Common wisdom has it that Mark Sanchez's job is safe, if for no other reason than his outsized contract. With a salary cap figure for 2013 of $12.85 Million, and an additional dead money hit of $4.3 Million if he is cut or traded, it would appear Mark is destined to be a NY Jet in 2013. However, that may not be entirely inevitable.
Certainly if Sanchez is the starter he will not be cut. As the starter he provides at least some (dubious) value in exchange for his outsized paycheck, and in that case Woody Johnson is likely to be reluctant to pay him just to be rid of his presence.
But what if he is #2 on the QB depth chart, presumably beaten out by David Garrard? Well, I would venture to guess that in that case Mark would still be perceived to be delivering some (dubious) value in exchange for his king's ransom. The #2 QB is active every Sunday and is one injury away from being the starter. Given Garrard's age and recent inactivity, Sanchez has a decent chance as the #2 QB to eventually be required to take the reins. This would in all likelihood provide the Jets with more than enough reason not to take the massive cap hit cutting him would entail.
That brings us to the #3 spot. It is difficult to imagine McElroy, Tebow or Simms beating Sanchez out for the #2 QB spot, so Mark's job is safe, right? Not so fast. The offseason is still young. The Jets might yet bring in another veteran QB like Jason Campbell or Kevin Kolb, who would likely beat out Sanchez, and maybe beat out Garrard as well, on the depth chart. There is also the distinct possibility that the Jets draft a QB in 2013. Should either or both of these events occur, it is at least a reasonable possibility that Mark Sanchez would be done with his Jets career. If Mark is beat out by 2 or more QBs, and he winds up #3 or #4 on the depth chart, the Jets calculus changes considerably. The #3 QB very rarely sees even a single snap in the NFL. Sure, it's possible both the top 2 QBs go down with injury, or suck so bad that even Mark looks like a sure upgrade, but it is not likely. In fact, it is entirely possible that if Sanchez is #3 on the depth chart, the Jets front office might view him as providing essentially zero value. In that case, and given the unlikely but not impossible potential for a locker room rift if players want Mark to start, it is at least conceivable that the Jets bite the bullet and cut Mark prior to Game 1 of the regular season.
Now, several things have to break just right for this to happen. First and foremost, the Jets cannot trade Revis prior to June 1. Doing so would take up most of the Jets remaining usable cap space, leaving too little room to absorb the additional $4.3 Million hit cutting Mark would entail. Second, the Jets would have to avoid signing Revis to an extension prior to June 1, as that too would likely take up too much 2013 cap space to allow the Jets to also cut Sanchez. Third, the Jets would have to limit free agent signings to no more than about $4 million 2013 cap space between now and Game 1, including pickups of other teams' last minute cuts. If we sign more than another $4 Million or so, then cutting Sanchez becomes problematic under the cap. Fourth, there has to be a genuine QB competition, as opposed to a sham meant to give the appearance of competition while all but insuring Mark wins the job. It is too early to tell for sure, but there seems to be a genuine change in approach happening in Jetsland, giving me at least some optimism that the QB competition will be genuine, open and fair. Fifth, at least 2 QBs have to actually be better than Sanchez, which likely requires the Jets to either draft a QB or sign Jason Campbell or Kevin Kolb.
It's alot to all click into place. In all probability it won't happen. However, if everything breaks just right, the Jets have the cap space to do it, and the QBs to beat out Sanchez, there is a real possibility Mark does not break camp with the Jets. If the Jets perceive him to provide little or no value, and if they are basically committed to cutting him no later than 2014, then cutting him this year, if there are multiple better options in camp, begins to make alot of sense. No more cloud of the buttfumble to deal with. No possibility of a locker room split over the QB starter. A chance to show every Jet that EVERY job is in fact open to real competition and up for grabs. And the possibility of clearing that additional $4.3 Million off the books for the 2014 season, opening up even more cap space for when the Jets will be in a position to make a run at a playoff spot. The Jets will take that monstrous $17 Million cap hit with Sanchez regardless of whether they cut him in 2013 or 2014. The only issue is the timing of the $4.3 Million. If the stars align, Mark Sanchez just might enter the 2013 season a very rich man... on the unemployment line. In the unlikely event that happens, all I would say is, it's
abutt about time.