move seen as the first step of the Seahawks’ fall from grace … it’s worth taking an objective look at where the secondary room he left behind stands.

The weight, both emotionally and financially, has been lifted but questions continue to burden New York.

Marcus Maye continues to linger as the centerpiece and main, developed attraction in the secondary but he (and fellow defender Foley Fatukasi) will likely head elsewhere in free agency.

Maye played an injury-shortened season on a franchise tag, perhaps an unspoken compromise reached after little progress was made on a long-term deal. Analytically, Maye consistently ranks in the upper half of safety rankings, but his cloudy future became even blurrier when a torn Achillies ended his season in November.

Injuries to Maye and veteran newcomer Lamarcus Joyner (whom the Jets have already re-signed) forced the Jets to rely on a hodgepodge of draft weekend Saturday additions and late arrivals. Some, like Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Bryce Hall, and Elijah Riley (whose exclusive rights clause has been exercised, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday), proved that they have a future in the NFL.

Another one of the depth options, former Eagles safety Will Parks, was also re-signed recently for his strong efforts in a key role late in the 2021 season. Contrastly, free safety Ashtyn Davis, a third-round pick from 2020 whose rookie season was eaten by injury, struggled in an expanded role.

Free Agents

Javelin Guidry

A Combine legend (having run a 4.3 40-yard dash in his appearance during the 2020 edition) turned Jets starter, Guidry has stuck around for two seasons in New York. His athletic intangibles, ability to play all over the field (head coach Robert Saleh appreciated his role in the corner, dime, and nickel at several points last season), and status as a restricted free agent should warrant an invite back.

Marcus Maye

Things are probably more amicable this time around, but it appears that the Jets are about to part ways with another high-profile safety.

Maye, set to enter his sixth season, is likely looking for something long-term, and it’s not in the Jets’ best interests when he’s coming off such a dangerous injury. The $10.6 million franchise tag, again, seemed like a compromise, a prove-it opportunity that Maye could continue to be the defensive face of the franchise in the post-Adams era. An injury shouldn’t be held against him, but such is life in the NFL.

Will they draft?

It appears quite likely the Jets will make a draft splash in the secondary, as representation for the prime secondary prospects in the top ten has broken out amongst the Jets’ faithful.

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is bar-none of the best overall athletes this draft has to offer but has proven polarizing amongst the bearers of a new kind of green. The Jets obviously need safety help but the position is almost the defensive equivalent of running back: the worthiness of using such high capital to address the need has been called into question.

Only one safety (Sean Taylor) has gone in the top five since 1992 and only three of this coming season’s highest-paid safeties to date (Kevin Byard, Budda Baker, and the franchise-tagged Jessie Bates) appeared in the most recent edition of the playoffs. The Seahawks, of course, are learning the lessons about dedicating big bucks to safeties the hard way.

Some have theorized that Hamilton could fall to No. 10 (the famous pick stolen from Seattle), but others feel a partial solution to the Jets’ secondary woes presented itself in Indianapolis.

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, a headliner of Cincinnati’s College Football Playoff trek, was one of the most intriguing standouts of the most recent Combine. The 6-foot-3-inch cornerback took full advantage of the absence of the talented if not injury-prone Derek Stingly Jr. (LSU) and he has nearly a half-inch of height on fellow projected first-rounder Trent McDuffie (Washington).

There’s a possibility they could spend both first-rounders on the secondary, but it has to be assumed that one will be used on offense.

Veteran Names to Watch

Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay

Carlton Davis will officially hit the open market this week after his champion employers opted to place the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.

It wouldn’t be fair to either the Jets or Davis to call him a bargain pick-up – he’ll still cost the Jets some money. But he’d certainly be a more affordable option than some of the big-name safeties.

Part of that could stem from his unfortunate penchant for penalties (seven flags were thrown in his direction last season, costing his team 72 yards), but his physicality and reliability are things the Jets can’t afford to keep missing.

J.C. Jackson, New England

While Joe Douglas has executed several blockbuster trades (robbing not just Seattle but also Carolina through the Sam Darnold deal), his free agency endeavors have been relatively tame.

Adding J.C. Jackson would be the perfect way to end that relative dormancy, as the Jets have been sorely lacking a ballhawk capable of both tracking down opposing passes and gaining big yards on the runback. Signing Jackson, who is set to seek at least $18 million, would require the Jets to shed some excess salary weight.

Marcus Williams, New Orleans

Marcus Williams has done more than enough to erase his name from the footnotes of the “Minneapolis Miracle”.

Since his 2017 NFL entry, Williams has impressed both conventionally (38 pass breakups, 15 interceptions) and analytically, as Pro Football Focus’ Wins Above Replacement metric put him in the top five among all defensive players in that span.

With a New Orleans reunion unlikely (the rebuilding Saints might have to bid farewell to several more staples), a meeting with Williams should be at or near the top of the Jets’ offseason to-do list.


Maye is the only unrestricted free agent in the Jets’ secondary, but that doesn’t mean there doesn’t have to be some big changes.

If there’s an area to make a splash, this is it. Sure, the Jets could be wary of writing a big check for secondary help after the $34 million Trumaine Johnson misfire. But whether it’s through the draft or in a packed free agency class (that also featured seasoned help like Stephon Gilmore and former Saleh disciple Jason Verrett), the Jets need to make a headline-stealing move in the secondary.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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