Jets second-year quarterback Zach Wilson suffered a bone bruise and a meniscus tear during Friday night’s preseason win over the Eagles. He is expected to miss 2 to 4 weeks with the injury, which puts his status in jeopardy for the season opener.
Hopefully, this will truly be a short-term injury and we will all get a chance to see how much Wilson has developed from his rookie season to now. However, the Jets expected Mekhi Becton to only miss 6 to 8 weeks last season and he never played again. The need for a replacement seems less dire if Wilson is able to return early in the regular season, but it is possible the Jets would be in the market for a new quarterback. The other quarterbacks on the roster at the moment are Joe Flacco, Mike White and Chris Streveler.
It is important to note that head coach Robert Saleh is a fan of Flacco’s. He heaped praise on the former Super Bowl MVP not even two weeks ago, calling him a starting-caliber quarterback. It would not be a shock to see New York ride it out with Flacco while looking to add a third quarterback to the room for depth, but the Jets really hoped to take a step forward in Saleh’s second season. Keep in mind that Flacco is 0-5 as a starter for the Jets.
It is tricky to know which direction the Jets would head here. They are not really ready to contend, but I also believe this coaching staff and front office believes in doing everything possible to win. Let’s say general manager Joe Douglas decides that he wants to get aggressive and find someone to bridge the gap for Wilson’s return or perhaps find an insurance policy with a bit more upside given that this is now the second time that Wilson has suffered an injury to the same knee. There are not a ton of feasible options, but here are three quarterbacks the Jets could target.
This might seem obvious, but the 49ers quarterback has ties to the Jets coaching staff. Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur both worked with him for three seasons in San Francisco. While Garoppolo would unquestionably have to build rapport with his new teammates, he should have a good understanding of LaFleur’s offensive system.
The Jets do not have a ton of cap space available, so it is likely Garoppolo would need to restructure his contract if the deal were to be done. San Francisco would likely be looking for a Day 3 draft pick and maybe a future conditional pick to move the 30-year old quarterback. It is clear they have moved on to Trey Lance as the starter and have been openly shopping Garoppolo for months. What’s more, Garoppolo is on an expiring contract, which means the Jets would still be moving forward with Wilson for the long term.
It is unclear what Love’s future in Green Bay is at this point. Entering Year 3 in the NFL, it seems he is no closer to being the Packers’ starter than he was when they selected him. Aaron Rodgers is the two-time reigning MVP and signed a two-year extension this offseason. I’m not positive the front office in Green Bay will want to move on from him, but if he is available, he could be a cheap option in terms of cap space, to help the Jets stay competitive. New York would likely have to give up a bit more to acquire him than they would Garoppolo given his rookie contract situation and the fact that Love won’t turn 24 until November.
However, it could be a win-win for the Jets and for Love. For Love, he would at long last get a chance to prove he can be a starter in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Jets would be able to trade Love again next offseason, possibly for more than they paid if he plays well enough. In the event that Love plays so well that Wilson becomes available, he will still have enough upside and youth on his side to garner serious interest. Keep in mind that Josh Rosen netted a second-round pick for the Cardinals when he was acquired by the Dolphins.
I expect New York to stay loyal to Wilson, but having two starting-caliber quarterbacks under the age of 25 is a good problem to have. If Love does not pan out, the Jets will only be on the hook for the final year of his rookie contract. That cap hit is just under $4 million, which is pretty reasonable for a backup quarterback.
While I’m not altogether sure this would be much of an upgrade from Flacco or White, it is possible that the Steelers would be willing to move on from the former 3rd-round pick. The 27-year old is in the final year of his contract and Pittsburgh brought in Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett this offseason. Rudolph is part of the quarterback battle for the team’s job this preseason, but feels like the least likely candidate to win it at this point.
That being said, Rudolph has shown he can be at least an average starter in the league. He kept the Steelers afloat in 2019 when Roethlisberger missed eight games. Pittsburgh went 5-3 in that span. He earned spot starts in each of the past two seasons as well.
On one hand, it likely would not cost much for the Jets to acquire him and his cap hit would be very manageable. On the other, I don’t see him being a major upgrade over the quarterbacks that New York currently has on its roster. As much as Saleh wants to win this year, I don’t see Douglas making moves just for the sake of it. There are just not a ton of replacement options available across the league.
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