When the free agency period kicks off on March 1st, the New York Jets will instantly be in the market for a veteran quarterback with starting experience. One who could compete in training camp next summer with Geno Smith or simply take over due to Smith’s struggles or injury. Now assuming the Jets aren’t looking to go quarterback in the first round this April and challenge Smith with a rookie, then this decision will be one of the keys to 2014. Having a veteran backup who is both a insurance policy and viable alternative option is something the Jets have lacked under Rex Ryan. Of all the potential names at the top of the current free agent QB list only one has won four playoff games and has appeared in more than one conference championship. Don’t laugh. You guessed it. Ladies and gentleman, presenting Mark Sanchez.
Before any case can be made to include Sanchez in the very least as a fail safe possibility for the role, there can be no denying that the former USC wonder boy virtually played himself out of New York. A major part of the blame for that falls squarely on his shoulders.
Since the start of the 2011 season, when at the time the Jets readied for the ascension of their third year star into a top tier caliber quarterback who could rear 300 yard passing games when the situation called for it, Sanchez has descended instead. His QB rating was 23rd overall in 2011 and he was ranked 31st out of 32 in 2012. The last we saw of him in regular season action.
Sanchez’s high interception total and poor body language have turned much of the Jets faithful against him. So has his current contract. Former GM Mike Tannenbaum awarded Sanchez with three additional years and 40 million dollars of new money in March of 2012 almost as compensation for the public pursuit of Peyton Manning. An apology of sorts that if one read in between the lines saw the Jets trying to say “We are sorry Mark. We trust you but Peyton is a once in a lifetime player. We had to test the waters, but here. Please accept our apology and just know that we truly believe in you. We swear.” This days before adding Tim Tebow to the mix to further prove their “trust.”
Sanchez has become the symbol of the Jets fall from early Rex Ryan era grace. There was the Buttfumble. The sloppy Vine video capturing his derrière weeks prior to battling Smith in training camp for the starting job.
Then inexplicably, the senseless shoulder injury that took place in garbage time against the Giants in August that put him out for the 2013 season after he had arguably won the QB1 job albeit by default, to start week one at home against Tampa Bay. How ironic it was however to see Sanchez surrounded without protection and support from a sideline that didn’t have to insert him to win a preseason game as he went down.
After all, the case FOR not giving up on the Sanchise offered by any Sanchez apologist points to the fact that Ryan has never focused on offense, he has had three offensive coordinators in five years, questionable protection since 2010, and spotty weapons since then too that have made him look worse than he actually is.
Sanchez will most certainly be released before March to save the two million dollar bonus that keeping him would cost (Trading him would mean that another team will have to pick up his contract so don’t count on that happening). However, if his price tag after release becomes reasonable in the world of veteran backups, then bringing him back under new circumstances shouldn’t be crossed off totally as an option.
Consider five of the most coveted signal callers outside of New York set to hit the open market:
Michael Vick knows Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg from their days in Philly together. Vick is dynamic and explosive when he is able to use his legs. Now 33 though, Vick can’t stay healthy and play the style he thrives in the way he used to. Who knows if Mornhinweg is even fond of him at this point either.
Vick has also expressed a willingness to remain as a backup behind Nick Foles if no better opportunity presents itself. Are the Jets willing to let Vick compete against Smith to pry him away from Philly and if so, at a cross between starters and backup money? Vick won’t come cheap.
Matt Schaub was a force to be reckon with in Houston for prior to last season especially downfield, but can he be again in a system that emphasizes a short passing game and mobility? Schaub will head into 2014 looking for a new home to escape the tag of pick six artist. He was benched after a record breaking string of four consecutive games tossing an interception for touchdown. Now like Sanchez, the jury is out as to whether he carries emotional baggage from his own downward spiraling past into the future.
Career clipboard carrier turned pleasant surprise Josh McCown was impressive during his month long relief of injured Jay Cutler in Chicago. The Bears offense was running on all cylinders this past November much in part to McCown making rising second year star Alshon Jeffrey his primary target. McCown also benefitted from other high level pieces around him like WR Brandon Marshall and RB Matt Forte. A trio of top ten talent McCown wouldn’t exactly be walking right into as a Jet. If he even decides to return next year at all. Now 34, McCown has tossed around the notion of retiring altogether.
Josh Freeman entered the league as the new strong armed kid to keep an eye on but after last year, how many are willing to race out and grab him after his dust up with Greg Schiano in Tampa and brutal Monday night performance when he was rushed into service as a Viking? We hear the Raiders are, which given their recent track record picking quarterbacks may be enough proof that Freeman is worth avoiding altogether.
Chad Henne is well, Chad Henne. Mobile, strong armed, but can be hot and cold and unpredictable. Quite inaccurate at times too.
Career Stats: Starter Comp % TD Int QB Rating
Mark Sanchez 33-29 55.1 68 69 71.7
Michael Vick 58-48. 56.2 128 85 80.9
Matt Schaub 46-44. 64.0 130 84 89.8
Josh MCown. 16-22 59.4 50 45 77.5
Josh Freeman 24-36. 57.6. 80 67 77.8
Chad Henne 18-32 59.5 55 62 75.3
Sanchez looked decent in Mornhinweg’s system briefly last summer and who is to say what the addition of more weapons could do for him in what would be his second year in the system. At this point in his life though Sanchez (despite constantly telling the media how much he wants to be a Jet) is probably looking forward to testing the market. After all, recent rumors have brought news of an alleged handful of teams interested in his immediate services once he is freed from Florham Park. Maybe the Sanchez camp feels the chatter has some merit to it.
Or maybe John Idzik has already moved along. This because he doesn’t believe Sanchez will ever mature into the type of player who can lead the Jets offense all the way. Even though the poker faced GM has offered no clues as to what cards he feels he now holds in his hand at quarterback at all.
Still, all free agent signings carry with them a risk and reward. If the price is right and a player can fill a need, then the Jets must at least keep the option of obtaining that player on the table. Even if it’s a fall back safety option at the back of that table. Even if that players name happens to be Mark Sanchez.