It's hard to think of more than a handful of team debuts that garnered as much preseason hype as Aaron Rodgers's unveiling with the Jets on opening day this year. Unfortunately, just four plays into his Jets tenure, Rodgers tore his achilles, sidelining him for at least the rest of the season.
Having invested heavily into making a run this season with the legendary signal caller under center, the Jets have to improvise and pivot to a new plan for the 16 remaining games on their schedule. Third-year QB Zach Wilson, the second pick in the 2021 draft, stepped in after Rodgers went down and to his credit, helped the Jets to an absolutely enormous win over the division-favorite Buffalo Bills.
That being said, Wilson's first two seasons in the league don't exactly inspire confidence, and even on Monday night, he wasn't asked to do too much, so it's easy to imagine the Jets looking for outside help. Let's take a look at a few available options the Jets could call on to finish out the year, or at least roster alongside Wilson.
Unlike some of the options below, this one would require a trade, but it might not be that hard to get a deal done. Dalton is currently on the Carolina Panthers, sitting behind first overall pick Bryce Young. The team has rightfully anointed Young as the starter from day one, and while the role of veteran mentor is an important one, it doesn't necessarily have to be Dalton.
As we'll discuss further with some of the later options, there's plenty of veterans available who could step into the Panthers backup spot. Dalton might be their top choice to stand by Young, but they may be willing to part with him in exchange for draft picks, one of the most valuable currencies for rebuilding clubs.
As for why the Jets might pick him, the Red Rocket quietly put together a really nice 2022 with the Saints. He completed 66.7 percent of his passes, racked up a passer rating of 95.2- his best since 2015- and was PFF's sixth-highest graded passer, behind only Joe Burrow, Pat Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa- that's some pretty incredible company. He did it all without too much of a supporting cast on offense, and there's reason to believe that he could succeed with a Jets team that showed on Monday Night that it has some great non-QB talent.
Of course, the reason Dalton had the opportunity to register such a nice season was that Jameis Winston went down with a back injury. Winston made a full recovery and was ready to go midseason, but Dalton had won the job outright by that point.
It's been tough for Winston in New Orleans, who was given the reins after Drew Brees retired, and put together some promising play in 2021, but injuries really got the best of him.
With Derek Carr coming into New Orleans and being handed the starting job, Winston's future there is as nothing more than a backup. If he wants a shot to start, and do so for a contender for the first time in his career, the Jets would be a great opportunity. There's no reason to believe that the Saints wouldn't entertain a good trade offer; they're currently rostering three of four quarterbacks, depending on what you consider Taysom Hill.
Now for some free agents, who the Jets could have in the building tomorrow just by putting pen to paper. Colt McCoy was recently cut by the Cardinals, but the move is widely believed to be an indication of Arizona's desire to tank this season, rather than a belief that McCoy is a worse quarterback than Joshua Dobbs or Clayton Tune.
McCoy hasn't owned anything resembling a full-time starting job since 2011, but he's made at least one start each year since 2018, and multiple starts in four of those five seasons. He had a pretty decent tenure in Washington, even with questionable surroundings, and did a fine job in Arizona the past couple of seasons considering the offense was built around hyper-mobile Kyler Murray. If the Jets want a steady veteran presence who would absolutely sign, McCoy is a great option.
If the goal is to win a Super Bowl with a backup QB, one name comes to mind, for this era at least, in Nick Foles. The Super Bowl 52 MVP and eternal Philadelphia legend is 34 years old and not on a roster right now, but there have been no credible rumblings of retirement, so he should be available.
Despite almost never securely owning a starting job, Foles has started at least one game each season since he entered the league in 2012, and more than one most seasons. He was brutal with the Colts last year, but relatively sharp in Chicago, Jacksonville, and Philly before that. Few of the available options have already been to the mountaintop, and Foles's experience doing just that gives him unique value.
Yes, this one is a long shot, but after reports leaked that the 49ers were ready to put him in red and gold and trot him out for the Super Bowl if they had beaten the Eagles, it's worth discussing. Rivers actually wasn't bad in his final season, as he posted a passer rating of 97.0, and proved that he could adapt to a new system after leaving the Chargers for the first time in his 17-year career. He even led the Colts to 11 wins and a playoff berth in a very competitive AFC.
The issue with Rivers is that it's been awhile; he last played in 2020. The time away could be a positive though; Rivers is a tough competitor who's taken a lot of hits through the years, and it's reasonable to imagine that fatigue and feeling worn down factored into his retirement decision. Perhaps after a couple of years of not getting hit by professional football players, he feels a bit fresher. If the Jets could make a run with Rivers, it would be one of the great football stories of an era, and a well-deserved last hurrah for a relatively overshadowed but excellent quarterback from a golden age at the position.
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