Put simply, they can’t.
Yet until Zach Wilson proves otherwise, the Jets would be misguided to continue starting him. The Jets once again won the offseason and looked poised to disappoint during the regular season. While Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh have tirelessly worked to move on, the tired narrative of “same ol’ Jets” is back in full force.
There are several quarterbacks available. For the most part, no one looks like a surefire bet to outperform Zach Wilson. That being said, having some kind of contingency plan, whether that be a veteran, a running quarterback, or someone else, will at least push Wilson weekly.
The Retirees and Free Agent Vets
Forget about Tom Brady; that’s just not happening. Neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Phillip Rivers played in the NFL last year. They’d both have to get into game shape, learn a new playbook, and familiarize themselves with a new team. While these moves may seem like a solid bet on paper, they are more of a gamble. That being said, this is the most intriguing avenue for the Jets.
Matt Ryan and Colt McCoy both played last year and are probably more NFL-ready than the former two vets. Still, readiness is not as much of a problem as performance. Matt Ryan was horrible for the Colts last year and was not considered for any starting job this offseason. On the other hand, Colt McCoy has been surprisingly mediocre the past two seasons under Kliff Kingsbury and had been in training camp this preseason, making him the most ready to play.
Carson Wentz is the most mercurial option available. Similar to Wilson, he went No. 2 overall and has all the tools to succeed. Yet injuries and poor decision-making have hindered Wentz’s ability to progress, and he’s now out of the league at just 30 years old.
There are seemingly quite a few solid backup quarterbacks around the NFL the Jets may look to target. Yet, most teams that need to pursue a serious backup would probably like to hang onto them, whether that’s the Ravens with Tyler Huntley, who provides an excellent insurance policy for oft-injured superstar Lamar Jackson, or Jacoby Brissett for the Commanders backing up unproven Sam Howell. In such cases, the asking price for these kinds of quarterbacks may be too high for the Jets to consider.
Such quarterbacks as Marcus Mariota on the Eagles, Gardner Minshew on the Colts, and Taylor Heinicke on the Falcons are all too important to their teams, backing up either running or young quarterbacks, to be considered serious trade candidates. Someone like Cooper Rush could be more affordable after the Cowboys acquired Trey Lance and have seen Dak Prescott come into his own.
Kyle Trask is another interesting name to consider. Drafted in the second round just a couple of years ago, Trask was seen as a solid developmental prospect who could back up Brady, learn, and grow. Yet, Bruce Arians retired, Brady retired, and Todd Bowles brought in a new offensive coordinator to run a different scheme. And after helping Geno Smith become a top-12 quarterback last year, Dave Canales seems to be doing the same for Baker Mayfield. This has led to Kyle Trask becoming a complete afterthought and a great buy-low candidate. Just look at his numbers or tape from his senior year to see what he is capable of in the right system.
Similar to Trask, Mitchell Trubisky and Davis Mills seem to have been phased out of their team’s plans for the present and future and could, therefore, be available as well. Like Trask, Trubisky and Mills could be successful in the right system in the NFL, yet have never had much success to date.
Finally, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater are both No. 3 quarterbacks on their teams and could be the easiest trade targets for the Jets. These guys would be veterans for the sake of having a veteran and are unlikely to be more than backups. Another option is Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a Browns fifth-round rookie for whom I had assigned and a fourth-round grade on him. I think he’s better than Malik Willis, and I’m curious how much the Browns would ask for in return.
Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson most probably will not be Jets. Wilson was unhappy and performed poorly in Nathaniel Hackett’s scheme last season and would be a subpar fit for the Jets. That said, he may be made available around the deadline if the Broncos are underperforming and Sean Payton decides he can do better with a different quarterback. Kyler Murray is more likely to be moved at any point between now and next season. He has fallen out of favor with the new regime in Arizona and sorely needs a fresh start.
The problem with Murray is that he isn’t healthy and may not be available until much later this season, which doesn’t help the Jets. Considering his contract length, what the Jets would give up for him, and Rodgers returning next season, this seems highly unlikely. That being said, Murray’s personality and play style may be exactly what the Jets need.
All things considered, the Jets will be hard-pressed to find a decent upgrade on the current market. While there are several decent candidates, they may not be good enough to warrant moving significant draft capital for them. Bringing in a veteran with name recognition may be more of a distraction than anything else, and finding another young quarterback may be too hard to swing this early in the season.
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