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Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Examining team needs: Quarterback

By Rich Cimini

The New York Jets rode Geno Smith the entire way in 2013 and, let's face it, it was as bumpy as a Smart Car driving the surface of the moon.

In 2014, they need to install a shock absorber -- a proven quarterback who can replace Smith if he slumps. Team expectations will be higher than last season, and the Jets can't afford to be as patient with Smith as they were during his rookie year.

Smith
So, yes, the Jets will be in the quarterback market -- again. Finding the right guy, as they learned the hard way last year with David Garrard, is easier said than done. They have to decide if they want an experienced insurance policy (read: an old guy) or a quarterback that can give Smith a legitimate run for the starting job. Problem is, most castoffs (i.e. former starters) won't go to a team unless they're promised a shot at the No. 1 spot. Maybe that's one of the reasons why general manager John Idzik has yet to anoint Smith; he doesn't want to alienate potential targets in free agency.

The Jets have three quarterbacks under contract -- Smith, Mark Sanchez and Matt Simms. Sanchez ($13.1 million cap charge) is likely to be released, but he actually fits the profile for what they need. He has won in the league and he knows Marty Mornhinweg's system. There are other factors to consider, though: His massive contract, his surgically-repaired shoulder and all the baggage. The key question is, would Sanchez, who believes he beat out Smith last summer, return on a restructured contract if promised an open competition? When he spoke to the media late in the season, he was fired up about the prospect of returning. We'll see if he still feels that way.

The good news for the Jets is they don't have to make an immediate decision. Sanchez's $2 million roster bonus is due March 25, giving them time to shop around.

Projected offseason plan: If Sanchez goes, they need to acquire an experienced quarterback. Don't be surprised if Idzik also adds a developmental quarterback via the draft.

Free agency: The speculation will focus on Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles), who was Wally Pipped by Nick Foles. Vick's play has deteriorated over the last three years (35 touchdowns, 27 interceptions), and there are durability issues, but he will intrigue the Jets because of his familiarity with Mornhinweg's system. Is the feeling mutual? Vick said recently he wants to be a starter. The Jets also may check into the availability of Matt Schaub, who probably will be cut or traded by the Houston Texans. Schaub was a train wreck last season, but, remember, he was a Pro Bowl player in 2012. Quarterbacks coach David Lee is strong on fundamentals and he could work wonders with Schaub. Problem is, his price tag could be too rich for the Jets. They could explore a possible trade for Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins), giving them a young veteran with upside. If they go that route, we'd know they still have serious doubts about Smith.

Draft: Idzik won't go into his second draft thinking quarterback in the first round (18th overall). And he won't have to, because there's no chance one of the Big Three falls to 18 -- Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Blake Bortles (Central Florida) or Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville). But we all know Idzik believes in competition, and it makes sense to take a middle- to late-round quarterback, especially if they receive a couple of compensatory selections. Keep an eye on Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), who turned heads at the Senior Bowl.