The New York Jets and GM John Idzik had been pursuing QB Michael Vick since before the free agency market even opened. And on Friday night, they got their man.
The organization announced that they were officially parting ways with former QB Mark Sanchez just an hour beforehand, which created the need for a short-term upgrade at the position. As such, they inked Vick to a one-year, $5 million contract.
After averaging only 18.1 points per game (29th in the league) this past season, the team has been set on making the offense more dynamic—signing arguably the top WR (Decker) as well as QB (Vick) in free agency.
Why it’s a good move for the Jets
It’s a low-risk, high reward move that helps shore up one of the Jets’ weakest areas on their depth chart, at least for one year. And the Jets have the cap room and money to spend. While they may have overpaid by $1 million or so—being that there were few other teams interested in his services—it’s still a win-win deal for both sides.
Idzik got his guy, and he did it in the form of a “prove it” deal. If Vick’s durability or turnovers are a concern after the 2014 season concludes, the front office can look elsewhere and pursue another option for the future.
And second-year QB Geno Smith can benefit from Vick’s presence. Not only will it create competition in training camp, but he can also prosper from receiving tutelage from the veteran. The former Eagles QB can certainly impart some wisdom upon the young QB, as he’s endured a lot throughout his NFL career, on and off the field.
In comparing the two quarterbacks’ numbers from last season, Vick was noticeably better when teams sat back and dropped seven or more defenders into coverage. Let’s take a look at the stats, per an infographic displayed on ESPN’s SportsCenter:
Smith had an up-and-down rookie season (par for the course), and he does show flashes of being a QB who can lead his team to victory. But he’s also raw, and needs to improve his decision-making and limit staring down receivers/telegraphing passes. If the Jets don’t feel he’s quite ready come Week 1, they can plug Vick in without having any qualms about it, while Smith watches and learns from the sideline.
Why it may not work out in the future
Obviously, durability is a concern. The Jets offensive line will need to do its best to keep him upright. In his last two seasons in Philadelphia, he played in only 17 games. Although, he was healthy enough to return in December last year, but Chip Kelly elected to go with the younger, more athletic Foles who was playing well and in a rhythm. So he should be well-rested and healthy heading into training camp this summer, but it still raises question marks to how many starts he could handle.
He’s one of those quarterbacks that you have to hold your breath while watching week in, week out.When you see him scrambling, you have to worry—each and every time—that it’s not “the hit” that knocks him out of the game and potentially lands him back on the injury report the following week.
Jets sign Michael Vick. Vick has played the full 16 games just once in his 11 seasons.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
What QB controversy?
“As of now, Geno is the starting quarterback for this football team,” Vick said in a conference call when the move was first announced by the team. “From this point on, we’re going to compete every day…I plan to compete with Geno and push him as hard as I can.”
It seems like the proper time to bring in a capable veteran to put the pressure on and light a fire under Smith. Competition is usually a good thing, and could’ve helped Sanchez’s progression had the team gone that route.
It’s been five years since former Jets QB Brett Favre announced his retirement following his one-year stint with the team (after which he would later “un-retire” and join the Vikings for the last two seasons of his career). And that last-minute August signing was an epic fail—in which he tossed 22 interceptions and took 30 sacks, and also got caught up in the “Dongslinger” incident. The problem was that there really was no other viable option to start at QB behind him, as the underwhelming Kellen Clemens wasn’t going to get the job done. In short, having a deep depth chart at the position is something the team needs.
With this signing, Vick has etched his face in the Jets’ Mount Rushmore, so to speak!
Number one picks to play for the Jets: Namath, Keyshawn, Testaverde, Vick.
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) March 22, 2014
The bottom line
The team says Smith is still its starting QB, at least at this point. But only time will tell. I think there’s a strong chance Vick can win the job in camp this summer and start come Week 1. “Who starts in Week 17?” is the real burning question.
Gang Green would be well suited with him behind center, assuming he stays healthy. They could give up a third or fourth-round draft pick and land his former teammate, WR DeSean Jackson, and really field an explosive 3-WR set with “DJax”, Decker and Kerley. Jackson is a true No. 1 receiver and can stretch the field, and his presence would help keep opposing secondaries honest. And Eric Decker—who would be going to work on the opposite side of the field—could benefit greatly. Most importantly, so would Vick, who has excellent chemistry with the receiver and knows how to make opposing defenses pay for blown coverages, in the form of big plays.
Idzik, head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets brass were patient during free agency and have put together a solid offseason thus far. While landing a cornerback or safety would’ve been ideal, they’ve addressed their biggest need thus far—the passing game, which ranked 31st in the league last season (183.2 ypg). And there’s nowhere to go but up.