It’s not over ‘til it’s over… but it’s over. Here’s what could be next for the Jets.
It’s not over ‘til it’s over… but it’s over. The Jets won’t be signing big-fish free-agent Kirk Cousins, prompting a new most important question: What is Gang Green’s Plan B at quarterback?
The news Tuesday morning that Cousins will be making his first — and let’s get real: only — free-agent visit to Minnesota Wednesday/Thursday wasn’t exactly a surprise to folks on One Jets Drive bracing for this annoying outcome, but it does create an interesting scenario for this star-crossed franchise desperately searching for a solution at the sport’s most important position. (Missing out on Cousins, who will make about $28 million/year in a three-year deal with the Vikings, will give the Jets brass plenty of financial flexibility to address other areas of need in free agency).
Grabbing a quarterback in the first round of the upcoming draft is only part of the Jets’ contingency plan. General manager Mike Maccagnan will have to supplement his signal-caller room with at least one veteran.
Josh McCown, coming off a career year in the twilight of his NFL journey, appears to be a no-brainer to return. McCown’s on-field production coupled with his invaluable intangibles (there might be no greater locker room presence in the league) should make him an important part of the equation for Gang Green in 2018. The 15-year veteran repeatedly said this offseason that he wants to return to fill whatever role is required.
Cousins plans to sign with Vikings as Jets look at other options
Plan B gets a bit more complicated though.
Would a McCown-rookie quarterback tandem suffice for Todd Bowles, who was eye witness last season to what can happen when your backup quarterback gives you no real chance to win games? The Jets, rebuilding or not, are in the win-now business. So, would this regime be comfortable throwing a rookie quarterback into the fire if the 38-year-old McCown were injured for a second consecutive season?
Enter Teddy Bridgewater, who would provide a low-risk, high-reward dimension for Gang Green. He has the oddest of resumes: 29 career starts yet none in the past two seasons. Bridgewater’s career-threatening knee injury (torn ACL and dislocation) suffered before the 2016 season makes him the greatest unknown in this quarterback free-agent class. He’s young (25) with a pedigree (first-round pick, 17-12 as a starter, one playoff appearance), but would he make sense for the Jets?
On the surface, a McCown/hot-shot rookie pairing or Bridgewater/hot-shot rookie pairing would be a fine plan for Maccagnan & Co. But would a McCown/Bridgewater/hot-shot rookie trio be counterproductive? Or should Maccagnan throw as many darts at the signal caller wall to see who sticks?
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Think about it: If the Jets sign McCown and Bridgewater in the coming days, one thing is certain: Maccagnan’s former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg is a goner. The Jets are drafting a quarterback in the first round in a couple months… and they’re not carrying four signal callers.
Would a first-round rookie quarterback’s development be stunted with McCown and Bridgewater in the room? As we learned last summer, there simply aren’t enough reps to go around for three guys in training camp. The Jets could replicate their plan from a year ago when McCown essentially went on vacation during the preseason to give work to the other two quarterbacks, but this feels like overkill.
Bridgewater is such an intriguing option for the Jets. Maccagnan and Bowles would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t give him a fair chance to win the starting job. It’s unusual to see such a young quarterback (with 32 total touchdowns, only 12 INTs and a 64.9 completion rate, by the way) hit the market. There’s obvious risk attached to him, but he would undoubtedly come at a relatively affordable price.
Sandwiching him in a room with McCown and the presumptive future franchise quarterback doesn’t seem ideal. Pairing him with just a rookie, however, is a different story altogether.
Why Jets fans can’t lose… even if Gang Green doesn’t get Cousins
The rest of the free-agent pool isn’t particularly attractive. With Sam Bradford reportedly heading to the Cardinals, could A. J. McCarron be the elixir for Gang Green? How about good ol’ Mike Glennon? It’s slim pickings.
The smartest Plan B is to pair Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen/Josh Allen/Baker Mayfield with McCown or Bridgewater. The Jets might not take any chances and acquire both veteran free agents.
Maybe the more, the merrier approach will work.