Ryan Fitzpatrick is officially no longer a Jet. His contract was scheduled to expire five days after the Super Bowl, and it’s likely he’ll never don a Jets uniform again.
So it’s a perfect time to round up the veteran quarterback names being floated as potential targets or fits for New York in 2017. Here are the five big ones, listed from the least viable fit to the best. We’ve taken into consideration everything from how difficult it would be to acquire each quarterback (availability, dollar amounts), to age, to whether it makes sense for the player as well as the team.
5. Jay Cutler: D
ESPN’s Rich Cimini says “From what I hear, [the Jets] won’t be suitors for Cutler.” Not only do the Jets have Brandon Marshall, Cutler’s former teammate, but they also hired Jeremy Bates to coach quarterbacks. Bates coached Cutler from 2006-08 in Denver and again in 2012 with Chicago. And yet, New York is reported to be uninterested in the vet. I find that really telling about people’s (including Bates’s) private opinions of Cutler.
Why should the Jets bother pursuing Cutler, anyway? He’s 33 going on 34, he’s injury-prone and if a team were to organize a trade with Chicago, that team would be inheriting a ridiculously expensive contract. Even if the Bears cut Cutler, he’s simply a below-average quarterback who isn’t about to get much better. From 2012-2016, he averaged a QBR of 54.5 and threw 60 interceptions in 61 games. In other words, Cutler hasn’t been “2016 Fitzpatrick” awful, but consistently poor. I’d rather not.
4. Tony Romo: C
Tony Romo is older than Jay Cutler (36 going on 37) and similarly injury-prone. But, when he was playing more consistently before his 2015 collarbone and shoulder injuries, he was a better QB than Cutler, throwing for more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions almost every year. For that reason alone, he gets a higher rating here than Cutler. But two issues get in the way.
One is money. Jerry Jones is going to find a way to trade Romo, rather than cut him. This is Jerry Jones, after all, and Romo will attract plenty of suitors. So consider Romo’s cap numbers for the next three seasons: $24.7 million, $25.2 million and $23.7 million, according to overthecap.com. Even with some contract surgery, New York would be paying an old man a lot of money just to be a band-aid and a mentor to Christian Hackenberg.
And that’s the second thing. Whether it’s Cutler or Romo, the Jets should not be going after a big-name temporary fix. They’re no longer in win-now mode. Signing or trading for Romo is a move that says, “We’re just a quarterback away from contending again,” when 2016 showed us the reality of the situation; Money needs to be allocated to a couple of sore spots, instead.
3. Colin Kaepernick: B
This was the hardest rating to settle on. Let’s start with what we know: Before the Super Bowl, a source told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter that Kaepernick would opt out of his San Francisco contract and take a swim in the free agency waters. More recently, Kaepernick asked to meet with the 49ers’ new head coach, Kyle Shanahan, and general manager, John Lynch. It’s pretty hard to predict this guy, and he might be having second thoughts depending on what he hears from the Niners’ new management.
Something else we can say pretty certainly: Kaepernick would be the most talented quarterback on the Jets’ roster if he joined Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. And he’s familiar with the Jets’ new offensive coordinator, John Morton, who coached wide receivers in San Fran for two years when Kaep was the starter. (Note that this is different than Morton actually coaching Kaepernick or his position directly. But there’s a familiarity there.)
But I can think of just as many cons to even out the list of pros. He’s volatile on and off the field. The New York media would be all over him, all the time, for his political statements as much as his interceptions. Though he looked a bit revitalized after sitting behind Blaine Gabbert for much of 2016 before getting a second chance, he’s really fallen off statistically speaking since the Niners’ Super Bowl run four years ago, and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever play that well again.
2. Mike Glennon: B+
Meanwhile, look at this goofy-faced Texan and tell me you wouldn’t want to see him talking to the New York media. The Buccaneers’ former third-round pick played decently as the starting quarterback for a very bad team back in 2013, but Tampa Bay belongs to Jameis Winston now. Glennon’s rookie contract is up, and while Tampa might want to keep him around as a backup, he’s sure to attract attention from quarterback-needy teams.
One of those teams is the Jets, according to reports from January. Cimini also wrote this week that he thinks Glennon is higher on the Jets’ wish list than someone like Cutler. He hasn’t had practically any starting experience the past couple seasons, which makes him kind of a wild card, but he should benefit the Jets by keeping his ultimate price tag far from the Osweiler Stratosphere. This would be one of the better choices the Jets could make when restructuring their stable of quarterbacks, but only at an affordable price.
1. Tyrod Taylor: A-
This is probably the most intriguing possibility. Taylor is under contract, but all reports have indicated the Buffalo Bills are ready to move on from him. I’m not sure why. Yes, he was supported by one of the league’s best rushing attacks, but Taylor won 15 of his 29 starts in two years in Buffalo in spite of Rex Ryan’s dysfunctional regime and disappointing defense. More importantly, he threw only six interceptions in each of those seasons. Among QBs with a minimum 400 pass attempts, only Tom Brady, Dak Prescott and Sam Bradford can claim to have done better in 2016. Jets fans are probably salivating at the concept of having a quarterback who is turnover adverse for a change.
Now add to the mix that Taylor knows the AFC East pretty well – he was one of only two quarterbacks to beat the Super Bowl champion Patriots’ defense this year – and that he probably isn’t happy with Buffalo. Nobody likes such frequent regime change, or worse, feeling unwanted and underrated when you’ve put up pretty respectable production given the circumstances.
Like others on this list, Taylor may be traded or he may be cut. Once the first of these dominoes falls, we’ll get a better idea of what the quarterback carousel will look like this offseason and which pony the Jets plan to take for a ride.