New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, putting his future with the team in doubt. Now that he's out for the year and rookie Geno Smith has taken the reins in New York, the focus has shifted to Sanchez's 2014 season and where he will be playing football.
According to Kristian Dyer of USA Today, the Jets are expected to release Sanchez at the end of the season or possibly even sooner.
Head coach Rex Ryan commented on Sanchez’s status with the team past this season, via Dyer:
I don't want to get into that. I think he's going to come back 100 percent, that seems to be how the doctors feel. And I know for a fact that this organization will do everything in its power to see that that's a possibility, that he can come back and be 100 percent. Whether he is here or whatever, our thing is on doing what's best for Mark, and that's to get him healthy.
Smith had a rough start to his NFL career (eight interceptions in four games), but the talented dual-threat quarterback has shown great potential. After throwing for three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the team’s upset victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, it’s clear that the franchise believes it has its new offensive linchpin.
Whether the organization will admit it or not, drafting Smith was the clear signal that Sanchez’s days were numbered. The former fifth-overall pick threw for just 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2012, and it became obvious that he was not the leader of the franchise.
Sanchez has shown talent at times with the Jets, so if they do cut ties with him, he will likely have little trouble fielding job offers as a backup in another city and challenge for a starting job.
In addition to flashing talent at times, Sanchez also has postseason experience and he has gone through several chapters of controversy with the Jets. His play may have suffered, but overall the QB handled himself with class throughout his tenure in New York—especially the way he's handled his most recent injury after the team left him out to dry behind backups in the preseason.
That kind of character can be appealing to an NFL team looking for depth and leadership.
Not only would Sanchez be a viable midseason signing for a team devastated by an injury to a starting quarterback next season, but there is also no doubt that he will receive camp invites this offseason if his shoulder is healthy enough.
If players like Thad Lewis in Buffalo and Brandon Weeden in Cleveland can start in the NFL, there is a place for Sanchez to at least contend for a job. At worst, Sanchez will find a playoff-contending team looking for a viable backup.
There is a lot that could happen over the course of a season, but if a coach like Kansas City’s Andy Reid or New England’s Bill Belichick sees a glimmer of hope for Sanchez's future, his career could be far from over.
Maybe all he needs is a change of scenery.