Jets should acquire this veteran QB to complete Project Zach Wilson
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. In Nick of time? General manager Joe Douglas did a nice job of surrounding rookie Zach Wilson with players, using his second, third and fourth draft picks to build the offense, but the “Making of a Quarterback” project still is missing an important piece:
An experienced backup quarterback/insurance policy/mentor for Wilson.
The ideal candidate is the Chicago Bears‘ Nick Foles, seemingly the odd-man out now that first-round pick Justin Fields is joining “QB1” Andy Dalton. Foles, 32, has lost nine of 11 starts over the past two years, but he and Douglas have a strong bond — the Super Bowl they won together as members of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles.
The Jets should make a play for Foles, who has two years, $12 million left on his contract — including $9 million in guarantees. Obviously, the teams would have to work out a financial arrangement because it makes no sense for the Jets to trade for that contract as is. They could wait out the Bears, hoping they cut him, but it would cost more on the salary cap to release him than to keep him — whether it’s a post-June 1 cut or not.
Wilson needs a veteran at his side to help his growth, and the Jets don’t have anybody like that on the roster. Their other quarterbacks are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has taken a regular-season snap. Foles is known as a team player who could function in the offense if called upon. They met recently with free agent Brian Hoyer, another good guy, but he hasn’t played effectively in years.
The Jets would love for Wilson to be their Week 1 starter, but there’s no guarantee. Of the past 11 quarterbacks drafted in the top 10, dating to 2017, only three were Week 1 starters — Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals), Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) and Sam Darnold (Jets).
“I really am excited about the guys we have,” Douglas said Saturday, commenting on whether he needs a veteran in the quarterback room. “That’s a conversation Coach [Robert Saleh] and I will get together on. Once the dust settles on this draft, we’ll talk about every [position].”
2. Three’s Company: The Jets’ first three picks — Wilson, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and wide receiver Elijah Moore — all ranked in the top 25 on their board and are expected to play significant roles as rookies. When was the last time that could be said about one of their drafts?
3. It’s catching on: The “Build-around-the-rookie-QB” concept is a leaguewide trend. Of the eight teams that drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds, six paired the quarterback with a new offensive lineman — a league high in the common-draft era (since 1967). Darnold must be wondering, “Why didn’t they do this for me?”
4. Joe goes O: Douglas is creating his own teams trends. Before he arrived, the Jets were known as a defensive-minded team that used first-round picks on 300-pound linemen. Now, look:
This is called adjusting to the new NFL.
5. ‘Big’ trade: If you’re keeping score on the trade of safety Jamal Adams:
Two of the four picks the Jets received from the Seattle Seahawks — Nos. 23 and 86 overall in this year’s draft — were dealt to the Minnesota Vikings in the move-up for Vera-Tucker. The Jets turned half the Adams trade into a 6-foot-4, 308-pound guard who will be a Day 1 starter — and they still have Seattle’s first- and fourth-round picks in 2022.
“He’s going to be an All-Pro guard,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Vera-Tucker. “He’s just one of the cleanest, safest picks in the whole draft.”
The downside is that it left the Jets with no third-round selections. Douglas considers those “premium” picks or projected starters. It’s tough to lose two of them, especially for a team with so many holes, but they were determined to get Vera-Tucker. He was one of the top-10 players on their board. Douglas was so pumped up to get him that he high-fived people in the draft room.
Check out the best highlights from Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore’s college career.
6. Hard lesson: The low point of Moore’s Ole Miss career was the 2019 Egg Bowl, when he celebrated a touchdown by pretending to urinate like a dog. The crude gesture drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, pushing his team back and resulting in a missed extra point in a one-point loss. During the run-up to the draft, he was grilled about it by every team who interviewed him.
Douglas said he’s “confident that was just a one-time incident.” Moore, in a post-draft Zoom call with reporters, showed contrition, saying he learned “countless things” from the regrettable incident.
7. Did you know? The Jets have the league’s longest active drought of not drafting a Pro Bowl player on offense. The last draft to produce one actually produced two — tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold in 2006.
8. Knapp town: BYU legend Steve Young, an unofficial advisor to Wilson and his family during the pre-draft process, is hopeful that Zach can reverse the franchise’s bleak quarterback history. One of the reasons is the presence of Gregg Knapp, the Jets’ passing-game specialist. (Yes, that’s his title.) Young and Knapp go way back; Knapp was a San Francisco 49ers‘ assistant for several years during Young’s run as the starting quarterback in the late 1990s.
“I told his dad, Mike Wilson: If I had a son and I needed him to be coached and taken care of in a way that helps him play better football, I’d want Gregg to be part of it,” Young told ESPN. “That’s a huge plus.”
9. No Joshing: Wilson and Darnold have a common link: Josh McCown, the former Jets quarterback who mentored Darnold as a rookie in 2018 (and still does). Before the draft, Wilson called McCown to pick his brain on what to expect from playing quarterback in New York. McCown, who grew up in a small town in Texas, told him how he fell in love with the place after early apprehension about a big city. He also spoke glowingly of the Jets’ rebuilding effort under Douglas.
“I thought that was so cool to hear that from him,” Wilson said. “It gives you confidence in being able to go in there and it made it very comforting to know that I’m going into a great situation.”
“One college kid took a shot at my swag…
Swag is a mentality, swag is a mindset. I tried to tell this to some of the guys in the locker room. Swagger isn’t that you have a SUPREME backpack on…
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) December 15, 2020
10. A-Rod’s swag: Wilson grew up in Draper, Utah idolizing Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers. He always speaks of Rogers in reverential terms, but a lighthearted comment about him last fall turned into a thing. Wilson said in an interview, “He’s my guy. But as far as his swag, the way he dresses, he doesn’t have any. He has no swag.” Word got to Rodgers, who responded on the Pat McAfee Show.
“One college kid took a shot at my swag,” Rodgers said, “Swag is a mentality.”
11. Coach speak: Saleh’s mantra — “All gas, no brake” — is something he wears and speaks. When he spoke to drafted players by phone, he mentioned the phrase “all gas.” When he greeted Wilson at the facility on Friday, he was wearing a black T-shirt that said, “All gas, no brake.” Get used to it; you’re going to be hearing that a lot in the coming months.
12. The last word: “We were trying to corner the market on Elijahs and Michael Carters” — Douglas, who drafted a Michael Carter at running back (North Carolina) and a Michael Carter at safety (Duke).
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