New York Jets: Matt Schaub

Vick, Sanchez and musical chairs at QB

March, 21, 2014
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Somewhere in SoCal or New Jersey, Mark Sanchez must be fuming, wondering where he will play football in 2014 if/when he gets cut by the New York Jets. As the slow-moving John Idzik prepares to meet Friday night with free agent Michael Vick, the most experienced quarterback on the roster is twisting in the wind, watching the number of potential landing spots dwindle.

Sanchez
In the last 24 hours, Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with the Houston Texans, who are now in the process of trading Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The Texans and Raiders were thought to be possible destinations for Sanchez.

No fewer than 10 teams have signed or re-signed veteran quarterbacks, leaving few options for Sanchez. The Jets don't have to make a decision until Monday, because he receives a $2 million roster bonus if he's still on the team after Monday.

Idzik is taking his sweet time, letting the market come to him. It stinks for Sanchez, who isn't permitted to speak to other teams, but it may work out for the Jets in terms of negotiating leverage with Vick -- and perhaps Sanchez, if it comes to that. The Jets could be the only team left offering a competitive quarterback situation.

We should point out that, in an interview Friday with SNY, Rex Ryan said, "Make no mistake about it, Geno Smith is going to be hard to beat out, no matter who we add." That was simply a verbal pat on the back for Smith, who might be wondering about his status with all the speculation about Vick. The truth is, it would be an open competition. Obviously, the organization wants Smith to succeed, but there's a reason why they haven't named him the starter.

At that the same time, Vick knows there's a short supply of quality quarterbacks on the market, so he can try to use that to his advantage. Meanwhile, the Jets are holding on to Sanchez to strengthen their perceived leverage, perhaps presenting him to the Vick camp as a fallback option. If they fail to sign Vick, their options would be Sanchez (if he takes a pay cut), Josh Freeman, Rex Grossman, Shaun Hill, Matt Flynn ... do we need to go on?

For the next 72 hours, it'll be a big poker game between the Jets, Vick and Sanchez.

Green Day: Offseason issues await Idzik

December, 30, 2013
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MIAMI -- It has been nearly three years since that magical day in Foxborough, where the New York Jets delivered their biggest win since that other magical day in the franchise's history, Super Bowl III, in 1969.

In January 2011, Rex Ryan conquered his nemesis, the New England Patriots, creating a big, loud and cocky green monster that figured to wreak havoc for seasons to come. But instead of the Incredible Hulk, they turned into Shrek -- ugly and goofy.

On Sunday, the Jets completed their third consecutive non-playoff season. It's their longest postseason drought since the dark ages of the 1990s, when they failed for six straight years under four different coaches. Their record since 2011 is just 22-26.

Without question, they overachieved in 2013, squeezing eight wins out of a young roster devoid of stars. Ryan did a commendable job in a rebuilding year and will return in 2014, the team announced after a season-ending 20-7 victory in Miami.

For GM John Idzik, the honeymoon is over. It's on him, and he faces an offseason with many challenging issues. Such as:

Augment the quarterback position: This is the biggest decision facing the Jets. They have to decide if Geno Smith is a true No. 1 quarterback or whether they should hedge their bet by bringing in legitimate competition. They have 16 games on tape to evaluate.

While Smith's late-season rally reduces the need to make a major acquisition, the smart play would be to add a competent veteran. Problem is, it's hard to find that guy, a No. 1/No. 2 quarterback.

Mark Sanchez fits the description, but there are health and salary-related questions, not to mention the entire issue of whether they'd want to re-create last summer's competition. Been there, done that.

An interesting target would be Kirk Cousins, who probably will be dangled in trade talks by the Washington Redskins. He wouldn't come cheaply in terms of compensation, maybe a second-round pick. That's a lot to surrender for a possible backup, but they have to look at the long view. He'd be an asset that appreciates in value.

They could go for Matt Schaub, the 2006 version of Cousins. Schaub would bring some baggage to the party, assuming he's released by the Houston Texans, but he’s still only 32 and would be a worthwhile reclamation project/insurance policy.

