- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Checking out the Jets and the rest of the NFL:
1. No reign in Southern California: Hoping to reclaim his starting job, Mark Sanchez has been working out in San Diego with former NFL QB Jeff Garcia, a former Marty Mornhinweg pupil. Sanchez is trying to get a jump on the competition, learning Mornhinweg's version of the West Coast offense from Garcia, a paid instructor. Sanchez drives two or three times a week from his home in Orange County to spend time with Garcia. They've had about nine sessions, with teammates Jordan White, Konrad Reuland and Vidal Hazelton stopping by to run routes and catch passes. Most of the work occurs in the classroom, as Sanchez attempts to learn an entirely new system.
This is Sanchez's third system in three years. In terms of Xs and Os, the transition from Tony Sparano to Mornhinweg will be harder than from Brian Schottenheimer to Sparano, simply because of the different terminology and the sophisticated footwork required at the quarterback position in the West Coast system. The extra work should give Sanchez a "leg up" (where have I heard that before?) when the team returns to Florham Park for the start of the offseason program, April 15. It runs through mid-June. In July, Sanchez may conduct his annual "Jets West" event in SoCal, but that has yet to be finalized.
Sanchez is making a sincere effort to fix his career, which could be termed "Jets South" after last season's 26-turnover debacle. He took extra steps last year, too, huddling with Chad Pennington to absorb some intel on Sparano. A lot of good that did. This time, Sanchez knows he's out of mulligans. If he butt-fumbles the season, he'll be looking for a job in 2014.
2. Shallow pockets: Teams aren't spending big money in free agency, and the Jets are certainly contributing to that trend. New GM John Idzik has signed eight free agents, doling out a combined total of only $2.5 million in bonus money. Consider: RB Mike Goodson ($1.0 million signing bonus), LB Antwan Barnes ($900,000 signing), G Willie Colon ($162,500 roster bonus), LS Tanner Purdum ($130,000 signing), QB David Garrard ($100,000 signing), DT Antonio Garay ($65,000 signing), FB Lex Hilliard ($65,000 signing) and PK Nick Folk ($50,000 signing). The Jets are low-balling their veteran free agents, which explains the Rex-odus.
3. Moore is less: No player has felt the salary-cap pinch more than free-agent G Brandon Moore. According to Scouts, Inc., which grades players on the ESPN free-agent tracker, Moore is the highest-rated offensive player still on the market. True, he's toward the end of his career at age 32, but he's a quality lineman with 137 consecutive starts. He'd be an ideal plug-and-play addition for a contending team -- and yet he's still searching. He's had nibbles from the Dolphins, Cowboys and Lions; obviously, no one has met his asking price. The chances of returning to the Jets are remote.
Former Jets G Matt Slauson, who signed a one-year contract Friday with the Bears, said it "puzzles me" that Moore still hasn't signed somewhere. "He's an older player," Slauson told me, "but he's had some really, really good years -- and I think he has a couple of good years left." But, in his next breath, Slauson acknowledged the free-agent market isn't the cash cow he expected.
"It's so much different than any other year," he said. "Talking to friends -- free agents -- around the league, things are tough. Long-term deals are just not happening. You have to jump on a good (one-year) offer when you get it."
4. High-rent district: Fourteen percent of the Jets' salary cap is devoted to one position -- quarterback. In fact, the figure is $17.5 million, the sixth-highest total in the league, according to an informative study by ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando. Considering the Jets finished 30th in passer rating, I think it's fair to question their resource allocation, wouldn't you say?
5. And then there was one: You want to know why the Jets are 14-18 over the last two seasons? I could list a dozen reasons, but here's a big one: They have only one player left from the 2008 and 2009 drafts -- Sanchez, one of nine picks over those two years. They lost Slauson (2009), RB Shonn Greene (2009) and TE Dustin Keller in free agency. The players from the '08 and '09 drafts are fifth- and sixth-year vets, the guys that should comprise the nucleus of your team. Instead of a nucleus, the Jets have a black hole.
6. Backs of the future: Even though the Jets signed Goodson, it wouldn't surprise me if they pick a running back on the second or third day of the draft. The consensus top back is Eddie Lacy (Alabama), a likely second-rounder, but I've heard some questions about his desire and focus. Here's a name to remember: Le'veon Bell (Michigan State), the fourth-rated back by Scouts, Inc. The Jets have conducted a private workout with Bell, and they're planning to bring him in for a top-30 visit. He rushed for nearly 1,800 yards last season and he can catch the ball.
7. All quiet on the Tebow front: To the surprise of many, QB Tim Tebow remains on the Jets' roster even though it has been reported for months that he doesn't fit into their 2013 plans. I hear Tebow is getting antsy, but it looks like the Jets will keep him through the draft, hoping they can find a trading partner. Good luck with that. It'll be interesting to see if he shows up April 15 for the start of the offseason program; that could be an awkward couple of weeks. Meanwhile, former Dolphins bust Pat White has drawn interest from the 49ers and Giants, an indication that teams are looking for read-option quarterbacks -- just not one named Tebow.
8. Bad news for Geno: The recent activity of teams picking in the top 10 reflect a lack of belief in the '13 quarterback class -- bad news for top prospect Geno Smith, who could slip out of the top 10. On Saturday night, the Bills (No. 8 overall) agreed to terms with Cards castoff Kevin Kolb. The Raiders (No. 3) reportedly are interested in trading for Seahawks backup Matt Flynn, an indication they're not sold on Smith. The Raiders are expected to cut Carson Palmer, who could end up with the Cards (No. 7), who would be out of the QB market. The Eagles (No. 4) are a potential landing spot for Smith, but that's hardly a gimme.
9. Romo built in a day: So let me get this straight. The Cowboys signed QB Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million extension, including $55 million in guarantees. I wonder how much they would've given him if he had actually, you know, won something. Somewhere, Aaron Rodgers is smiling.
10. Ground muck: Interesting nugget from ESPN Stats & Information: The four teams that paid the most in cap dollars per rushing yard were a combined 19-45 last season. The Drab Four: Jaguars, $12,402 per yard; Panthers, $12,179; Raiders, $11,208; and Titans, $10,465.