Jets fans have given the team, and in particular former general manager Mike Tannenbaum, a hard time for the five-year contract extension given to Mark Sanchez before the 2012 season.
But it was the way the extension was structured two years ago that the Jets had the flexibility to release Sanchez last Friday.
When the Jets gave Sanchez a new contract in the offseason before their 2012 campaign, they essentially gave him an additional three years on his rookie deal. A team source tells Metro New York the dollar amount did change for Sanchez in 2013, with an additional $2.75 million in “new money” added into the contract, along with higher guaranteed dollar amounts.
In short, after 2012, the deal the Jets and Tannenbaum struck gave them a three-year fixed price, non-guaranteed extension, which gave them all the flexibility. The flexibility was there to cut Sanchez without hurting the team.
The rationale for the timing of the deal in the spring of 2012 was simple, the source said. Sanchez was coming off a 2011 campaign where he threw for 3,474 yards and had 26 passing touchdowns and 18 interceptions. While the turnover number was high — he also had four fumbles that season — the Jets thought he was turning a corner. The source said that with the addition of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano that offseason — a coach known for running an offense that limited turnovers and mistakes — the thought process was that Sanchez's one glaring weakness could be corrected by some new coaching. And after consecutive AFC Championship game appearances in 2009 and 2010, the logic seemed to hold at the time.
A downturn in 2012 followed by a preseason shoulder injury that cost him all of the next year was enough to see Sanchez cut this year.
The desire to ink Sanchez to the extension with two years left in his contract was done with this offseason in mind, when his original rookie deal would be done and there was a fear among management that Sanchez might hit the open market. Quarterbacks such as Matt Schaub and Matt Ryan were set to become free agents last offseason and the Jets made the calculated risk of giving Sanchez, fresh off that 2011 season, an extension they estimated would be “$8 to $9 million less per year” than the top-tier quarterbacks would earn.
But it was the contract put in place by the maligned Tannenbaum that gave the Jets the flexibility this offseason to release Sanchez. All the guaranteed money was in the first two years of the deal and all options were held by the Jets after those first two seasons and not the player, the source said.
With the move to cut Sanchez, the Jets saved $8.5 million in cap space.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.