Jets S Marcus Maye's contract concerns put 'to the side' for season ahead

Set to play the 2021 campaign on the franchise tag, Marcus Maye has an uncertain future with the New York Jets beyond this season.

Uncertainty isn't anything novel for the standout safety with Gang Green, though, as he's going to be playing for his third head coach in five seasons.

It's no doubt aided Maye's ability to focus on one season at a time, and has the Jets' longest-tenured player excited about what lies ahead this year.

That starts with leaving any worries about the franchise tag behind him.

"Once that was over with, I just put it to the side and got back to the basics of playing football," Maye said earlier this week of being unable to sign a long-term deal with the Jets, via the team website's Jack Bell. "Once I get on the grass, I never worry about anything else."

When it comes to getting on the grass, Maye finds himself in yet another defensive scheme, but getting used to a new system is somewhat old hat for Maye.

The defensive-minded Robert Saleh is Maye's aforementioned third head coach in five years, while defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is the fourth DC Maye will play for in that same amount of time.

The 2017 second-round pick is coming off perhaps his best season so far, having garnered a career-high 88 tackles, 11 passes defended, two forced fumbles and two sacks in 16 games last season. His 82.9 Pro Football Focus grade was fifth-best among safeties and also a career best.

How he translates into the Saleh-Ulbrich era remains to be seen.

"They're doing a great job treating us all the same, old and young," Maye said of the coaches. "They keep everyone on the same page, hold everyone accountable the same way. I like that. They do listen to us, they ask us for a lot of feedback. How can I help? And vice versa. They're making sure everyone is doing well and getting the job done.

"It's kind of been like that since I've been here, each year just learning to adapt to what's new. You can't necessarily worry about what year guys are in or how many years they've played in the league. We all have to find a way to get on the same page so we can win games."

While Maye's importance to the Jets' defense doesn't look to change, the 28-year-old is taking on a leadership role as well, which was amplified with the Jets' release of Blessuan Austin, who was a starter the past two seasons and projected by many to be one again this year.

"It was surprising for me," Maye said. "I didn't see it coming at all, I don't think anybody did. Now I have to get better at communicating with the young guys. Get them up to speed, keep them on their toes. Nothing different on my end -- communicate and play ball.

"But these young guys, they're not scared at all. They all want to learn, they all have the passion each day and come out to get better and better. I see them stacking their days. They all can fly around, come up and make tackles. It will be interesting to see all those guys get a shot."

Maye's been a constant for the Jets.

He's been a starter since his first game as a rookie, he's stood out on struggling squads, overcome a 2018 injury that limited him to six games and started every game in each of the last two years.

Perhaps he's only got 16 games left with the Jets. Perhaps not. But he's endeavoring to figure things out in yet another new defense and taking it day by day, season by season.

"I'm just finding where I belong in the new system," Maye said. "I'm still trying to get into the swing of things. I'm not where I want to be. I have to go out and do it every day."

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