Marcus Maye enjoyed the well-timed best season of his career in the final year of his contract.
Can he do it again? Maye and the Jets should find out soon after Thursday’s NFL-imposed 4 p.m. deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions passed without a deal in place. Negotiations cannot resume until after the season.
Maye’s first chance to reach free agency was delayed in March when the Jets applied the franchise tag, giving the two sides four more months to work out a long-term marriage. The 2017 second-round draft pick is coming off career highs for tackles (82), sacks (two), passes defended (11) and turnovers generated (five) but returning to a defense where edge-rusher Carl Lawson ($15 million per year) and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley ($17 million) are higher paid because of free-agent splurges.
The homegrown Maye’s one-year contract will pay $10.612 million, which was the average of the five highest salaries over the last five years for safeties. It’s a relative bargain because six safeties have signed new contracts since the start of 2019 that average more than $14 million per year, indicating the market is regaining strength after a downturn in 2018.
The Jets made multiple offers to the 28-year-old Maye after he was tagged, a league source told The Post. His first contract paid $6.5 million total over four years.
If Maye was using $14 million as his market value and the Jets reportedly once offered about $8.5 million before the tag was applied, meeting in the middle of what is a sizeable gap at that price point would have meant about $11.25 million — or the annual average on the deal John Johnson signed with the Browns as the top 2021 free agent. That’s likely near where talks stalled even though Johnson and Maye have had comparable careers as second-day picks in the 2017 draft.
Deadline day was quiet across the league with one exception: The Panthers replaced the tag with a four-year, $72 million extension for offensive tackle Taylor Moton.
No deals got done for receivers Chris Godwin (Buccaneers) and Allen Robinson (Bears), offensive linemen Cam Robinson (Jaguars) and Brandon Scherff (Washington) or safety Marcus Williams (Saints). It’s the second-straight tag year for Scherff. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams (Giants) and safety Justin Simmons (Broncos) were tagged but previously reached new deals.
The Jets tagged defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016, kicker Nick Folk in 2014, linebacker David Harris in 2011 and defensive end John Abraham in 2005 and 2006. The tag bought time for Wilkerson, Harris and Folk to sign multiyear extensions, and Abraham’s second tag preceded his trade to the Falcons.
So, Maye will be the first Jet to play on the tag since Abraham in 2005. The difference is Maye already signed his tag — about two weeks after it was applied — whereas Abraham waited until the end of training camp to sign.
It is not known if Maye — who skipped voluntary spring workouts but attended mandatory minicamp — will try to send a message by reporting late to training camp. Under the collective bargaining agreement ratified in 2020, signed players who hold out for five days or fewer at the start of camp are not subject to fines, but a sixth day could result in forfeiting 15 percent of salary. Teams are allowed to add 1 percent for each subsequent day of a holdout up to 25 percent.
But the Jets are trying to avoid an acrimonious relationship with Maye. Especially after the ugly split with Jamal Adams. Maye is the only first- or second-round pick from any draft class prior to 2019 who remains with the team.
The Jets still have about $24.9 million in salary-cap space available, according to NFLPA records.