Mark Sanchez may have secured his job as the Jets starting quarterback for one more week, but based on his performance over the past two seasons, the Jets would hardly mind upgrading the most important position on the field.
Sanchez’s failures in New York are not strictly based on the team’s success or even his performance this season alone, which warranted the first benching of his career. What is most troubling about Sanchez is that he is still making the same mistakes he did as a rookie.
Yes, Rex Ryan chose to go back to Sanchez last week, and it resulted in their second straight win over the Jaguars, but they did it with a minimal effort from their quarterback. Their go-ahead scoring drive was manufactured by seven runs out of nine plays.
When Sanchez was a rookie, the Jets used a color-coded traffic light system to tell Sanchez how often he should be taking risks. The “red” plays were to be done with extreme caution, with ball security of the utmost importance. Four years later, Rex mentioned during last week that he was going to keep Sanchez in the “red.”
Even if Sanchez finds a way to rebound over the next few weeks and the Jets get back to a .500 or above record, they will want to explore every available options they have, including trading him.
The Bloated Contract
Last March, Sanchez was curiously given an extension (which is perceived to be an apology for the team’s brief flirtation with Peyton Manning) in which he is due $8.25 million in guarantees next season.
More importantly, there is language in the contract that says that the Jets owe Sanchez that money no matter what. If Sanchez is released and signs with another team next season, the Jets still owe him that money, and Sanchez can do the proverbial “double dip.”
When Mike Tannenbaum made the deal, he probably figured that it would be a safe bet that the player he took fifth overall would be the team’s starter for at least two more seasons. Plus, the move created over $6 million in much-needed cap space. But a season filled with injuries to his supporting cast have led to a serious regression in Sanchez, to the point where the Jets would be foolish not to at least explore other options at the position.
Paying a player such an extraordinary amount of money to not play is a very fireable offense for a GM, leaving Mike Tannenbaum with two choices (assuming he remains employed next offseason): He can continue to build the team around Sanchez, a player with whom he has won in the past (the most likely scenario), or he can explore trade options to rid the team of the contract.
What Is His Value?
In short, Sanchez has no real trade value. It would be hard enough to get another team to take him on for free, nevermind getting a team to give up additional resources for the right to overpay him.
If Sanchez's contract is somehow worked out to the point where it is manageable, the Jets would be able to get some quality resources for him.
In 2010, the Broncos gave up two late-round picks and Peyton Hillis for Brady Quinn. Sanchez is not a good quarterback, but he's a heck of a lot better than Brady Quinn ever was, especially at that point in Quinn's career. Sanchez, a higher draft pick than Quinn, has won four road playoff games, and the Jets have proven that he can be a winning player.
However, Sanchez's stock is clearly trending down from his last playoff appearance. If a team wants him to be a starter or at least compete for a job, he could draw as early as a third-round pick. A team looking to boost its quarterback depth would only be interested in parting with a few late-round conditional picks.
But again, this is all assuming that his contract can be worked out.
Finding a Team
To be frank, there are few teams that are waiting in line to pay $8 million for Mark Sanchez to be their quarterback next year. $8 million is starter money, but Sanchez has hardly played like an NFL starter this season and appears to have reached his potential after nearly four years in the NFL.
If the Jets are going to trade him, Sanchez would have to be willing to take a pay cut or waive the guarantee to go to another team. It is also in the realm of possibility that the Jets work out a deal with the other team to split the contract in some way, just like the Jets did with Tebow’s guarantees with the Broncos.
For Sanchez to be willing to forgo that kind of money, he would have to have a chance at a starting job elsewhere and the Jets would already have made a firm decision to move on without him. Losing a potential $8 million is a huge risk, but if Sanchez has a chance to make more money as a starter elsewhere, it could be worth his while.
As of now, there are still not many teams that would be so willing to take a chance on Sanchez, even without his contractual baggage. Here are some of the top candidates to possibly be interested in Mark’s services, assuming they find a way to make his contract manageable:
Buffalo Bills: Very low chance the Bills would want to do business with a division rival. Plus, what kind of message would it send to ship off Sanchez to a team the Jets play twice a year?
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs will be picking very high in a weak quarterback class and will look at every available option. They could possibly bring Sanchez in to at least compete with a rookie.
Arizona Cardinals: Sanchez may be trash to the average Jets fan, but he is treasure to Arizonians after what they have gone through this year.
Minnesota Vikings: Some competition for the struggling Christian Ponder.
In short, it is a virtual certainty that Sanchez will not be traded next offseason.
There is almost no way Sanchez would consider conceding $8 million, even if it meant a chance at another starting gig. Eight million bucks is eight million bucks.
Sanchez has some ability as a former top-five pick in 2009, but the year-to-year growth simply has not been there. Based on his inability to develop as a player, few teams will look at him as a worthwhile investment and a player with whom they can win for a long time.
If Sanchez’s contract was manageable, the Jets would have no difficulty dealing him to another team to perhaps compete for a starting job. At his worst, Sanchez is the best backup quarterback in football. After all, if Brady Quinn can stay in the NFL as long as he has, Sanchez can do this for another 10 years.
Unfortunately for Jets fans looking for immediate change, they will likely have to endure another season of Sanchez next year.