For the first time since 2009, the Jets will head into the offseason with a major question surrounding the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez's regression in 2012, coupled with the expected departure of Tim Tebow, has thrown the Jets into a state of chaos.
The Jets probably will try to trade Sanchez, who may demand a trade, but the likelihood of them making a deal is remote because of his $8.25 million guarantee. If he returns, Sanchez probably will be thown into an open competition or simply deemed the No. 2. Either way, they need a starting-caliber quarterback. The organization doesn't see Greg McElroy in that light.
It's hard to speculate on a target because there are other variables to consider -- the possibility of a new GM, a new offensive coordinator and a new system. That said, we'll give it our best shot, examining the candidates.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Matt Moore, Dolphins -- Obviously, Ryan Tannehill is the present and future in Miami, so Moore will be looking for a place where he could start. He's a smart game manager, capable of running a low-risk offense. Moore, 28, started 13 games for the Dolphins in 2011, throwing 16 TDs, nine interceptions and completing 60 percent. His career record is 13-12. He came off the bench in Week 8 to lead a 30-9 rout of the Jets.
Potential fit with Jets: He'd be a good, short-term fix -- and wouldn't cost a lot of money. He's the best of a watered-down free-agent market. The biggest name is Joe Flacco, but he'll sign a long-term extension with the Ravens or receive the franchise tag.
Jason Campbell, Bears -- Campbell has some impressive physical tools, but there are questions about his intangibles. He has started only seven games over the last two years and hasn't played particularly well. His career record is 31-40.
Potential fit with Jets: Ugh.
PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT
Alex Smith, 49ers -- He was having a terrific year (13 TDs, five interceptions), but suffered a concussion and lost his job to Colin Kaepernick. Smith has two years remaining on his contract, but the 49ers have a decision to make: He's due a $1 million roster bonus in early March and his full $7.5 million salary for 2013 becomes guaranteed if he's on the roster April 1. The 49ers can't pay that kind of money to a backup if they're committed to Kaepernick, so they may look to trade him before they cut him.
Potential fit with Jets: Buyer beware. He's a system quarterback who, after five mediocre seasons, didn't flourish until he hooked up with QB guru Jim Harbaugh. And he'd be very expensive.
Michael Vick, Eagles -- He will be a free agent because he's due a $3 million guarantee if he's on the roster three days after the Super Bowl -- and the Eagles won't commit. Vick is intriguing because of his exciting skills, but he'll be 33 in June and has durability issues. Plus, he hasn't played well since 2010. He has 29 TDs, 23 interceptions and a 10-12 record over the last two seasons. He'd create a buzz, and we all know how much owner Woody Johnson covets star power at the QB position.
Potential fit with Jets: A declining player who'd create a Tebow-like circus, especially with his off-the-field baggage. There would be no way to afford him and Sanchez because Vick wouldn't come unless he's paid more.
Matt Flynn, Seahawks -- He signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract and never got on the field because of Russell Wilson. Flynn is tradeable because his 2013 contract includes only a $2 million guarantee, with a total of non-guaranteed salary of $5.25 million. On the downside, Flynn has only two career starts and he's best in a West Coast system. It's hard to imagine Rex Ryan going in that direction, but you never know.
Potential fit with the Jets: Would Pete Carroll take Sanchez, his old USC QB, in a swap for Flynn? The Jets would have to eat a lot of Sanchez's contract.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- His days in Buffalo appear numbered because of a $3 million roster bonus due in March. The Bills would take a $10 million cap hit by releasing him, but it appears they want to start over at quarterback. Fitzpatrick hasn't been the same since signing a six-year, $62 million contract in 2011 (he has received $26 millon of that amount), but he has an 82.9 passer rating this season, which isn't horrible on a bad team.
Potential fit with the Jets: He's still only 30 years old, knows the AFC East and could be serviceable in the right offense. Of course, he's a Harvard man, which means he's probably smart enough to stay away from the Jets.
Geno Smith, West Virginia -- He's projected as a mid- to late first-round pick. New York fans will get a chance to see him Saturday against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Smith has 40 TD passes and only six interceptions in the Mountaineers' wide-open offense. He has completed at least 64.8 percent in each of his three seasons as a starter. Critics say he doesn't handle pressure situations very well.
Potential fit with the Jets: There will be plenty of pre-draft buzz linking Smith and the Jets. He's the best in a suspect crop of QBs, but do you want to build your franchise around him?
Matt Barkley, USC -- In retrospect, he made a bad decision by returning to school. Barkley would've been a top-5 pick a year ago. He has skills, but he underachieved despite having a terrific pair of receivers. He threw 36 TDs, but also had 15 interceptions and injured his shoulder. He still could go in the first round if he rebuilds his stock with a strong postseason and pre-draft workouts.
Potential fit with the Jets: Another USC quarterback? That wouldn't go over too well.
Other college prospects: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas; Aaron Murray, Georgia; Ryan Nassib, Syracuse; Mike Glennon, North Carolina State; Tyler Bray, Tennessee; Landry Jones, Oklahoma.