Sanchez's original rookie contract was set to expire after the 2013-14 season, but as Mike Tannenbaum said during the press conference, "Mark's our starter. ... Taking the long view of things, we're excited and encouraged at the trajectory of Mark's career."
Prior to this deal getting done the Jets were believed to be quiet suitors in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes after the Colts released him on Wednesday. Following Peyton's release, there were reports of the Jets talking to Manning's representatives to find out how he would feel about joining the Jets.
No matter what, all of the talk surrounding Peyton Manning usually included the New York Jets, which I'm sure Mark Sanchez did not find very pleasant. The fact of the matter is though, Sanchez was rather inconsistent in 2011, throwing 18 interceptions alongside his 26 touchdowns.
Peyton Manning is a future Hall of Famer, and with the team the Jets have, why would they not try to rent one of the game's best quarterbacks as they try to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl? By the looks of it, Sanchez has lost a bit of confidence following the season and during the last few weeks with all of the Peyton Manning talks. But the Jets showed their faith in Sanchez with the recent news.
As for what this does for the Jets in the coming weeks prior to the draft and free-agency season, it was not the right move. It is understandable that the Jets wanted to show Sanchez that they believe in him and make sure that he is confident going into this season. But it is coming at a price. While the monetary details of the contract have yet to be released, it is likely that the Jets are taking a nice cap hit with the extension, which will prevent them from making big moves when free agency starts.
Having Sanchez for another three years also does not help mend any of the Jets' current problems. The first of which is two positions that desperately need upgrades—right tackle and free safety. Right tackle Wayne Hunter had a horrible first season as a starter in 2011 and consistently put his quarterback in danger, while Eric Smith did a horrible job of doing his job (i.e. covering tight ends) this season.
It seems that these issues will not be addressed during free agency, as Hunter's 2012 salary became guaranteed last month, and it would make no sense to cut him. Meanwhile, one of the most talked-about prospects in relation to the Jets is safety Mark Barron, who the Jets might use their first round pick on in April.
All in all, do not expect anything exciting from the Jets in the free-agent market. Their current cap space will not allow them to acquire some of the big-name players, and some of that remaining cap space will go to their biggest concern at the moment: locking up defensive tackle Sione Pouha long term, as he has been a very crucial piece of the Jets defense over the last few years.
Update, via NFL.com: "The extension is for $40.5 million, averaging $13.5 million per year, NFL Network Insider Jason La Canfora reported."