They came in together, one in the first round and the other in the second.
They figured to be the foundation of the Jets defense for a decade, hopefully the start of something special.
The Jets raised eyebrows around the league — something they often do for the wrong reasons — by using their first- and second-round draft picks on safeties. But Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were the top two players on the Jets draft board and the Jets stayed true to their board.
Four years later, Adams, the Jets’ first-round pick in that 2016 draft, is playing in Seattle, having been traded in the summer after whining his way out of town in a self-manufactured contract dispute he made very public.
Maye, the second-rounder in 2016, is still on the Jets, a defensive captain playing in the final year of his contract.
The two safeties will be on opposite sides of the field Sunday when the 0-12 Jets play the 8-4 Seahawks in Seattle.
The Jets don’t miss Adams and his diva-like distractions. And, for as explosive a player as Adams is, with 7.5 sacks in eight games this season, an argument can be made that Maye is actually the better all-around safety of the two because he’s far better in coverage and can rush the passer.
You can make an even stronger argument that Maye is a better leader than Adams ever was. There was a lot of eye-rolling inside the Jets locker room when Adams was drawing attention to himself. There’s nothing but respect inside that room for Maye.
Adams, dating back to his college days at LSU, always was the alpha dog. He sold himself as the brash, vocal leader who was going to change the Jets’ culture. He didn’t. He actually left it in a worse place than it was before he arrived.
Maye is quieter by nature, never drawing attention to himself and rustling the waves of controversy.
Minutes after the Jets’ crushing 31-28 loss to the Raiders, a game they’d just blown when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams inexplicably called a “Cover Zero’’ defense with the Raiders at the Jets’ 46-yard line, trailing by four points with no remaining timeouts and 13 seconds left, Maye stood before reporters on a postgame Zoom call and called out Williams for the irresponsible call he sent in.
Maye spoke in even tones, not ranting like Adams would, and calmly stated what everyone already knew: That Williams could have sent in a “better call’’ to “help us out’’ and put the players in better position to succeed.
During his four-and-a-half-minute interview, Maye made eight references to the curious call. In other words: He made his point.
Of course, he was mad the team lost a game it seemingly had earned victory in after 11 consecutive losses. But more importantly, Maye was protecting a teammate, undrafted rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson, who was beaten by Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs III on the game-winning touchdown pass.
And that enhanced his cachet inside the Jets locker room as a proper leader.
From afar, a former teammate and friend of Maye’s dating back to their high school days in Florida took notice and said he wasn’t surprised by how he handled the untenable situation on Sunday.
“He’s one of those guys that works hard and doesn’t talk much, but he will speak up if he feels like he has to,’’ former Jets defensive lineman and current Giant Leonard Williams told The Post Wednesday. “I think it’s even more powerful sometimes when you hear something from a guy that doesn’t talk much. You know he means it.’’
Maye’s play on the field and his leadership off of it should push Joe Douglas to re-sign him and make sure he’s part of the building blocks to the future the Jets GM is trying to construct.
As long as Maye isn’t looking for top-tier money ($12 million or more a year), the Jets should re-sign him at a reasonable price (somewhere just south of $10 million per).
There are, after all, a scant few players on this roster who qualify as building blocks, beginning with left tackle Mekhi Becton, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and receiver Denzel Mims. Maye should remain with those players as a part of the solution.
You can’t get rid of everybody, and Maye’s play this season — he currently grades out as the fourth-rated safety in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus — warrants him remaining a Jet.
His one interception, two forced fumbles, two sacks and 61 tackles make Maye one of the few bright spots in a very dark Jets season. And his leadership, as evidenced by how he handled Sunday, should not be overlooked.
The Jets need more of that, not less.