Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Updated: July 27, 4:12 AM ET
Mark Sanchez offers to rework deal
By Jane McManus
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Quarterback Mark Sanchez is willing to put it all on the line -- even his paycheck -- if it means the New York Jets will have a better chance to win.
With NFL teams working under a lower salary cap, the third-year player said he already has had discussions about reworking his contract if it helps to make the Jets stronger as free agency begins.
"Absolutely, and my agent's already talked to me about it," Sanchez said. "Whatever we need to do to win, it's on. I think our whole team feels that way, (Darrelle) Revis, me, whoever, it doesn't matter."
In 2009, Sanchez signed a five-year deal with the Jets that included $28 million in guaranteed money, with incentives making the deal potentially worth $60 million. With the 2011 salary cap now at $120 million per team, restructuring Sanchez's contract would give the Jets the ability to spend more to acquire or re-sign free agents this season.
Sanchez may not have to take a pay cut. Depending on the fine print of a new collective bargaining agreement, Sanchez could have some portion of his base salary of $13.5 million converted into a signing bonus, which would be pro-rated and be less of a hit against the salary cap.
Sources told ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini that it is not clear if the NFL will allow Sanchez, who has only two years of service time under his belt, to restructure his deal.
And as for wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, Sanchez said he has spoken to both of them recently and wants to see how the situation evolves before commenting. However, Sanchez did say he hopes they would be committed to winning in New York as well.
"There's no doubt they're not the only ones who want to play here," Sanchez said. "There's plenty of free agents who would love to play here and are probably calling Rex (Ryan) right now wanting to play here, but we know what this team needs and hopefully they're a part of it."
Sanchez's return was the most visible sign that football had returned to the Jets practice facility.
In the morning, he drove past the sign reading "Welcome Back -- Here come the Jets" and honked and waved to the grounds crew.
Players are allowed to take physicals, work out and receive classroom instruction, but on-field activities can't begin until Sunday, 15 days before the Jets' first preseason game.
Sanchez thanked his teammates for participating in informal workouts but said: "I'm glad to be back in the building and now we can get going. It's a lot easier with coaches around."
Jets owner Woody Johnson was there to greet players.
"I'm so happy this thing's over and I think it's going to be good for both sides," Johnson said. "A long-term agreement."
Free agency kicked off Tuesday morning, and teams must condense months of activity into about a week.
"I think it's going to be very active and we've scenario'd beyond scenario'd everything out from the free agents to the undrafted free agents and so on, which they were working late last night getting," Johnson said. "I think we got some good players last night. You can talk to Mike (Tannenbaum) about that."
One signing did get out, with NFL Draft Insider reporting the Jets agreed to terms with undrafted free agent Josh Baker, a tight end formerly of Northwest Missouri State. Baker (6-foot-2, 244 pounds) caught 66 passes for 838 yards in his only season at NWMS. Previously, he played at Delaware, where he caught passes from Joe Flacco -- and sometimes lined up in the Wildcat package.
Tannenbaum, the Jets general manager, is not expected to be made available until Wednesday at the Jets practice facility, which will host training camp this season due to the shorter time teams have to prepare for the season.
"We're going to get these guys ready to play New York Jets football," Johnson said.
Johnson was also asked about Edwards and Holmes. He didn't get specific but did address concerns that the team would be forced to downgrade at the spot.
"We love them both," Johnson said. "and we're going to have good wide receivers. I can promise you that, and obviously we want our guys back if we can get them."
Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua was the first to arrive Tuesday, about 10 minutes early at 9:50. He and offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse pulled over and waited until the facility officially opened to players. Sanchez, tight end Dustin Keller, offensive lineman Nick Mangold, defensive end Mike DeVito and cornerback Dwight Lowery were in the first wave on a non-mandatory day.
In a 40-second recorded voice message left for all Jets season ticket holders, Ryan told fans the team plans to have Sanchez let the football "fly a little more than we have in the past." That declaration comes despite the fact Sanchez doesn't really know who he'll be throwing to just yet, other than veterans such as Jerricho Cotchery and Keller.
"We better," Sanchez said with a big grin. "No ... it could mean a million things, I have no idea. I think, for us to win, and take the next step, it's going to require me improving. That's a part of this whole learning process.
"That's Rex's deal: Just put a little more pressure on the quarterback."
Offensive lineman Brandon Moore was the Jets player representative during the recent labor negotiations, and was asked when he finally had a sense that there was going to be a deal and the return of the NFL was imminent.
"Yesterday," said Moore wryly.
Asked about the onslaught of free agency and how the Jets stand to fare, Moore was optimistic.
"We got a lot of question marks of course," Moore said, " but one thing you know about Mike and Rex -- and especially Mike -- dealing with that, they're prepared and they've got every scenario going in their heads of how it will play out. One thing that I've learned over the few seasons, especially with Woody Johnson and Mike, they're going to do everything possible within the rules to make this team a Super Bowl contender.
"I think I can sleep well at night knowing that when we line up against the Cowboys, we're going to have a pretty good team ready to make a run."
He said the Jets definitely will have an advantage with an intact coaching staff, and singled out Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
"You know they've used their time wisely this offseason to kind of prepare, come up with schedules and how to approach the whole deal," Moore said. "I wouldn't want to be on a team with a new head coach, I'd say that, and a new staff and learning the playbook. I think it'll be a lot simpler for us."
Jane McManus is a reporter and columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini and The Associated Press was used in this report.