Mark Sanchez's release may have been met with a casual shrug from most Jets fans, but the man formerly known as Sanchize still wanted to honor those who cared on the way out.
Taking to his WhoSay account, Sanchez thanked fans, teammates and the Jets organization for his five-season run in green and white:
Sanchez, 27, was released by the Jets on Friday as they made room on the roster to sign quarterback Michael Vick. The decision was largely financial, with Sanchez's exit opening up more than $8 million in cap space for prospective free agents. Rich Cimini of ESPN reported Vick was signing a one-year, $5 million deal in New York, making the net savings more than $3 million—while arguably improving the backup quarterback spot.
Sanchez started 62 games over the first four years of his career, leading the Jets to AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009 and 2010. However, his lack of development as a passer led to widespread dissatisfaction. His at times poor decision-making and inaccuracy, traits easily tossed aside when he was a young passer, instead became excuses for why the Jets couldn't take the next step forward.
It all came to a head in 2012, an all-around disastrous campaign. With the looming distraction of Tim Tebow playing in his mind, Sanchez regressed to rookie-year form. His touchdown total cut in half from 26 to 13 while continuing at the same high interception rate. Though mostly backed from an organizational standpoint, the Jets' decision to draft Geno Smith in the second round in 2013 was essentially the beginning of the end.
Sanchez battled Smith in camp, but a shoulder injury ended his season before it began. As Smith became entrenched as the starter, Sanchez was eventually placed on season-ending injured reserve without throwing a pass. His time in New York ended with 12,092 yards and 68 touchdowns against 69 interceptions.
Smith played in all 16 games as a rookie, throwing for 3,046 yards and 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. Largely disappointing in his own right, Smith's struggles could lead to the Jets eventually turning to Vick, who lost his starting job in Philadelphia to Nick Foles last season.
As for Sanchez, it's unlikely he'll have to wait long to find work. USA Today's Jim Corbett spoke with Rams head coach Jeff Fisher this week, who indicated he had interest in signing Sanchez to back up Sam Bradford. The St. Louis signal-caller has become embattled in his own right, with injuries piling up at the wrong times and inconsistent performances leaving a state of inertia over the franchise.
It's possible St. Louis is Sanchez's best opportunity to land an eventual starting gig. Bradford himself is due a hefty salary in 2014, and though Fisher is unlikely to make a move at this point, Sanchez could make it an interesting competition. Former teammate Bart Scott spoke with Kristian Dyer of Metro this month and said he thinks Sanchez could help a team outside New York:
It doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him. Remember Steve Young? Quarterbacks can play another 12 years in this league,” Scott said. “The story isn’t completed yet; the book isn’t even half-written yet. Hopefully he goes to a place where he has some weapons with great coaches, great coordinators and help continue to develop him. I don’t think it is over for Mark. It just may not be New York for him right now.
At the very least, Sanchez should be able to keep cashing checks as a backup. Coaches have an increasing predilection toward favoring experienced backups, as they act as a kind of comfort blanket in the event of an injury. Sanchez's performance throughout his career hasn't been promising as a starter, but there have been far worse quarterbacks than he who kept stable jobs.
With the white-hot New York spotlight off him, though, Sanchez may have something left in the tank yet.
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