A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Maye day approaching: The Jets have 18 days to sign safety Marcus Maye to a contract extension or else he will play the season on the franchise tag ($10.6 million), setting up a likely departure in 2022. For a couple of reasons, this is a litmus-test negotiation for the organization, which has trouble retaining its homegrown talent (see: Jamal Adams, Sam Darnold and Leonard Williams.)
Adams wanted out, in part, because he didn’t like the culture. The Jets, under new coach Robert Saleh, have made progress in that area. They added some quality players in free agency, fueling the positive momentum. It would dampen the mood if they can’t strike an agreement with Maye, a captain and team MVP in 2020.
This is a big one for general manager Joe Douglas, who has yet to complete a splashy contract extension. (Sorry, I’m not counting tight end Ryan Griffin and guard Alex Lewis.) Maye would be a good place to start. The former second-round pick is the longest-tenured player on the team and is well-respected in the locker room.
What is a fair price? There are two perspectives.
The Jets probably see it this way: Based on experience and production, Maye’s contract should be in line with that of Cleveland Browns safety John Johnson, who hit free agency in March and signed for three years, $33.75 million — $11.25 million per year. The contract includes a $20 million guarantee.
Johnson and Maye, both drafted in 2017, have similar career numbers.
Maye: 54 games, 6 interceptions, 22 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks.
Johnson: 54 games, 8 interceptions, 32 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble and no sacks.
Chances are, Maye is looking for something in the neighborhood of $14 million per year, an APY that would put him in a tie for fifth among safeties. He can argue he’s entitled to that much because, by definition, a franchise tag is the average of the top five salaries at the position. The bar was raised recently by the Denver Broncos‘ Justin Simmons ($15.25 million APY), and it will go higher when Adams lands his extension from the Seattle Seahawks.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Douglas in two years, it’s that he’s a hard-line negotiator. It’s tough to keep players who don’t want to be there, and it’s tough to keep players who overprice themselves. That will change when/if they become a desirable place. Maybe the worm will turn with Maye.
2. Things-to-do list: As they begin summer break before training camp opens July 27, the Jets made a good move Friday to sign right tackle Morgan Moses, who figures to start immediately. This provides outstanding depth and flexibility at the tackle position, allowing them to put George Fant in a backup/swing role.
Other potential moves:
Three rookie contracts still haven’t been finalized — quarterback Zach Wilson, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and wide receiver Elijah Moore. When Wilson eventually signs, it will be four years, $35 million, fully guaranteed.
3. Showtime for scouts: The Jets’ in-house docuseries, “Flight 2021,” dropped last week. In my opinion, the best part is hearing the area scouts discuss the top picks in their pre-draft Zoom meetings. The scouts aren’t allowed to speak with the media, so I found it interesting to get their behind-the-scenes perspective.
A few highlights:
Scout Andrew Dollak, giving his scouting report on Wilson, is asked by assistant GM Rex Hogan if Wilson reminds him of anyone. His reply: “It’s easy to say the [Patrick] Mahomes stuff because of the loose arm, but he’s also a very good athlete and he’s able to create with his feet. … There’s not a lot he can’t do on a football field. … Nothing is off the table. He can make any throw on the field, whatever presents itself — tight windows on all three levels. He’s an exciting player to watch, for sure.”
Director of college scouting Jon Carr on Wilson: “Out of all the quarterbacks I did this year, this guy is one of the quickest decision-makers out of all those guys. He’s accurate with the ball. He doesn’t have elite arm strength, but he has good arm strength. He anticipates very well and he’s a risk-taker. But at the same time, he takes care of the ball.”
Scout Alonzo Dotson on Moore: “One of the best pro days I’ve ever been to in my years in the business. … The burst and acceleration — I got a chance to see the kid against South Carolina, and it is real. You can feel his speed. You can feel the intensity when he plants his foot and drives upfield.”
Director of player personnel Chad Alexander on running back Michael Carter: “This is my favorite player in the draft.”
4. Number crunching: Another takeaway from “Flight 2021” is the role of analytics in draft-room discussions. Brian Shields, the director of football analytics, has a seat at the table, so to speak, and gives his input on each prospect. It’s worth noting that, from an analytics standpoint, he rated Moore as the 16th-best prospect in the entire draft. (He was chosen 34th overall.) The docuseries doesn’t reveal the rankings for the other draft picks.
Douglas is known to be an old-school football guy, but he’s not averse to incorporating new methods of evaluation into his process.
5. Hall of a break? Maybe there’s some hope for Joe Klecko after all.
There was a recent under-the-radar development that could help his candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Longtime Hall of Fame voter Gary Myers, known to be a strong Klecko advocate, was named to the nine-member senior committee. Klecko, the former Jets great who surprisingly has gained no traction in recent years as a senior candidate, will now have a supportive voice in the room — or Zoom call.
The list of candidates will be pared to 10. On Aug. 24, the senior committee will vote on those 10. Only one senior will make it to Canton in each of the next three years. Because of a backlog of candidates, Klecko remains a long shot, but at least now he will have someone willing to stand on the table for him.
6. Back to school: It was good to see Chris Herndon attending “Tight End University” this weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, where many of the league’s top tight ends have gathered for a summit that was organized by the Kansas City Chiefs‘ Travis Kelce, the San Francisco 49ers‘ George Kittle and former star Greg Olsen. Herndon’s presence shows he’s eager to improve after a season that was an absolute bust until the final three games.
This is a contract year for Herndon, whose star has faded after a promising rookie year in 2018. He missed time in the offseason because of injuries, but “he’s a talented dude,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. This is Herndon’s third offensive system in four years, and he needs to get up to speed quickly in training camp because he won’t get any free passes from the new staff.