New York has been home to some of the biggest quarterback names in football. The New York Jets have been home to some relatively big quarterback names, like Brett Favre, Boomer Esiason, Chad Pennington, Ken O’Brien and the notoriously mediocre Mark Sanchez. These are some of the best quarterbacks to ever play for the Jets, which really says a lot about the team. Ever since Broadway Joe Namath guaranteed that he would win Super Bowl III, the Jets haven’t had any particularly great quarterbacks. That was very apparent this year as the Jets finished the season 5-11. Their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was one of the main factors behind this subpar performance with a 56.6% completion percentage, 2,710 yards passing, a measly 12 touchdowns, a jarring 17 interceptions and a 69.6 QBR. As the Jets look to rebuild their roster with hopes of becoming playoff contenders, their first offseason priority is to obtain a quarterback. They could turn to the draft, free agency, or possibly trade for a quarterback.
The 2017 NFL Draft doesn’t have as strong of a QB class as one might hope. The Jets have the 6th pick in the draft which should hopefully make a major impact on the team. The top prospects in 2017 at the quarterback position are North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson of NCAA Football Champion Clemson. Trubisky has intrigued scouts with his high football IQ, understanding of defensive schemes, decision making, and accuracy. He has the stats to back it up, boasting a 68.2% completion rate and throwing for 30 touchdowns and 3748 passing yards (averaging 8.4 yards per play), with only 6 interceptions. His minimal experience concerns scouts heading into the draft. Although his stats make a strong case for a high draft position, it is worth noting that he only started one season at UNC. The general consensus on Trubisky is that with the right coach and system, he has the potential to develop into an amazing quarterback. However, location is key. While this option isn’t completely out of reach for the Jets, it would be surprising for Trubisky to slide down to the 6th pick as most scouts expect him to be drafted by the 49ers, Browns, or Bears before the Jets even get a shot. Another choice the Jets have is Deshaun Watson. He’s one of the most polarizing draft prospects this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was drafted number one overall or in the middle of the second round. Scouts like his dual threat ability and his intangibles. His work ethic has been widely lauded and his play under pressure was well displayed when his Clemson Tigers came back against the Alabama Crimson Tide to become college football champs. Even when Clemson was down two touchdowns, he didn’t skip a beat to upset the Tide. NFL teams have seen this kind of player before, and while a Cam Newton may come along and achieve success, there are plenty of Geno Smiths and EJ Manuels in the past that have told teams otherwise. If the Jets have the chance and decide to take a chance, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft a quarterback and develop around him.
The Jets have also been amid trade rumors for Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo. During Tom Brady’s four-game deflategate suspension, Garoppolo was designated to hold down the fort for the Patriots. He turned many heads until getting injured by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso in the middle of his second game. During the time he played, he had a 68.3 completion percentage, 502 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions, great numbers for someone who has only thrown for 6 yards in relief snaps in the previous season. Many teams around the league see high potential in Jimmy G and hope to trade for him. There has been recent speculation that the Patriots are looking to keep Garoppolo in preparation for the retirement of Tom Brady, but he could very well find a home elsewhere. While the Jets could trade to get him, it would be an ill-advised move on the Jets’ part. Although Garoppolo has a very high potential, the Patriots and Jets play in the same division. In the slight chance that Pats coach Bill Belichick was willing to trade such a valuable player to his division rivals, who he would see twice a season, the Jets would have to give up way too much on their end to make it happen.
A lesser-known option comes in the form of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon was the Bucs starter until they drafted FSU’s Jameis Winston first overall in 2015. In 2013, he threw for 2,608 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions in the span of 13 games. Scouts like him for his size and low risk. Most see him as a high-end bridge quarterback with upside. What has turned teams off to bringing him aboard is his low speed, failure to deliver under pressure, and the fact that he lost the Buccaneers’ quarterback battle to Josh McCown (not exactly a star himself) in 2014. Many expect him to sign close to a $15 million annual contract in the case that any teams do want him. If the Jets do sign him, he would likely be used as a bridge quarterback to Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, who are slowly developing their abilities into those of a starting-caliber quarterback.
There are going to be many big name quarterbacks discussed this offseason and many more question marks on where they’ll end up. One of the biggest names has been the Cowboys’ veteran star Tony Romo. He was primed to have a career year in 2016 with Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, and that amazing offensive line helmed by Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, but his hopes were dashed by a preseason injury. After rookie Dak Prescott replaced him and led America’s Team to a divisional title, the city of Dallas hasn’t looked back, and it looks like Romo might have to go to a new team to chase that ring he wants so badly. This option isn’t the best for the Jets considering that the Cowboys still hold him under contract and the Jets would have to let go of a lot from an already weak roster to acquire a 36-year-old injury prone quarterback. Romo is the right fit for a team that’s primed for a playoff run and only needs a quarterback. The Jets have an unstable offensive line, weak pass defense, and an overall lack of solidarity in the locker room. The Jets would either have to give up a lot of cap space or assets to acquire Romo. They just don’t have a good enough roster to really make proper use of Romo. Other names that have been thrown around have been Washington’s Kirk Cousins, San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick and Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler. Cousins, who received a franchise tag from the Redskins in 2016, is likely to either resign with the Skins or join the 49ers, per recent reports. Cousins has put up amazing stats thanks to the help of Head Coach Jay Gruden. It wouldn’t be smart for the Jets to sign Jay Cutler this year. Throughout his career on the Bears, he has shown inconsistencies and injury risk almost every season. Under the right coaching, he has been able to utilize his cannon arm and limit his interceptions, but Cutler has long been known to be turnover prone and aloof. The Jets as a team also need strong leadership, and Cutler has never been a real leader for his teams. Colin Kaepernick has been known to thrive under proper coaching. Under Jim Harbaugh, he was the hottest player in the NFL and under offensive-minded Chip Kelly, he was able to make the 49ers offense vaguely productive. Whether the Jets sign Kap might actually be turn out to be a political situation. Kaepernick has notoriously knelt during the national anthem in protest for Black Lives Matter, which got on the bad side of President Donald Trump. Jets owner Woody Johnson, an important proponent and fundraiser for the Trump campaign, may not approve of the signing of Kaepernick due to this clash in beliefs.
If the Jets don’t want to place someone new under center in 2017, they could just start 2015 4th round pick Bryce Petty or 2016 second round pick Christian Hackenberg. This option is unlikely considering that Head Coach Todd Bowles has wanted to keep them on the bench and let them develop slowly, rather than abruptly starting them. Immediately throwing a player into the mix can often hinder their development, as shown when Geno Smith started at quarterback for the Jets. Smith is set to hit free agency this summer in case the Jets were to avoid resigning him. While resigning Smith is one of the more wild options out there, the Jets could resign him if there was no better option. Although he has been turnover prone since he first joined the league, he has shown occasional flashes of brilliance when surrounded by the right coaches and players. Even then, this is the least likely option for the Jets.
Jets fans should keep one thing in mind during the offseason: whether New York signs a quarterback, drafts one, trades for one, or starts one they already have, it probably won’t be Ryan Fitzpatrick. That’s probably the most hope a Jets fan could ever have.