There’s a thing in the NFL called “quarterback purgatory.” It’s when a team has a mediocre quarterback – not a franchise one – but can’t feasibly afford to spend a high draft pick to take one. The Buffalo Bills were in that spot for years, and the Miami Dolphins appear to be headed in that direction with Ryan Tannehill.
The New York Jets, who reportedly benched Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of Geno Smith on Wednesday, are also in that group. Only, they’re in a far worse position than the Dolphins, and just about every other team for that matter. Heck, even the Cleveland Browns have a more promising future than the Jets, and it’s not just because of New York’s mess at quarterback.
As bad as the 1-5 Jets have been this season — summed up by their 28-3 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday — it’s only going to get worse. Fitzpatrick and his $12.2 million contract have been a complete disaster this season, and he certainly won’t be back in 2017. Smith, who’s probably not even deserving of a starting job in the NFL, will also be a free agent after this season.
Where does that leave the Jets? With Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg as the lone quarterbacks signed through next season.
Hackenberg wasn’t even good enough to see more than limited action in the preseason, sitting out the first two games. When he did play, he completed 36 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 35.7, averaging 3.4 yards per attempt. Petty hasn’t been any better, either, despite having nearly two years to learn the Jets’ system. Are either of them suitable starters for next season? At the moment, the arrow is pointing towards ‘no’.
In no way do they have a good situation at quarterback for 2017, but the rest of the roster is also a serious concern. Just this season, they’ve showed glimpses of issues they’ll face next season.
Darrelle Revis is 31 years old and has seen his play fall off a cliff this season. Brandon Marshall is 32 years old and not getting any younger. Eric Decker is facing the possibility that he’ll miss significant time next season after undergoing hip surgery. Matt Forte will be 31 in just a few months and is averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry this season. Do the Jets really expect him to get better next season after carrying it 250-plus times in 2016? No way.
Sure, every roster gets older with time, but the Jets are trending in the wrong direction and don’t have many promising young players presently on the roster. Nick Mangold will turn 33 in January, while the always-durable David Harris will do the same eight days later.
The Jets don’t have to replace all of these aging players, but they’d be foolish to expect them to produce the way they have in recent years. Revis isn’t the shutdown player he once was and is burned consistently, Marshall has 27 receptions in six games (had 30 through four games last season), Forte is having the worst season of his career, and Harris missed his first start in 121 games. Not one of those players has put up similar numbers to the ones they had at this point last season.
New York could conceivably cut Revis before next season if it is content with eating $8 million in dead money. If not, he’ll be owed more than $15 million in 2017. Forte also carries a cap hit of $5 million, with $6 million in dead money if he’s released. And while they wouldn’t be penalized for severing ties with Marshall, who would be their go-to receiver next season? Decker can’t be counted on, and Quincy Enunwa isn’t exactly a No. 1 threat.
The Jets will have several issues to address in the offseason, mostly regarding their aging veterans, but one situation needs serious fixing: the quarterback position.
Rather than signing someone like Brian Hoyer or even Chase Daniel, the Jets waited around for Fitzpatrick and dished out $12.2 million to sign him. Hoyer, on the other hand, signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Bears. He now has four straight 300-yard games and has thrown six touchdowns and 11 fewer interceptions than Fitzpatrick (aka zero).
Rather than drafting someone like Cody Kessler, Jacoby Brissett or Dak Prescott this season, the Jets jumped on Hackenberg, who is far behind all three of those quarterbacks on the developmental side. Now that they’ve spent two top-four picks on quarterbacks the past two years, do they bite the bullet and draft another one in 2017?
Depending on how Petty and Hackenberg progress (or don’t progress), they might need to – especially if they’re sitting there with a selection in the top 10. By doing so, the Jets would be forced to ignore other positions of need like cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver and running back.
Smith is certainly not the long-term option at quarterback, so playing him right now won’t help much. Instead, the Jets would be wise to give Petty or Hackenberg a shot – as unprepared as they are – to see what the future holds. Who knows, maybe they come in and light it up the way Prescott has. It’s not likely, but it would help solve the quarterback position slightly.
Few teams are in worse situations than the aging Jets. And as bad as they’ve been this season, it’s not going to get any better. Tanking for a high draft pick is ethically wrong, but the Jets would benefit from a top-10 selection in the upcoming draft – even if they don’t use it on a quarterback.