New York Jets – Second Tier Free Agent Quarterback Options

Michael Nania on three second-tier free agent quarterback options for the New York Jets to consider…

The New York Jets quarterback room is as bare as it has ever been, which is saying something when discussing this franchise. However, the Jets have the luxury of there being a bevy of tantalizing options for solving their quarterback issue this offseason. Kirk Cousins and the top draft prospects have received the most attention, but is a future Jet quarterback actually lingering in the second tier of the free agency market?

First and foremost, I’ll tell you straight up which train I’m on. Me, I’m all aboard the Kirk Cousins train. I can’t find a way to argue against a team flush with cap space bringing on a passer with consistently strong to elite numbers on a lackluster football team. Of course, landing Cousins isn’t a guarantee. If he decides to take his talents elsewhere, I definitely believe the Jets should steer clear of any deceiving veterans and shift their focus squarely on either trading up or selecting the BQBA (Best Quarterback Available) at #6.

With all of that said, we have to acknowledge that if the Jets do not land the big fish of free agency, it seems likely they will add another free agent to the conversation. Is it prudent to enter the draft with a quarterback room of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg when you aren’t guaranteed anything better than the fourth quarterback choice?

Let’s look at some the Plan B options that might make some sense, and the ones that hopefully do not wear a Jets uniform next year.

TEDDY BRIDGEWATER

The one plus of signing Bridgewater that separates him from the rest of this pack is his upside. By bringing in Teddy, there’s a legit chance he could develop into a multiyear starter, rather than simply eating up cap space so the team can enjoy mediocre QB play while waiting for a youngster to develop. He is a potential solution, not just a part of finding one.

The Vikings have a logjam of three quarterbacks who have all shown the potential to thrive in their system. Bridgewater, who missed all of 2016 and threw just 2 passes in 2017 (he hasn’t started since the 2015 playoffs), could look for an opportunity elsewhere. He is only 25 years old with 2 years of starting experience under his belt, in which he compiled a 17-11 record with 28 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, a 65% completion rate, 7.2 yards per attempt, and an 86.3 rating. He rose 15 spots from 37th to 22nd in DVOA from year one to year two.

I wouldn’t complain about the addition of Bridgewater, as long as there isn’t a lot of guaranteed money. I liken it to the Mike Glennon situation in Chicago last year (though Bridgewater is likely still a far better player even after his injury): give yourself as many shots to hit on a franchise quarterback as possible. Again, if they are going to do this, I hope it’s without a binding commitment while still accompanying a high draft selection. Bridgewater has the highest ceiling of any free agent quarterback besides Cousins, so there’s sense to a Jets pursuit of him.

TYROD TAYLOR

With the potential for the Bills to save ~$9M by cutting him, it seems inevitable Tyrod is going to hit the market after a season that saw him benched for Nathan Peterman. If the Jets would rather commit less money to a solid game-managing quarterback so they can build the rest of their roster, he makes some sense in that regard.

After an electric 2015, Taylor saw his passing production decline in each of the past two seasons. He is still just 28 years old with only three years of starting under his belt, but it seems we have a grasp of who Tyrod is. He is going to limit the interceptions. He is going to run the ball better than just about any quarterback in the league. And, he is going to rope the occasional money deep ball. However, he does not possess good pocket presence or field vision, and will place a firm cap on the explosiveness of the offense. In Buffalo, he was often carried by a strong run game and not the other way around. He’s 2-13 when throwing 30 or more passes, which is far from a whopping number. Most starting QBs average more attempts than that per game.

Tyrod is best summed up this way. He had only 31 passing touchdowns the past two seasons, the same amount Ryan Fitzpatrick put up in 2015 alone. But he only has 16 interceptions the last three seasons, less than Fitz in 2016 alone. Tyrod won’t make the backbreaking play to lose a game, but generally he isn’t going to win you a game either.

If Taylor came into play, I hope the Jets realize that he isn’t a long-term answer and should not be committed to as such. Of all the QBs on this page, he is the most reliable to help a team win right now, and there is value to that, but his price might also be the highest in spite of what looks like a limited ceiling. Taylor can help a rebuilding team like the Jets, as competitive football is key to progression for a young team, but he shouldn’t be considered if his price stands in the way of drafting a quarterback.

JOSH MCCOWN

I’m of the belief that there is a scenario where McCown wearing a Jets uniform in 2018 is a realistic and smart option. Now, I’m not saying that because I think he is a good player, or that he can replicate what he did in 2017. I doubt that. We all saw that movie in 2016, and if it were on Rotten Tomatoes it would probably get a 0% rating (or 2% thanks to Fitz and his agent).

In all likelihood the Jets are going to sign somebody before the league pulls into Dallas this April. If the Jets can’t sign a quarterback with legitimate potential to provide above-average play for an extended period of seasons, they need to skip straight past the faux middle-of-the-pack veteran options (Foles trade, Case Keenum, Tom Savage, etc. etc.) and save as much money as possible on their fortholder. Though he is fresh off of a solid year, hopefully a soon-to-be 39 year old Josh McCown, who showed what looked like genuine love for the franchise, would take a hometown discount to stand in as the veteran presence for another year. It may mean we have to watch another “savvy vet who knows the game” to start the year, but as long as McCown’s return is accompanied with a top-6 QB selection, I’ll take those savings and welcome his revered presence back to the team.

Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com 

Author: Michael Nania

You can follow me on Twitter @Michael_Nania. I'll be hosting the weekly Jets opponent preview podcast, Know Your Foe, starting with the 2018 regular season. I've been writing for Turn On The Jets since January 2018, and you can also check out more of my work on the Jets over at Gang Green Nation.