Analysis: What are the Jets thinking?

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
2:14
AM ET


I have so many opinions on the Mark Sanchez contract extension that I don't know where to start. This move is so stunning, so confounding, so impulsive, so typical of the Jets. Let's start big-picture and take it from there:

1. The three-year, $40.5 million extension (through 2016) means Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum are all-in with Sanchez. He'll either make them famous or get them fired. The deal includes $20.5 million in guarantees in the first two years and no offsets, meaning he's their starting quarterback for at least two more seasons.

2. Let's take a closer look. Sanchez had no guaranteed money remaining on his old contract, but you had to figure his $11.8 million for 2012 was safe. (You didn't really think they were going to get Peyton Manning, did you?) So in essence, the Jets tossed in another $8.7 million in guarantees for '12 and '13.

3. Tannenbaum said they were in negotiations for "several weeks," and I believe him, but it can't be a coincidence that this deal was wrapped up on the same day Manning decided what we all expected anyway -- he's not going to play for the Jets. The contract extension screams of a public-relations move.

4. This is "statement" money. To eliminate any questions about Sanchez's standing with the team or stature in the locker room, the Jets answered with the kind of vote of confidence that grabs everybody's attention -- money! They took a page out of the Stephen Ross book. Stuck with Tony Sparano last season after getting jilted by Jim Harbaugh, Ross, the Dolphins' owner, tried to make it better by giving Sparano a contract extension. It didn't make it better.

5. The Jets rewarded a player after openly acknowledging he didn't progress as expected. What kind of message does that send? When the season ended, Tannenbaum said Sanchez "didn't play well," admitting they weren't pleased with his rate of development. Instead of keeping the pressure on him and making him play for the guaranteed pay, they just handed it to him.

6. Uh, I don't think this is going to quash the perception that he's coddled.

7. It sure looks like the Jets tried to use their interest in Manning as leverage in the Sanchez negotiations. Maybe that's why they were so hush-hush throughout the process.

8. It was costly, but at least this lets the locker room know the organization is behind Sanchez as the leader of the franchise. No "C" for Sanchez, though, just a lot of M's -- millions.

9. Not sure of Sanchez's new cap number for '12, but it's significantly less than the original $14.3 million. This will give them more flexibility in free agency. Tannenbaum said cap relief wasn't the purpose of the new deal, but he'll take it.

10. Forget about signing a quality No. 2 backup. Presumably, this contract will scare away the top free agents because they know it's Sanchez's job. Money talks.

11. They're putting a lot of faith in Sparano, the new coordinator, to get Sanchez back on track.

12. Bottom line: This is a risky move for the Jets. Sanchez has shown promise in his first three seasons, there's no doubt, but after last season's struggles, there's no way we can say for sure that he will be an elite quarterback. The Jets increased their bet on Sanchez at a time when they didn't have to do anything.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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