The New York Jets signed quarterback Geno Smith, their second-round draft pick, on Monday to a four-year contract that is worth about $5 million.
Smith, drafted 39th overall after an unexpected slide out of the first round in April, is competing with incumbent Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback job. The signing was announced by the team, which still has its two first-round picks — cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson — unsigned.
The Jets’ veteran players report for training camp in Cortland, N.Y., on Thursday, but rookies were reporting Monday at the team’s facility in Florham Park, N.J.
Smith and Sanchez are competing in what has been called by team officials an "open competition," and neither noticeably outperformed the other in minicamp last month. But both appear to be confident about their chances.
Sanchez, at his recent annual "Jets West" camp in Southern California, said he "absolutely" expects to remain the Jets’ starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Smith — who raised some eyebrows when he chose to not attend Sanchez’s camp but said the quarterbacks are "cool" — told the Charleston Gazette over the weekend that feels "like I have a great shot" at winning the job.
The competition could go deep into camp as both quarterbacks try to show they have picked up and mastered offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast-style system.
It has been a somewhat tumultuous offseason for Smith, who set a slew of records at West Virginia and established himself as one of college football’s most exciting players. He was projected as a possible top-10 pick in the draft, but questions by some about his overall abilities and commitment caused him to slide in the draft. Smith was at the draft site at Radio City Music Hall, but went unselected on the first day and appeared frustrated and embarrassed at being passed over.
The Jets, wanting competition for Sanchez, jumped at the chance to bring in Smith on the draft’s second day. Smith fired his original agents shortly after the draft, and signed with hip-hop artist Jay-Z’s new Roc Nation Sports to represent him. The decision prompted the NFL Players Association to look into Jay-Z’s role in getting Smith to sign with his agency, and if the league’s "runner rule" was violated.
Agents not certified by the NFLPA can’t recruit players to sign with certified agents; Smith’s representative Kimberly Miale is certified.
Smith later caused some confusion when he responded with a "no comment" when asked if he would attend Sanchez’s camp. He later explained he hadn’t heard of "Jets West" and didn’t understand what he was being asked about. Sanchez said everyone is always invited, but Smith chose to work out on his own in Florida. While it appeared to be a possible snub to Sanchez, both insisted said there are "no hard feelings" between the two.
Smith threw for 11,662 yards — including back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons — with 98 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions in four years at West Virginia.