There are several spots around the league where Sanchez could start immediately. Failing that, he will be a hot commodity as a backup.
Before we look at possible landing spots, let’s examine why I don’t think he will be with the Jets next year. Whether the Jets decide to ride with Geno Smith or draft another quarterback, they need an experienced backup. On paper, Sanchez is perfect for that role. But I just don’t see it happening. General manager John Idzik has no emotional investment in Sanchez.
Say what you want about Sanchez, but he has always been intensely loyal to the Jets. When Rex Ryan put him in late in the third preseason game so he could try to win a vanity trophy, thereby exposing him to season-ending injury, I believe something in that relationship broke. Sanchez was irate.
That was a bridge too far. The Jets unnecessarily jeopardized his career. I think that is the type of rift that can’t be smoothed over. Not that Sanchez has ever spoken publicly about it; he has been a model of class.
But the real reason he is going to be let go is money.
As Brian Costello of the New York Post reports, Sanchez’s cap cost next year is $13.9 million. If they release him, the Jets would save $8.3 million against their salary cap. If they release him before March, they can also avoid paying him a $2 million roster bonus.
This is straightforward cap management. It is going to happen.
And really, it should.
I imagine Sanchez will have some melancholy leaving the team that drafted him. Hopefully Team Sanchez has already prepared him for this eventuality. Again from the Post, anonymous sources are already laying the groundwork for that by reminding people that Sanchez didn’t have a lot to work with his last two years as a starter.
Ironically, sitting out the season might have been the best thing to rehab his image. For all the Sanchez fatigue in New York, he wasn’t the sole cause of the Jets' decline. That is going to work in his favor.
So, where will he land?
Below is my list of possible destinations where he could start. Remember, there are still a lot of moving parts including free agency, the draft and any trades that might come up, so this list could change. One other caveat: I’m assuming full health coming off of shoulder surgery. Sanchez seems to agree.
Current Depth Chart: Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor
Pros: Sanchez is an immediate upgrade over both McGloin and Pryor. If Sanchez wants to start, this is a good landing spot. The lure of starting might make negotiations for a contract very beneficial for the Raiders. It’s not hard to imagine a short term “prove it” deal with very reasonable money. Also: Going back to Cali. Sanchez is tight with his family, many of whom live in California.
Cons: This team is in rebuild mode. It has a lot of needs. In the rough AFC West, wins will be hard to come by. Still, I think this is one of the most attractive options for Sanchez.
Current Depth Chart: Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert, Ricky Stanzi, Denard Robinson
Pros: See above minus the return to California.
Cons: Another team in rebuild mode. Also, the never-ending ghost of Tim Tebow.
Current Depth Chart: Case Keenum, Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates
Pros: I bet Schaub gets moved. Texans fans have Schaub fatigue much the way New York did with Sanchez. A change of scenery will do both good.
Of the teams listed, I think this is the one that is best positioned to succeed immediately.
Cons: New head coach Bill O'Brien is the wild card here. What does he envision for his team’s offense, and would Sanchez be a good fit to run it?
Current Depth Chart: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rusty Smith, Tyler Wilson
Pros: Sanchez is better than any of those three. Pairing up with new head coach Ken Whisenhunt could be a very good match for Sanchez. Most recently, Whisenhunt did a nice job rejuvenating Philip Rivers' career in San Diego.
Cons: Same as with Houston. With a new coach, the direction of the franchise is up in the air.
If Sanchez lands at one of the above destinations, I’m sure the new team and its fans will be wondering if Sanchez is the long-term answer. You know, is he the "Sanchize"?
We don’t know. A lot depends on what pieces are around him and above all on a coaching staff that knows how to support and develop a quarterback. Sanchez’s development stalled the last couple of years. Some of that is on Sanchez. But the Jets organization bears blame too. The declining offensive talent, the Tebow circus and a revolving door at offensive coordinator meant there was little to no stability.
It’s also a pretty fair bet that these organizations could look to draft a quarterback. That doesn’t mean Sanchez wouldn't get a chance to start. It just means that he might be a bridge to the future. In spite of the current vogue for drafting a quarterback and having him immediately start, there is still some value to having a rookie quarterback spend a year holding a clipboard and learning.
The model for Sanchez going forward should be Alex Smith in Kansas City: New team, new coach, fresh start.
That worked out pretty well. There is no reason the same can’t happen for Sanchez.