Updated at 1:16 a.m., March 10, 2012
By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — The Jets called an impromptu press conference for 10:15 p.m. Friday night, presumably to announce what many suspected — that they were no longer in the race to get Peyton Manning.
Well, it’s true, the Jets are no longer in pursuit of the four-time NFL MVP, but that’s because they signed quarterback Mark Sanchez to a three-year, $58.25 million extension, with another $10 million possible in escalator clauses. Reportedly, $20.5 million is guaranteed.
How much, if any, additional cap room the deal will give the team in 2012 was not immediately known. The Jets were approximately $8.3 million under heading into Friday. The free agency signing period starts on March 13.
Sanchez led the team to the AFC championship game as a wild card in his first two seasons, but struggled as the Jets lost their last three games in 2011 to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
General Manager Mike Tannenbaum told print reporters during the conference call that the Jets “looked into the possibility” of signing Manning and were monitoring his situation, but all along were pushing for a contract extension with Sanchez, who is coming off a frustrating 2011 season that featured more than 3,600 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns, but also 18 interceptions and eight fumbles lost.
“Mark’s our starter. Taking the long view of things, we’re excited and encouraged at the trajectory of Mark’s career,” Tannenbaum said. “From my standpoint, it is Mark and Rex going into year four…and I feel really comfortable about those two positions.”
But Tannenbaum also said the Jets are under no illusions here. Sanchez will be heading into his fourth professional season and they expect to see immediate improvement.
“We don’t have blinders on. It has to get better and we think it will get better,” Tannenbaum said.
Sanchez, who will reportedly receive $27 million over the next two years, sounded like someone relieved to have the Manning watch come to an end.
“To find out that I can come back for three more years means the world to me. I’m absolutely pleased to be a Jet. My family is ecstatic and now it’s time to get to work,” Sanchez said.
“I understand this is a business. I’m excited the Jets believed in me.”
Sanchez also addressed his rocky relationship with wide receiver Santonio Holmes, something that must improve dramatically if the Jets’ passing attack is to have any hope in 2012.
“We’ve been in contact really all this offseason. He’s excited about the next year, I can tell you that,” Sanchez said. “Neither of us commenting on it made it bigger. Both of us are laughing it off right now.”
It was widely believed that a good number of the Jets did not want Sanchez to return as the starter in 2012. Several unnamed sources started appearing in reports. Sanchez took them to task on Friday night.
“If you’re an unnamed source, you don’t speak for yourself and you don’t speak for the team,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez threw for more than 9,000 yards over his first three NFL seasons, competing 55.3 percent of his passes, with 55 TDs and 51 INTs.
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