EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 22: Marcus Maye #20 of the New York Jets breaks up the potential game-winning touchdown pass to James Washington #13 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of the game at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The New York Jets won 16-10.
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Trading Marcus Maye will be an unpopular move but it’s a move that makes a lot of sense for the New York Jets, who have some choices to make.

The New York Jets safety situation is currently under a microscope three years after making Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye their first- and second-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The team fielded calls from interested teams about Adams at last season’s trade deadline and once again at the draft in April.

The team didn’t pull the trigger, and general manager Joe Douglas claims that he wasn’t shopping Adams, but rather testing the market to see if he was blown away. Adams was very unhappy about being linked to trades, and although his anger appears to have blown over, he will be linked to trade rumors until he either leaves or signs a long-term extension.

However, the team has also reportedly had trade discussions about Adams’ running mate on the back end of the secondary, Marcus Maye. The Florida product is a very talented safety who’s talents playing deep allow Adams to play near the line of scrimmage where he really shines, but trading him now makes a lot of sense for Douglas as he tries to guide the green and white back into contention.

Maye allowed only 10 yards per target last season, a very impressive mark for a player who is usually playing center field 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. He’s missed only 11 tackles over the last two seasons while racking up 99, and that’s despite often being the last line of defense for the team.

So why would the Jets trade a 27-year-old who’s been very effective in an important role on the defense? It comes down to a different shade of green than his uniform, namely money.

Adams’ contract is going to place him in the top-tier of safety earners if he doesn’t reset the market at the position. Eddie Jackson, Kevin Byard, Tyrann Mathieu, and former New York Giant Landon Collins all make at least $14 million annually, and it’s safe to assume Adams will find himself north of that mark as well.

It’s a lot of money for one player, but that’s the price you pay for having an elite player entering his prime. However, Maye is also due for a significant raise. The 15th highest-paid safety in the league (32-year-old Malcolm Jenkins) brings home $8 million per year.

It’s safe to assume that Maye will top that mark, as he will be signing his contract for his age-28 season. $10 million-plus certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Maye, who has the talent to erase a lot of mistakes that a defense makes.

That money presumably takes Maye out of the Jets price range, as it doesn’t make financial sense for the team to commit $25 million or more to the safety position. They will still need a long-term deal for quarterback Sam Darnold and have holes at wide receiver, cornerback, and edge rusher that they will need to money for eventually.

The team used a third-round pick on California’s Ashtyn Davis, a rangy free safety with the cover ability to step into Maye’s role. He’s an excellent cover safety, so much so that many believe he could slide to cornerback and have success in the NFL.

Most importantly, Davis will be on his rookie contract for the next four years. He might never completely fill Maye’s shoes as a top-tier free safety, but he certainly has enough talent to be a quality starter at that role and will come far cheaper than Maye will.

The Jets have a player who is not likely to be re-signed with his potential replacement already on the roster. While losing Maye would hurt the team this season, it makes sense to get something for him now rather than lose him for nothing but a compensatory pick next offseason.

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