NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York Jets have released quarterback Mark Sanchez, as expected.
But wait, there’s more!
The Jets also announced on Friday the signing of quarterback Michael Vick, who’s expected to compete with Geno Smith for the starting job.
General manager John Idzik has stressed the importance of competition since his hiring last year. Sanchez gave Smith a run for his money last summer before a preseason shoulder injury sidelined him for the entire 2013 campaign.
Now it’s Vick’s turn to try and wrestle the job from Smith, who was benched twice during a rough stretch of his rookie season but finished on a high note for the Jets, who ended up 8-8.
“I love competition and I love football,” Vick said during a conference call Friday night. “And, I feel I have a lot of football left to play. It’s evident with what I was able to do last year.”
The move drew mixed reviews by Jets fans on Twitter and message boards, but that didn’t concern Vick, who will be paid $5 million for the 2014 season, according to the Daily News.
“I appreciate all the Jets fans who appreciate me and accept me for who I am and what I’ve become, not for what I’ve done,” Vick said. “Right now, my past is irrelevant.”
Vick, a four-time Pro Bowler who missed two seasons while jailed for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring, spent the past five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, but only played in seven games during an injury-plagued 2013 season. He completed 54.6 percent of his passes last season for 1,215 yards and five touchdowns. He was turnover-prone, however, throwing three interceptions and fumbling four times.
For his 11-year career, Vick has thrown for more than 21,000 yards, with 128 touchdowns and 85 interceptions, to go along with 5,857 yards, 36 touchdowns and 7.1 yards per carry on the ground.
“Physically I’m 100 percent,” Vick earlier told the team’s official website. “My role is going to be to get in and win football games whenever my number’s called, and be the best I can be and help all the quarterbacks become the best they can be.”
Vick, who some believe could be the ideal mentor for Smith, has familiarity with the Jets’ version of the West Coast offense implemented by Marty Mornhinweg, his former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
“He’s a great talent who’s won many games, including playoff games, in this league,” Mornhinweg said of Vick. “He has the respect of both his teammates and opponents. He’s here in a role where he’s going to compete and push Geno Smith to become the very best that he can be. Michael will be able to go in and play at a high level and a winning level if called upon.”
Meanwhile, Sanchez won’t get the same opportunity. He was cut by the team nearly five years after New York traded up to draft him No.5 overall.
He would have been due a $2 million roster bonus on Tuesday.
“I’d like to thank Mark for everything he’s done for this team and me personally,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “We were rookies together and had some early success, becoming the first rookie head coach and quarterback to go to back-to-back championship games. We experienced a lot together and I really appreciate Mark. He’s a great player, a great teammate, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Sanchez’s time with the Jets started with a flourish and promise, but ended with angst.
The former star out of USC made some plays, but mostly managed the Jets’ run-oriented offense during the club’s run to successive AFC championship games in 2009 and 2010.
Everyone kept waiting for Sanchez to take the next step, but it never really happened. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons Sanchez threw for a combined 6,357 yards, but just 39 touchdowns and never completed more than 57 percent of his passes. Sanchez’s biggest problem, however, was turnovers. He committed a whopping 52 during those seasons, including 36 interceptions.
During his five seasons with the Jets, Sanchez threw for 12,092 yards and 68 TDs, but turned the ball over 89 times. His poor play was often at the center of controversy as the Jets became a circus of sorts following their first two successful seasons under Ryan. In fairness, however, Sanchez always handled himself with class when confronted by the media.
But the expectations surrounding the Jets are such these days that mediocre-at-best play at the most important position on the field is not being tolerated.
The team freed up $8.3 million on the salary cap by cutting Sanchez, who was scheduled to have a $13.1 million cap charge this season.
Vick will now try to unseat Smith, who threw for 3,046 yards, 12 TDs and 21 interceptions and ran for another 366 yards and eight TDs as a rookie. He really came on over the final quarter of the season, leading the Jets to three wins and the improbable .500 finish.
“As of right now,” Vick said, “Geno’s the starting quarterback of this football team.”
But, Vick also made it clear that he still envisions himself as a starter.
“I wouldn’t say I would necessarily be OK with sitting on the bench all year,” Vick said. “But, I know what I signed up for and I know what I came to New York to do.”
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