Will history repeat itself?
Marcus Maye, another talented and unhappy homegrown Jets safety, isn’t ruling it out.
He saw good friend and former teammate Jamal Adams get his wish after the Jets declined to pay him what he felt he was worth, and though Maye said he would like to stay with the Jets for the foreseeable future, he did not rule out taking a page from Adams’ playbook.
“I’ve got 17 weeks to be the best that I can be — and once we get to that point [next offseason], we’ll cross that line again,” he said, when asked about the possibility of requesting a trade.
For now, Maye is a Jet and will play under the $10.612 million franchise tag this season after his agent and the team couldn’t come to an agreement on a long-term contract. Maye will do his best to compartmentalize. To separate what happened off the field with what he hopes can happen this year on the field. To separate his disappointment with the Jets failing to meet his contract extension requests and helping the team put last year’s disastrous two-win campaign behind it.
“My approach is always the same: Go out and be the best, play to my ability, do what I do well, and at the end of the day, leave it up to them,” the fifth-year safety said on Saturday after practice. “I just love playing football. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. Once you get over the business aspect of it, you can’t let them take your joy.”
It’s clear Maye was not pleased with the Jets’ attempts to ink him to a long-term contract, although he did his best not to show that displeasure Saturday. He repeatedly talked about his focus being on the field and spoke glowingly of new head coach Robert Saleh and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. When asked if he felt the Jets treated him fairly or unfairly in negotiations, however, Maye said, “somewhere in the middle.”
“But from my end, I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t satisfied,” he said.
Maye added he never felt the two sides were close enough to the point at which a deal seemed imminent though general manager Joe Douglas said in May it was a “priority” to come to terms on a new deal.
Last season was by far Maye’s best. He started all 16 games, shedding the injury-prone label, and was second on the Jets with 88 tackles, added two interceptions, 11 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, four tackles for a loss, two sacks and two quarterback hits. He was graded out as the fifth best safety in the league out of 94 and was fourth in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. The 28-year-old defensive back played all over the field a year ago, seeing time at free safety, in the box, in the slot, on the defensive line and out wide.
He has seen other safeties who are similar to him in ability — such as Justin Simmons with the Broncos, Budda Baker with the Cardinals and Eddie Jackson with the Bears — get big deals. Those three received between $14.6 million and $15.25 million in average annual value and between $33 million and $35 million in guaranteed money.
“There are a lot of great guys in this league, and I feel like I’m right there with all of them,” Maye said.
Maye said he still talks to Adams frequently, mostly about life and not necessarily about football. They have discussed their own contract issues — Adams wants a long-term deal from the Seahawks — and Maye saw first-hand how ugly a contract dispute can get when it is played out publicly. He hasn’t acted out like Adams did with the Jets.
“He just told me to handle my business like always,” Maye said. “Since Day 1, we’ve been through a lot of things together. We talked about his situation, we talked about my situation. Hope for the best for each other and that’s it.”
Maye downplayed the notion he has anything to prove this year, to the Jets or the rest of the league. Maye said he feels he has shown enough in his career to warrant the kind of deal he is looking for. But that doesn’t mean he is plotting his exit from the Jets, either. At least not yet.
“I was drafted here,” he said, “so I would love to be here.”