The Jets drafted safeties with each of their first two picks in the 2017 draft, and now the one remaining in New York has followed the other as the team’s most valuable player.
All-Pro Jamal Adams was jettisoned in a messy contract dispute with the organization over the summer, but fellow pending free agent Marcus Maye has stepped in and filled that void on and off the field as a rare bright spot in a dismal 1-13 season.
The four-year starter was named as this year’s recipient of the Curtis Martin Team MVP, as voted by his teammates. Adam Gase said Thursday that Maye “checked every box you could possibly check” to win the award.
“I was excited, man, just getting that honor and those votes from my teammates, it’s definitely something I feel honored and special about,” Maye said, according to the team’s website. “It wasn’t just me all year, those guys made it possible.
“Things didn’t go like we wanted them to, but just the effort and commitment they put in each day, my hat’s off to them.”
Maye was the Jets’ second-round selection (39th overall) out of Florida in 2017, and mostly deferred to Adams – picked sixth overall out of LSU – while playing alongside him during his first three NFL seasons. But Maye has assumed a defensive leadership role and become more vocal on and off the field this year without Adams, the team’s MVP the previous two seasons.
“I don’t know if there was really a change, I just think he kind of knew what it was,” Gase said. “This year, not having Jamal with him, I think he realized, hey I have to be more vocal, I have to do things differently. Everybody’s gonna kind of be looking at me to see how I practice, how I prepare, how I play in games.
“[It was] more in the locker room than anything else, I don’t think he was really worried about anybody outside. He’s very aware in that aspect of it, and as a coach you appreciate that not a lot of players have the awareness to understand, hey, I have to be a certain type of guy, because all of these other guys are watching me because I’m replacing somebody that was an All-Pro player for us last year and I’m kind of in that role now.”
For instance, Maye was the lone Jets player to publicly criticize since-fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ Cover-0 blitz call in the team’s last-second loss to Las Vegas on Dec. 6.
“You definitely like to have that voice. Having that position, that role, you have to speak up in moments when it’s called for,” Maye said. “When that time comes, I take that very seriously. I don’t take it lightly.”
Like Adams, who was traded to Seattle in July, Maye’s contract expires after this season and he will be an unrestricted free agent. With 71 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a career-high 11 passes defensed – including a key breakup late in Sunday’s first win of the season against the Rams – the 27-year-old Maye is in line for a hefty raise from his expiring four-year, $6.55 million deal, whether that comes from the Jets or elsewhere.
“I think anytime that you have players that you like, not only as guys in the locker room, but talent-wise as well, you want to keep them in the organization,” Gase said. “Obviously it takes both sides to come to an agreement and that’s where it gets kind of lost sometimes, trying to find that sweet spot where everybody is happy.
“You wish it was easier, but that’s just kind of how our business is. It doesn’t always go super-smooth, and you have to get through your bumps in the road and hopefully it always works out.”
Other team award winners included Frank Gore (Dennis Byrd/Most Inspirational), Ryan Griffin (Ed Block Courage), Matthias Farley (Marty Lyons/Community Service), Folorunso Fatukasi (Kyle Clifton/Good Guy) and Denzel Mims (Bill Hampton/Rookie Who Acts Like A Pro).