MOBILE, Ala. — As NFL teams begin mapping out their offseasons, most are assuming Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will be cut and become a free agent … and some are excited about it.
One coach of a quarterback-needy team said his team already has discussed Sanchez internally as an option to be its starting quarterback in 2014.
“We’d take Sanchez,” the coach said. “He’d be the starter as soon as he walked in the door for us.”
That quote may be surprising to Jets fans, who saw Sanchez turn the ball over 52 times between 2011 and 2012 before missing last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. But it’s hard to find quarterbacks in the NFL, Sanchez is just 27, has won four playoff games and threw 26 touchdown passes in 2011. Many teams view the deterioration of the Jets’ offensive roster around Sanchez as the problem that held him back.
The Jets are being tight-lipped when it comes to their plans for Sanchez, who has three years left on his contract. But he has a $13.1 million salary-cap figure for 2014 and the Jets would save $8.3 million against the cap by releasing him.
Those figures plus the Jets turning to Geno Smith last season have made many around the league expect Sanchez to hit the open market.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to think that the team would keep him,” said a team executive, who said when he evaluated rosters, he marked Sanchez down as a salary-cap casualty.
The quarterback market in free agency is very thin this year. Michael Vick, Josh McCown, Josh Freeman, Shaun Hill and Chad Henne are the top quarterbacks scheduled to hit free agency. Matt Schaub also is expected to be released by the Texans and join that group. Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr could all be quarterbacks taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The large number of teams that need a starting or backup quarterback, plus the limited options, will make Sanchez an attractive option to somebody.
“Supply and demand,” the executive said when asked why Sanchez will draw attention if he hits free agency.
Sanchez is currently rehabilitating his right shoulder in Birmingham, Ala. He had surgery in October on the shoulder after injuring it in an August preseason game. The No. 5 overall pick by the Jets in 2009 could be in his final weeks with the team. He is owed a $2 million roster bonus in March. If the Jets release him, it likely will come in February.
Jets general manager John Idzik was noncommittal when asked about Sanchez at his season-ending press conference.
“We’ll get to that in time,” he said last month. “He is a Jet. We consider all our guys Jets until we make a decision or something happens that changes that. So with Mark, I met with him yesterday as well, our focus is to get him healthy, just as it has been really the entire season and then we’ll take it from there.”