New York Jets: Breaking Down What Mark Sanchez's Contract Extension Really Means

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 10, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets throws against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

After the New York Jets' reported interest in free agent quarterback Peyton Manning was rebuffed when the four-time NFL MVP's camp informed the team that Manning was not interested in taking his talents to the same city as little brother Eli, the Jets wasted no time circling the wagons and mending fences with their starting signal-caller, agreeing to terms with Mark Sanchez on a three-year, $40.5 million contract extension, as reported by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

Gang Green signed Sanchez to a three-year extension for $40.5 million on Friday night, and he now has five years remaining on his deal for a total of $58.25 million. Sanchez, who had two years remaining on his rookie deal, will earn $20.5 million fully guaranteed over the next two seasons, according to a source.  

The deal has sent many supporters of the Jets into a frenzy after New York struggled through a 2011 season filled with more melodrama off the field than success on it, and although the fourth-year signal-caller posted the best statistical numbers of his career last year, setting personal bests in yardage, touchdowns and passer rating, frustration with the former USC standout was growing in the Big Apple amid grumblings that "The Sanchize" was more enamored with red carpet appearances and the New York night life than he was with improving under center.

However, as Pro Football Talk pointed out in a Saturday breakdown of the deal, the new contract is easily as beneficial for the Jets as it is for their temporarily jilted starting quarterback, as the team exchanged a bit more guaranteed money for the ability to more easily sever ties with Sanchez in the future if his development as a player continues to stagnate or regresses.

For an extra $2.75 million, Sanchez gave the Jets three straight option years, allowing the team to keep him if he finally realizes his full potential—and to cut him without further investment after the 2013 season, the 2014 season, or the 2015 season.

The contract also could be called a glorified restructuring. Per a source with knowledge of the details, Sanchez’s $11.75 million base salary for 2012 has been converted to an $8 million signing bonus, a fully-guaranteed base salary of $3.25 million, and a $500,000 workout bonus.

The contract was characterized by one league source as a “lipstick and powder” deal, and it places the proverbial ball squarely in Sanchez's court. If he can mature as a quarterback and lead the Jets back to the playoffs, then Sanchez will be compensated accordingly. 

However, should the quarterback and the Jets continue to struggle the team can cut bait on Sanchez after the 2013 season without suffering any ill effects salary-cap wise, and the "renextension" (or whatever you want to call it) also has the added benefit of lowering Sanchez's cap number for 2012 by over $6 million, which will afford the club added flexibility in free agency.

For his part Sanchez doesn't appear to bear the team any ill will (at least publicly) regarding the team's flirtation with Manning, and expressed his pleasure with the extension in a conference call, according to the Indianapolis Star.

I'm going to be the starting quarterback for the next few years here, and that's exciting. It gives the team just a reminder that I'm the leader of this team. To find out that I could come back for three more years means the world to me. I'm absolutely pleased to be a Jet.

The extension should also bring a smile to the face of Jets legend Joe Namath, who only a day ago expressed his belief that the team he led to it's only Super Bowl championship over 40 years ago should stay the course with Sanchez and forgo making a push for Manning, telling Sports Illustrated:

These guys—the Jets—thought Sanchez was a championship quarterback. Has that suddenly changed now? I haven’t heard that. Let them come out and say it. I haven’t heard that, and I don’t think they should. Mark’s going to be around a while. His demeanor was angry last year with all the things going on behind the scenes. His feelings were clearly hurt. I hope they work through all that because I’m rooting for him.

It appears that whether they want to Jets fans will be rooting for Mark Sanchez for at least two more seasons as well, but before they lambaste the organization for rewarding Sanchez's erratic play last season, perhaps they should take a moment to genuflect on that fact that what the New York Jets may have actually done is make it easier to dump the former fifth overall pick without suffering significant salary cap penalties if that erratic play continues.