Jets add Drew Stanton

Updated: March 16, 2012, 9:04 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

After three quiet days, the New York Jets finally entered the free-agent fray Friday. They signed two career backups -- quarterback Drew Stanton and wide receiver Chaz Schilens.

They weren't the headline-making moves that have become synonymous with the Jets in recent years, but they will fill key roles.

Stanton, formerly of the Detroit Lions, is slated to be the No. 2 quarterback behind incumbent Mark Sanchez, who received a three-year, $40 million contract extension last week. Stanton signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract, according to a league source.

Schilens, who caught 72 passes in four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, will have a chance to compete for the starting job opposite Santonio Holmes. That might be a stretch, but Schilens (6-foot-4, 225) brings much-needed size and speed to the position. He signed a one-year deal for a reported $765,000.

The Jets remain in the hunt for a starting safety. They visited Friday with Reggie Nelson (Cincinnati Bengals) and are scheduled to meet over the weekend with LaRon Landry (Washington Redskins), both first-round picks in 2007.

Initially, the Jets had hoped to lure former Miami Dolphins starter Chad Henne, reuniting him with ex- Miami coach and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, but it quickly became apparent that Henne was out of their price range. He signed Wednesday with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The re-commitment to Sanchez probably scared away potential candidates. With the Jets paying Sanchez $20.5 million in guarantees over the next two seasons, it was clear the No. 2 quarterback would have no realistic chance to compete for the starting job.

But that was fine with Stanton, the Lions' third-stringer last season behind Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill (also a free agent). Stanton met Thursday and Friday with Jets officials at the team's facility and they quickly hammered out a deal. They were scheduled to meet Friday with Brady Quinn (Denver Broncos), but that was canceled when the Stanton deal got done.

"The nice thing is, we're all going to be learning Tony Sparano's offense together," Stanton said. "My goal is to help Mark produce on the field and to help this organization win football games."

Stanton once was considered the future for the Lions. He was a second-round pick in 2007, but he was slowed by injuries, ineffectiveness and a weak supporting cast. When they drafted Stafford in 2009, Stanton became an afterthought.

Stanton (6-foot-3, 230) rode the bench last season and hasn't attempted a pass since 2010. He's 2-2 as a starter, his NFL resume consisting of only 187 pass attempts.

In four seasons, he has thrown for only 1,158 yards, with five touchdowns, nine interceptions, a 56-percent completion rate and a 63.1 passer rating.

When the season ended, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said the quarterback depth chart would have a different look -- a strong indication that Mark Brunell, 41, no longer fit in the plans as Sanchez's primary backup.

Brunell and Sanchez built a strong relationship. Brunell wasn't a threat to take his job and acted as a big-brother figure to Sanchez. The quarterback dynamic will change. For the first time in his career, Sanchez will go into a season as the most experienced quarterback on the roster.

The No. 3 quarterback is Greg McElroy, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve. The Jets also could re-sign Kevin O'Connell, a free agent.

Schilens also drew interest from the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, but he wanted to be reunited with his former Oakland position coach, Sanjay Lal, the Jets' new receivers coach.

Schilens said, "it was just too good a place to leave" without a deal, adding, "I just always liked playing the Jets -- it always seemed to be a big-time game. I always liked the type of players they have on their team. And I like Rex Ryan's mentality."

Despite a thin resume, Schilens will get a chance to compete for Plaxico Burress' old starting job. The 6-foot-5 Burress, who tied for the team lead with eight touchdown catches last season, is a free agent and unlikely to return.

The Jets' receiving corps, which has undergone considerable upheaval in recent years, includes Holmes, slot receiver Jeremy Kerley and backup Patrick Turner. They entered free agency looking for a complement to Holmes, preferably a big target with deep speed -- and Schilens has those attributes. He entered the league with sub-4.4 speed in the 40.

They're also showing interest in former Jet Jerricho Cotchery, who was released last year (at his request) but told ESPNNewYork.com that he'd entertain an offer to return.

The Jets didn't get involved with any of the high-priced free agents. such as Vincent Jackson and Robert Meacham, opting to go cheap at their No. 2 receiving spot. They did so knowing there's a chance they could use a high draft pick on a receiver.

Schilens, a seventh-round pick of the Raiders in 2008, won a starting job midway through his rookie year, but he couldn't stay healthy. He missed 19 games in 2009 and 2010 because of injuries, including a broken foot.

"He has tools, just injury and durability concerns," said an AFC personnel executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Because of his size, Schilens should be able to help in the red zone. The Raiders didn't use him that much inside the 20, but he capitalized on his limited opportunities. He was targeted four times, resulting in four receptions for 49 yards and two touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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