Less than four years after the Jets made a franchise-changing decision to move up in the draft for Mark Sanchez, they will attempt to trade the struggling quarterback after the season.
One day after Rex Ryan benched Sanchez for third-stringer Greg McElroy for Sunday’s game against the Chargers, the Daily News has learned that the Jets will explore trading the player that they once believed would be their franchise quarterback.
It’s a stunning reality for a team that enjoyed the success of back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in Sanchez’s first two seasons. The Jets’ decision to look for trading partners doesn’t eliminate the possibility that he could be back in 2013 and still compete for the starting job.
In order for the Jets to pull off a deal, they would almost certainly have to absorb the bulk of Sanchez’s guaranteed $8.25 million base salary for 2013. The likely out-of-pocket ceiling for potential suitors would be $3 million.
The Jets’ need to replace Sanchez with a veteran signal caller could lead them to another player who has fallen on hard times recently.
The News has learned that Michael Vick, who is expected to be released by the Eagles shortly after the season, would be amenable to coming to the Jets if Sanchez is out of the equation.
“Bring it on,” one Jets source said about signing Vick if he becomes available. “He was hit too many times (behind a subpar offensive line) the last two years.”
Rex Ryan may be the X-Factor to land Vick, according to sources. Ryan has always had an affinity for Vick, who could potentially help save the coach from getting his walking papers after the 2013 season.
“(Ryan) loves him,” a team official said.
The Jets’ solid offensive line and defense also make them an attractive option for Vick, who lost his starting job after suffering a concussion this season.
No matter which quarterback the Jets bring in to either replace or compete with Sanchez (if he’s not traded), Ryan will place special emphasis on ball security. Sanchez has a league-high 50 turnovers in the last 30 games.
“Our big thing is turning the football over,” Ryan said on Wednesday. “If you can point at one thing that we have to do better as a football team, and Mark has to do as a quarterback, that’s the thing I would look at: We have to protect the football. File that in the ‘No Kidding’ deal, but that’s the truth.”
Sanchez’s career arc has been unusual, to say the least. Expectations sky-rocketed after he won four road playoff games over his first two seasons. He had a 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in six playoff games, tantalizing the franchise for what could lie ahead.
“Mark’s won games in this league. It’s not like he hasn’t,” Ryan said. “It’s hard to win playoff games in this league, and he’s got four of them all on the road. Wins against Peyton Manning on the road. Wins against Tom Brady. It’s not like he doesn’t have the tools to do it. That’s why we did take him with the fifth overall pick.”
Ryan praised Sanchez for having “the athleticism to be a tremendous quarterback,” but his penchant for giving up the ball was the breaking point for the coach. Sanchez revealed on Wednesday that Ryan relayed the news of his benching in the post-game locker room after his five-turnover performance in a 14-10 loss to the Titans on Monday.
“It’s not like a debate,” Sanchez said. “He’s the head man and he makes the decisions.”
Sanchez took scout-team reps in practice for the first time in his career Wednesday as McElroy prepared for his first career start. He didn’t speculate about his future with the team or address whether he felt hampered by lack of offensive weapons this season.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” Sanchez said. “At the end of the day, no matter what kind of situation that you’re in, the quarterback has the ball and it’s my job to make good decisions with the football regardless of personnel situation. I’m not going to go there. Is every interception the quarterback’s fault? Of course not. But they’re attributed to the quarterback. It goes as my stat. You live with that. You own up to your side of the mistakes and you move on.”
It was probably a surreal day for Sanchez, but he reiterated that his primary focus was to help McElroy prepare for his big moment.
“It’s different than what I expected in August,” Sanchez said. “But it’ll somehow work out. Make me better. Make me stronger.”
Even if it is not with the Jets.