The Jets quickly moved on to an intriguing Plan B after being discarded by Minnesota-bound Kirk Cousins on Tuesday. Gang Green, spurned by the most coveted quarterback in the free-agent pool, agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal to bring back Josh McCown and engaged in negotiations with discarded Vikings signal caller Teddy Bridgewater, according to sources.
McCown, not surprisingly, is expected to be the starter entering training camp, as he was last season.
The Jets wanted to land Cousins in the worst way, but there was a feeling in the building in recent days that he was destined for the Vikings. Cousins will be making his first — and let’s get real: only — free-agent visit to Minnesota Wednesday/Thursday.
Truth be told, the Jets, flush with cash and a league-high $90 million in salary cap space, were bracing for this irritating outcome, but it still stung. (Cousins is expected to sign a fully guaranteed three-year deal with the Vikings for $84-86 million).
The silver lining for the Jets is that the brain trust will have ample financial flexibility to address a litany of deficient areas now.
Bridgewater paired with a rookie quarterback in the first round of the upcoming draft wouldn’t have been a terrible contingency plan, but there are fair concerns on One Jets Drive about his health following a grievous knee injury (torn ACL and dislocation) that kept him shelved for most of the last two seasons.
Bridgewater, unquestionably the greatest unknown quarterback on the market, would provide a low-risk, high-reward path for general manager Mike Maccagnan, who desperately needs to solve his franchise’s most glaring need.
The 25-year-old signal caller has the oddest of resumes: 29 career starts yet none in the past two seasons thanks to the injury suffered before the 2016 season. Although Bridgewater is young with a pedigree (first-round pick, 17-12 as a starter, one playoff appearance), there are legitimate questions about his ability to fulfill the promise he showed before his injury. Some folks on One Jets Drive still wonder whether Bridgewater is fully healed (he attempted two passes late last season).
The uncertainty surrounding Bridgewater’s ability to bounce back from his injury likely prompted the Jets to bring back McCown, who had a career year in 2017. McCown’s on-field production coupled with his invaluable intangibles (there might be no greater locker room presence in the league) would make him an important part of the equation this season. The 15-year veteran repeatedly said this offseason that he wants to return to fill whatever role is required.
Plan B doesn’t come without complications though.
On the surface, a McCown/hot-shot rookie pairing or Bridgewater/hot-shot rookie pairing would be a fine plan. A Bridgewater-rookie quarterback tandem, however, evidently wouldn’t be enough for the Jets, who were eyewitnesses to a poor backup quarterback situation last season. Gang Green, rebuilding or not, is in the win-now business. So, would this regime be comfortable throwing a rookie quarterback into the fire if Bridgewater underperformed early in the season?
But would a McCown/Bridgewater/hot-shot rookie trio be counterproductive? Or should Maccagnan throw as many darts at the signal caller wall to see who sticks?
Think about it: If the Jets sign Bridgewater and McCown, one thing is certain: Maccagnan’s former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg is a goner. The Jets are drafting a quarterback in the first round in a couple months … and they’re not carrying four signal callers.
Would a first-round rookie quarterback’s development be stunted with McCown and Bridgewater in the room? As we learned last summer, there simply aren’t enough reps to go around for three guys in training camp. The Jets could replicate their plan from a year ago when McCown essentially went on vacation during the preseason to give work to the two young quarterbacks, but this feels like overkill.
Maccagnan and Bowles would be doing Bridgewater a disservice if they didn’t give him a fair chance to win the starting job. It’s unusual to see such a young quarterback (with 32 total touchdowns, only 12 INTs and a 64.9 completion rate, by the way) hit the market. There’s obvious risk attached to him, but he would undoubtedly come at a relatively affordable price.
Sandwiching him in a room with McCown and the presumptive future franchise quarterback doesn’t seem ideal. Pairing him with just a rookie, however, is a different story altogether… as long as he’s fully healthy.
The rest of the free-agent quarterback pool isn’t particularly attractive. A.J. McCarron? Mike Glennon? Geno Smith? No thanks.
A smart Plan B is to pair Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen/Josh Allen/Baker Mayfield with McCown or Bridgewater. The Jets might not take any chances and acquire both veterans.
Maybe the more, the merrier approach will work.