Embrace the tank? I don’t know if the Jets are there yet, but they clearly aren’t taking the aggressive approach to free agency. The Tyrod Taylor situation turned out to be a nonstarter, and the panic of going full-Osweiler on Mike Glennon turned out to be an overreaction. Even Brian Hoyer – the generally accepted “settle” target – quickly signed with the 49ers. Who is left?
Jay Cutler – What are you smoking?
Cutler is the The “f*** it, we’ll do it live” of quarterback options. As a free agency strategy the Jets seem perfectly fine waiting for value to level out rather than trying to aggressively jump back into a competitive state. The purge has come for a number of high-profile veterans. Everything points to a year of consolidation where the starting QB is a one-year holdover in Maccagnan’s “two years on the bench and Christian Hackenberg will be ready” fantasy. So what sense does Cutler make?
The odds of getting him on a sensible stopgap contract are low for starters. He and Romo will be the proven “win now” options on the market. 22 quarterbacks in the league currently are paid at least an average of 15 million a season – that’s the low end range of what we could expect any deal for Cutler to be based around. You might say “well that’s what it takes to get a starter” but that’s my point – there is no sense in committing that cap amount for a short-term fix for a team that is not a quarterback away from competing. In his mid-30’s and with a fan of the roster (QB coach Jeremy Bates) there is also the possibility the Jets like Cutler as more than just a short-term answer – which would be less desperate and more delusional.
Consider that the Bears are a team in a nearly identical state as the Jets and chose to let Cutler go. John Fox and Ryan Pace, a HC/GM pairing also entering year three, decided spending 15 million annually on Mike Glennon was a better idea than trying to get something done with Cutler at a cheaper rate. Think of what that says about how they view Cutler: decision makers don’t cut players that they think can keep them in jobs.
What is interesting is that two of the past four seasons in Chicago, Cutler has seen two backups deputize due to Cutler injuries and out-perform him statistically. Last year it was Brian Hoyer stepping in throwing 6 TD, 0 INT and completing 67% of his passes in 5 starts. In 2013 Josh McCown started five games in Chicago and ended up throwing 13 TDs to just 1 INT, completing 66.5% of his passes and averaging 8.2 yards-per-attempt.
Cutler has been a statistically average if turnover prone quarterback over his entire career. Draft status and supporting cast excuses have allowed him to place false hopes of stardom in people’s minds for a long time. The Bears were a bottom half of the league passing offense for most of his early career in Chicago. When Brandon Marshall was acquired and Alshon Jeffery broke out Cutler’s numbers improved, but the passing attack floated around league average in DVOA outside of 2013 (where McCown outperformed Cutler). The fact that he’s unable to elevate an offense is only amplified by the narrative that he is not a good teammate. Cutler’s health is also unreliable. Since 2011 he has missed at least 5 games in half of the following seasons and is coming off his worse layoff yet.
Unless Cutler is taking a deal on the cheap side to come here – and I’d still have grievances with that if we’re being honest – just don’t do it.
Colin Kaepernick – Woody Wouldn’t, Would He?
There is a connection both as to why this makes some sense and why it’ll never happen. New offensive coordinator John Morton was the wide receivers coach under Jim Harbaugh for Kaepernick’s ascension into one of the league’s most dangerous young quarterbacks a few years ago. It would probably be a positive step for Kaepernick to experience a change of scenery with the backing of a coach who believes in him again. In the end though it’s a nonstarter. The chances that Trump ambassador, Jeb Bush Finance Chairman, “I’d rather see Mitt Romney win the election than the Jets win a Super Bowl” Woody Johnson sanctions the signing of a fringe starter stopgap quarterback so openly and controversially on the other side of the political spectrum is incredibly low.
As for the player himself, he’d come cheap and still carries some upside. But his performance in San Francisco this past year wasn’t as good as his base statistics might indicate – Football Outsiders’ DVOA (which adjusts for opponent and game situation) still ranked him 30 of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. He is still a legitimate dual threat, but accuracy, patience and pocket presence aren’t skills that all of a sudden sharpen a significant degree into a quarterback’s thirties. But if the idea is to find someone with prior starting experience and a bit of upside who’d come in on the cheap and would be if nothing else a one-year holdover, there’s logic in him.
