Sources: Jets to explore QB options

Updated: December 20, 2012, 11:29 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With one quarterback change, the New York Jets may have affected the future of two quarterbacks -- Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.

The Jets will explore all options with Sanchez, including a trade, and the team plans to part ways with Tebow after the season, league sources said Wednesday.

It would be difficult to trade Sanchez because of an $8.25 million guarantee in 2013 in his contract. However, the Jets, who benched Sanchez this week in favor of the unproven Greg McElroy, are taking an open-minded approach and may be willing to start over at quarterback.

Responding to the trade speculation, Sanchez's agent and older brother, Nick Sanchez, said Wednesday night: "Mark is a Jet and he's going to support the Jets any way he can through the remainder of season."

Nick Sanchez declined to comment on next season.

Meanwhile, a clearly miffed Tebow, no longer masking his season-long frustration, left no doubt he's unhappy with his role. He will seek to play elsewhere next season, and the Jets appear willing to accommodate his wishes.

Upset he was passed over for the starting-quarterback job, Tebow spoke of the Jets in the past tense Wednesday, admitting he doesn't understand why they traded for him last March. Asked if he envisions returning to the team in 2013, he said: "I'm not sure. It's something we'll talk about after the season."

The backup quarterback is expected to ask out, clarifying, "I haven't asked for a trade yet" -- the word "yet" hanging in the air. He's signed through 2014.

Sanchez said "of course" he'd like to remain with the Jets, but he declined to discuss his future in any detail. At some point in the offseason, he'd like to meet with the front office and the coaching staff to discuss his role and the direction of the offense, sources said. If he doesn't like what he hears, it's possible he, too, may want a fresh start on another team.

Because of severe cap ramifications, the Jets would be hard-pressed to cut Sanchez, who received a contract extension last March. The cap charge for such a move would be $17.1 million in 2013, although the Jets can spread it over two seasons if they designate him a June 1 cut.

If the Jets trade him, they'd have an $8.9 million cap hit. The Jets also probably would have to pay a large chunk of his $8.25 million guarantee to convince another team to take him, and that total would be added to the $8.9 million charge.

Sanchez told a crowd of reporters at his locker on Wednesday that he disagreed with coach Rex Ryan's decision to bench him. A handful of cameramen fled Sanchez's locker and sprinted across the room when McElroy appeared, creating a commotion that caused Sanchez to stop mid-sentence and look up -- another vintage moment in the Jets' three-quarterback circus.

Sanchez went from starter to likely third string in a New York minute. He did a better job of hiding his emotions than Tebow, who "looked furious" upon receiving the news Tuesday morning from Ryan that McElroy would start this weekend, according to a team source.

Tebow has been listed as the No. 2 quarterback from the first day of training camp and felt he deserved the shot, but Ryan, making the first quarterback change in his four-year tenure, opted for the inexperienced McElroy.

Tebow
Sanchez
Sanchez

"Obviously, I'm a little disappointed," Tebow said.

Tebow, who has played in only 70 offensive snaps, was at a loss to explain why the Jets wanted him in the first place.

"Some things are hard to understand," he said.

For nearly five months, Tebow stuck to the company line, showing little candor under constant questioning about his desire for a bigger role. Finally, he revealed his frustration.

"All you can ask for, all you want is a chance -- a chance to go out and play the game you love and help this team win football games," he said. "That's all I wanted. I tried to make the most of every opportunity I had. I would've loved to have had more."

Ryan, who spent the summer crowing about Tebow's expected impact in the Wildcat package, appeared utterly flummoxed Wednesday as he tried to explain what has gone wrong.

"For some reason, it hasn't panned out to my expectations -- and maybe not Tim's, either," said Ryan, who has insisted the Tebow trade wasn't forced upon him by ownership.

Ryan's handling of the quarterback position has come under criticism in recent weeks.

In Week 13, Ryan activated McElroy because of Tebow's rib injury, summoned him from the bullpen to beat the Arizona Cardinals, considered him for the starting job but relegated him to inactive status for the last two games as Sanchez continued his turnover-prone ways.

Sanchez threw away the Jets' playoffs hopes with four interceptions Monday night against the Tennessee Titans. Ryan watched it all fall apart, refusing to insert Tebow even though he had given him a full series in the second quarter -- his first entire series of the season.

After the game, Ryan told Sanchez he was done as the starter. Sanchez said he respects the decision, but, "I don't necessarily agree with it." It was the first time in his life he's been benched.

"A ton of emotions go through your mind," said Sanchez, who leads the NFL with 24 turnovers. "At the forefront is just disappointment. You're upset, frustrated with my play and some of the decisions I've made -- not just for myself, but for the team. Losing hurts and playing poorly hurts."

Even if Sanchez returns next season, it's hard to envision him as the undisputed starter.

"I'm not going to go into hypotheticals about me being here or not being here," he said. "Any questions about, 'What's going to happen next year? Are you going to be a starter again?' I'm not even going to go there."

Most players, trying to stay out of the quarterback controversy, remained politically correct. But running back Joe McKnight suggested the coaches succumbed to fan pressure in benching Sanchez.

"You kind of could tell how it was going to go the whole year by how the fans were doing their thing, screaming Tebow's name while Mark was in the game," McKnight said. "Stuff like that just kinds of adds on to the pressure of the coaches."

They chanted McElroy's name, too, in the only game he was active.

Ryan addressed the quarterback change briefly in the team meeting, according to players, quickly switching to this weekend's opponent, the San Diego Chargers.

Later, he told reporters he might activate all three quarterbacks for the game. Tebow could play in the Wildcat and may receive a series or two at quarterback.

Of course, he's heard that before. Tebow said the plan in Tennessee was to play "a few possessions" at quarterback. That never happened.

"I don't feel deceived," he said. "I appreciate the opportunity I've had here and want to make the most of these last two weeks."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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