NFL

Worth the wait? Jets select WVU QB Smith

04/27 7:48 AM

The New York Jets added another quarterback to their depth chart Friday night, selecting former West Virginia star Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL draft -- a franchise-altering move that could mean the end for Mark Sanchez.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Forget Six Flags. There's a new amusement part in New Jersey: Six Quarterbacks.

The New York Jets added another quarterback to their depth chart Friday night, selecting former West Virginia star Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL draft -- a franchise-altering move that could mean the end for Mark Sanchez.

Tired of Sanchez, whose infamous butt fumble last Thanksgiving ranks as one of the low points in franchise history, the Jets grabbed Smith despite many other needs. After considering him in the first round, they waited patiently for him to fall into their lap with the 39th overall pick.

The Jets have six quarterbacks on the roster -- Sanchez, Smith, Tim Tebow, David Garrard, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. In a wild twist, they may keep Tebow and cut Sanchez, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter -- a move that would result in a massive cap hit.

General manager John Idzik dodged questions about Sanchez's future, refusing to guarantee he'll be on the roster when the team opens OTA practices in two weeks. Idzik called it an open competition.

"Our plan is for Geno to compete," Idzik said.

"We drafted Geno Smith because he has exceptional talent. Let's get him into a situation where we can help him develop that and let's see where he goes."

In a span of five days, Idzik made two blockbuster moves, trading Darrelle Revis -- one of the best players in franchise history -- and drafting Sanchez's potential successor.

Smith was a Jet for about a minute when he delivered his first headline quote, telling a TV interviewer at Radio City Music Hall, "We're going to make the playoffs."

Rex Ryan, known for bold predictions, smiled when he heard about it.

"I hope he's right," the coach said. "You know what? That speaks about the kind of competitor he is and the kind of teammate he is."

Smith endured an agonizing, two-day wait in the green room. He was so frustrated Thursday night that he said he was going home.

"It was a test of patience and a test of character," he said, explaining his decision to return for Day 2. "I want to make it my duty to come back today and represent for my family and for those who supported me."

Smith said he wasn't tipped off by the Jets, saying their interest was just "hearsay." They actually discussed the possibility of taking Smith with the 13th overall pick, acquired in the Revis trade, but they opted for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

They continued to discuss the matter internally, and by Friday morning word had leaked that they were targeting Smith. There was intense speculation of a possible trade-up, but they stayed at 39 and -- sure enough -- there he was.

Smith, one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, was projected by some as a top-10 pick. He insisted he isn't bothered by his first-round snub, saying, "None of that matters."

He also addressed the criticism that has surfaced in recent weeks, some of it questioning his work ethic and dedication.

"Whether it was just or unjust, it was really out of my control," he said. "Everything I've done to this point is thrown out the window. I'm stepping into a new league and moving on with my career."

Smith was relatively subdued in a conference call with reporters.

"I'm coming in with intentions to compete," he said. "We'll see where it goes from there."

This was a staggering blow for Sanchez, the fifth overall pick in 2009. He was considered the face of the franchise for four seasons, but he suffered a dismal season. Upper management lost faith in Sanchez, who committed 26 turnovers. Idzik said he hasn't talked to Sanchez since drafting Smith.

The Jets could release Sanchez, a move that once seemed unthinkable because of the financial ramifications. He's due to make $8.25 million this year, fully guaranteed, thanks to a contract extension last year the organization now regrets.

Sanchez counts $12.85 million against the salary cap. If the Jets cut him as a June 1 designation, which they can do at any time, the Jets would take a $12.35 million cap hit this year and $4.8 million next year.

He's also due to receive a $500,000 workout bonus, which is pro-rated daily. In other words, the meter is running. They're already two weeks into the offseason program.

There is no offset clause in the contract, meaning they're on the hook for $8.25 million whether he plays for them or not. They could try to trade him, but there's virtually no chance of a team picking up his contract, which runs through 2016.

Nick Sanchez Jr., Mark's brother and agent, told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio the Jets have not yet asked the former first-round pick to take a pay cut or proposed a possible trade in the wake of Smith's addition.

There's never a dull moment with the Jets' quarterbacks. A year ago, they blindsided Sanchez by trading for Tebow. A month ago, they signed Garrard to a one-year contract, declaring it an open competition.

Garrard has impressed the organization with his play and personality, and he is considered an ideal mentor for a young quarterback like Smith.

There also has been a slight change in the thought process surrounding Tebow, who showed up to his team's training facility 15 pounds lighter. Tebow has won some support within the organization, sources said.

Clearly, Smith is the future, and perhaps the present.

The Jets did a lot of homework on Smith, flying offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and two scouts to Morgantown, W. Va., to have dinner with Smith on the eve of his pro day in March. When Mornhinweg returned, he was "raving" about Smith, a source said. Smith also visited the team's facility to meet with team officials.

Smith was prolific as a three-year starter for West Virginia, throwing 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions last season. Idzik called him "a highly accomplished player," but he was careful not to use the term "franchise quarterback."

The Jets' scouts didn't seem concerned by Smith's inconsistent performances late last season.

"In some of those games, when people said he wasn't playing that well, if you really look at it, it wasn't that bad," said Jeff Bauer, the Jets director of college scouting.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and ESPN's Sal Paolantonio was used in this report.


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