Josh McCown – Part Tank, Part Helicopter
The highlight of Josh McCown’s career is a stretch of five games in 2013 in Chicago that earned him a late second wind of journeyman quarterback starting roles, which were successful in a roundabout way. The last three years, the teams he has started for have finished with the 1st pick, 2nd pick, and 1st pick again this past year.
Like Cutler, there’s a connection on the staff here – McCown was in Chicago the same time as Jets quarterback coach Jeremy Bates. He’s cheap, he’s older, his whole career has been an understanding that he’s either a backup or a stopgap fringe starter. We’re getting warmer, but his injuries are a huge issue if you expect him to hold off Hackenberg seeing the field for another season. He’s played in just 24 games over the last three seasons.
This is the type of signing that makes sense in Maccagnan’s head for his plan, until McCown injuries lead to Hackenberg starting by Week 8, the Jets go 2-14, Woody Johnson cleans house and hands the first overall pick selection to a new head coach and general manager. Like I said, McCown gets results in a roundabout way.
Chase Daniel – FitzMagic 2.0
Chase Daniel’s career to this point fascinates me. He has a good reputation with some respected offensive minds, and he has somehow managed to reach age 30 as an NFL quarterback without anyone actually knowing whether he is any good or not (though I think we know the answer). He “won” a Super Bowl ring by being on the Saints’ roster as a rookie in 2009 and even turned back-to-back ordinary Week 17 starts again San Diego in 2013 and 2014 into 12 million guaranteed as a backup from the Eagles last spring. He’s made it seven years in the league and has showed zero interest in trying to sniff out a starting opportunity somewhere. Until now, maybe?
I went back and watched his two starts versus San Diego while in Kansas City. What I saw was a physically limited quarterback expected to take easy throws who liked to scramble as a way to deal with trouble, whose first pass attempt as a starter was a dropped pick six. Sound familiar?
But as I kept watching, his ball placement and touch on passes deeper down the field in limited evidence wasn’t bad. He doesn’t throw with much zip but he does time and anticipate well. Over the course of two competitive games outside of that aforementioned first pass, he made sound (if safe) decisions. His ball placement in the short passing game was good and he gets the ball out generally pretty quickly.
If there was ever a chance for him to seize a starting opportunity, he’d have to recognize it as being here. Should John Morton borrow heavily from the Sean Payton influence, it would give Daniel some familiarity with the system. There shouldn’t be any starry eyed looks at Daniel that he could be a long-term option like the Bears did with Glennon. But as far as cheap, low-expectations stopgaps go, I would sooner give Daniel a look than McCown or other retreads.
Geno Smith – Manish’s Nightmare
Forget the rocky relationship between the Jets and their 2013 second round pick up to this point. This pairing, at least for another season, makes sense. Maccagnan is treating this offseason as if 2017 will be a rebuilding year where the youth takes center stage. At quarterback however he’d sooner protect his young investment than hand him the reigns. So what makes a Josh McCown a possible option and not Geno Smith? As a short-term starter, Geno Smith has experience, familiarity with the team, some upside, and a modest price tag. For Smith, the Jets are the path of least resistance to a starting position in 2017 in addition to the familiarity factors. Compare him to the market alternatives, and Smith can compare this to what opportunities otherwise await, and this pairing makes a lot more sense than people are talking about.
Trevor Siemian and AJ McCarron – Trade Teases
Siemian defied the meager expectations set for him as a second-year 7th round pick and A.J. McCarron put up nice numbers with one of the league’s best supporting casts filling in for Andy Dalton in 2015. But to acquire one of these players is to give up a draft pick – possibly as high as a second rounder (or Sheldon + a pick) – in a deep draft. This isn’t just taking a flyer on a free agent that can be signed and cut bait shortly after if the move doesn’t work out. Draft picks are the building blocks that are going to turn around this team. To make a move for Siemian or McCarron, you need to feel good that these players are not just one year gambles, but are players that the Jets can build around going forward. Does anyone feel comfortable saying that? Are the Jets in a position to feel that risk is worth taking? In my opinion, they’re not. Do not add one of these names to Brandon Marshall, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Clady and Zac Stacy as players the Jets essentially rented and gave up draft picks as a rebuilding team to do so.
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