A confluence of events has led to this moment, a point in time where the New York Jets might actually be closing in on having a franchise quarterback. Finally, after four decades, the Jets might have a successor to Joe Namath.
Tuesday’s report might be a seminal moment in the franchise’s history, one where the ‘Same Old Jets’ can perhaps be retired — at least for the next handful of years.
The news that the Kansas City Chiefs appear to be all-in on Patrick Mahomes, a decision that led to their trade of Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins, will have a trickle-down effect across the NFL. Smith going to Washington means that the organization likely won’t be bringing Kirk Cousins back, he the most-prized quarterback set to hit free agency this offseason.
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And the Jets, with one of the largest salary cap spaces to work with, are in a prime position to now land Cousins.
They have the need at quarterback, something that can be said of this team’s roster for every year since Namath left the Jets following the 1976 season. Cousins not only fits that need with his talent, he would give the Jets a cornerstone piece for this rebuilding project.
The numbers point to a quarterback who is borderline elite. Three straight years of 4,000 passing yards is certainly an accomplishment — in fact, any of Cousins’ last three years in Washington would have accounted for the most passing yards in a single season by a Jets quarterback in franchise history. He’s set to turn 30-years old and very much in his prime. He’s a leader, durable and has a good head on his shoulders.
Were he to come to New York, Cousins would be a long-term solution for the Jets. Someone who could conceivably be under center for this team for the next five years and perhaps longer.
But even if his ultimate destination isn’t New York, say Cousins ends up taking an offer with the Cleveland Browns, the ripples from the pending trade would still work out well for the Jets.
With the Chiefs set on Mahomes and Smith the presumptive starter in Washington, the Jets could still very much be in play for the likes of Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater or Nick Foles in free agency. All have baggage, all have concerns but all could and would likely prove to be a substantial upgrade over their quarterback situation since 1976. One of these options will fall into their laps if they want.
Cousins, however, remains the prize.
With a war chest hovering somewhere around $85 million and perhaps more, the Jets can sign Cousins and still pursue the upgrades they need on the offensive line, at wide receiver and re-sign key pieces such as linebacker Demario Davis and tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Cousins would be the centerpiece, yes, but the Jets can certainly bring in talent and depth this offseason to upgrade a team that surprised many by going 5-11 this year.
Plus, factor in the sixth pick in April’s NFL draft. With a prime free agent quarterback, the Jets could conceivably punt the ball for a couple of years on drafting a quarterback — after all, what sense does it make to use a high pick on a quarterback when say, Cousins or Foles will be the starter for the next several seasons? With that pick, they can add a playmaker or improve their offensive line.
Or perhaps be downright gaudy and another a young player to their defense and turn the unit into one of the best in the NFL. Minkah Fitzpatrick would look awfully good in green and white.
Whatever the scenario, and there are dozens upon dozens of permutations here, the Jets have been waiting more than four decades for this moment. It is a moment they built for, having sacrificed last year by cutting veterans to clear cap space and going with young players. They took their bumps and bruises, all to be in a position to make some major moves.
Now that time has come and perhaps the starts are finally aligned. An organization that has been so self-destructive in the past now directed to a new era with hope and rejuvenation.
A moment, perhaps, where the ‘Same Old Jets’ will finally get it right. A place where they simply won’t be the ‘Same Old’ team anymore.