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Jets first look to roster for Favre's replacement

2/11/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum was coy on the subject of acquiring a new quarterback, but he and owner Woody Johnson conveyed optimism in a Wednesday afternoon conference call that Brett Favre's replacement already is on their roster.

Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge have a total of eight NFL starts among them. One might follow a legend who started 269 straight.

"We do feel good about the players we have," said Tannenbaum, who traded for Favre and then released veteran Chad Pennington to make room in August. "If the opportunity presents itself [in free agency], we'll measure it carefully and do whatever's best for the Jets."

Said Johnson: "We've got three quarterbacks on the roster, and we feel pretty good with competition among those guys we'll end up with a pretty good quarterback."

Favre's decision will clear precious salary-cap space for the Jets, who were over and needed to trim by the end of the month to be in compliance with league rules. Clemens, Ratliff and Ainge aren't expensive, and the Jets might be content to move forward without spending for a free agent.

Scouts Inc. ranks the best free-agent quarterbacks as Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins, Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich and J.P. Losman.

The draft is another avenue the Jets could explore. They own the 17th overall selection. Top-rated prospect Matthew Stafford of Georgia will be long gone by then. Southern California's Mark Sanchez likely will be off the board, too. But strong-armed Kansas State passer Josh Freeman should be there.

"If and when we do add another quarterback, those situations will present themselves when they come up," Tannenbaum said. "We like what we have on the team. We will try to improve what we have on the team at every position, but we're going to move forward with those three quarterbacks on the roster."

Here is a breakdown of the Jets' QB depth chart:

  • Clemens was drafted out of Oregon with the 49th overall selection in 2006. He started eight games in 2007, taking over when Chad Pennington got hurt and then becoming Eric Mangini's quarterback of preference -- but with trepidation. Clemens completed 52 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had a 60.9 passer rating.

  • Ratliff wasn't drafted out of Utah. He spent 2007 on the practice squad. While Clemens struggled and it became evident the Jets didn't want Pennington to win the job in training camp, Ratliff stood out. He outplayed Clemens. It would have been interesting to see who would have emerged in a battle between the two.

  • Ainge, a fifth-round draft pick from Tennessee, had a difficult rookie campaign. Favre's arrival marginalized him. A foot injury sent Ainge to injured reserve. In November, he was suspended four games for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing substances.