What about the draft? Unless Idzik absolutely falls in love with someone (Johnny Manziel, anyone?), it wouldn't make much sense to sink a first-round pick into a quarterback, one year after using a No. 2 on Smith. Jay Cutler could be the big fish in free agency if the Chicago Bears let him hit the market, but he'd be a disaster in New York.

Rebuild the offense: The Jets' skill-position talent has deteriorated steadily since 2010. Since 2011, they're ranked 26th in scoring, due largely to a lack of playmakers and poor quarterback play. They've ignored this side of the ball under the defensive-minded Ryan. It's time to pour money and resources into the offense so they compete in an offense-obsessed league.

They need a new tight end and two new wide receivers, preferably a game-breaker. Stephen Hill was supposed to be that guy, but he can't be counted on after two disappointing seasons.

The free-agent market for receivers is thin -- Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos might be the best -- so look for Idzik to address the need in the draft. There are a couple of good ones, Sammy Watkins (Clemson) and Marqise Lee (USC), assuming they turn pro. The top free-agent tight end is Jimmy Graham, but there's little chance he gets away from the New Orleans Saints.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
AP Photo/Alan DiazWill Antonio Cromartie, a Pro Bowl cornerback in 2012, be playing in the Jets' secondary in 2014?
Spend money: Facing a tight cap situation last offseason, Idzik operated on a shoestring budget, doling out modest contracts. Cap space won't be an issue this time. With Darrelle Revis coming off the books, and with Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes likely to be released (a total savings of $16.5 million), the Jets will have close to $40 million in cap space.

In theory, the Jets could stage their biggest spending spree since 2008, the year they acquired Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins, Calvin Pace and Damien Woody, but Idzik believes in building through the draft. He owns eight choices, a total that could grow to 10 or 11 with expected compensatory picks.

This is "go" time for Idzik, a chance to show his acumen as a team-builder.

The first thing they should do is take care of couple of their own free agents, namely right tackle Austin Howard and kicker Nick Folk. Both earned long-term deals with their play in 2013. Linebacker Pace and guard Willie Colon are B-list free agents who have value for the short term.

Out with the old: Sanchez, Holmes and Antonio Cromartie -- key players on the 2010 team that reached the AFC Championship Game -- are highly paid players with injury questions. It's possible all three could be playing elsewhere in 2014.

Holmes is a goner, for sure. They would've cut him two years ago if it weren't for $24 million in guarantees, one of the contracts that got Mike Tannenbaum fired. Sanchez fits the profile of what they need, but he's due a $2 million roster bonus in March -- and there's no way that will be paid. He'd have to agree to a massive pay cut, and that's unlikely to happen. Chances are, he'll be released.

Cromartie is a tough call, with a lot depending on his bad hip. His contract, which runs through 2014, is prohibitive -- a $15 million cap charge, including a $5 million roster bonus. He says he wants to retire a Jet, but let's see if he changes his tune when they propose a pay cut. Chances are, they'll cut him, letting him establish a market price before deciding whether to bring him back on a new deal.

Coach's big decision: Blitz Schaub?

October, 6, 2012
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It's a statistical fact: Texans QB Matt Schaub is significantly less effective when facing added pressure. Against five or more pass rushers, he has completed only 50 percent of his passes, ranking 27th in the league in that category, according to ESPN Stats & Information. As a comparison, his completion rate is nearly 74 percent when facing four or fewer rushers.

The Jets are one of the most aggressive defenses in the league, so this should be a no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. The loss of CB Darrelle Revis could force them to alter their approach Monday night at MetLife Stadium.

If Rex Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine dial up the blitz, it'll put their Revis-less secondary in a bind. It would leave new starting CB Kyle Wilson in a lot of single coverage. They got away with it last week -- they used a safety in the box to help the porous run defense -- but the 49ers' passing offense isn't nearly as dangerous as that of the Texans.

Wilson wouldn't get much safety help with WR Kevin Walter, whom he's likely to cover in man-to-man situations. Ditto, CB Antonio Cromartie, who will have his hands full with WR Andre Johnson. Revis always used to cover Johnson, essentially taking him out of the game, but now the chore falls to Cromartie, who will try to be aggressive with the physical Johnson.

The Jets would be playing with fire if they blitz Schaub. Then again, can they afford not to?

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