With Peyton Manning electing not to come to town, the Jets felt they did the next-best thing: They signed incumbent quarterback Mark Sanchez to a three-year extension.
In a stunning twist that quickly occurred after it appeared the Jets weren't going to land the four-time MVP, they announced a new pact with their franchise quarterback Friday night. The three-year deal is worth a total of $40.5 million ($13.5 million per year), according to an NFL source. That means Sanchez has five years for $58.25 million remaining -- with $20.5 million fully guaranteed -- and his 2012 and '13 salaries are guaranteed.
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So in essence, that ensures that Sanchez will be the Jets' starting QB for at least the next two years. He'll be 30 when his current contract runs out.
"I'm absolutely pleased to be a Jet,'' Sanchez said on a conference call late Friday night. "My family is ecstatic and now it's time to get to work.''
Skeptics might think the Jets gave Sanchez an extension to assuage his feelings after the fruitless pursuit of Manning. Manning met with Broncos officials Friday and reportedly has scheduled visits with the Cardinals and Dolphins in the coming days. He's said to want to make a decision by the time free agency kicks off Tuesday.
Manning, who turns 36 later this month, reportedly will choose either Arizona or Miami as his next destination after his release from the Colts after 14 seasons on Wednesday.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum acknowledged the Jets reached out to Manning's representatives and said he began discussing a new pact with Sanchez's camp a few weeks after the season ended. He said they finally reached agreement at about 7 p.m. Friday, adding that the deal had nothing to do with trying to lower Sanchez's cap number to give the Jets salary-cap relief.
"We've been working on this now for several weeks," he said, "and working with the complexities of a new CBA and all those rules and regulations -- cash budgets, cap budgets. It's a complicated contract like most of them are nowadays. It took a long time. It took several weeks."
Still, Tannenbaum didn't deny the Jets were in the Manning Sweepstakes. "I'm not going to get into the specifics," he said, "but let's just say it was something we looked into. We had discussions internally. Again, that's my charge. We are always going to look into opportunities to improve this team. It's a responsibility I take seriously, and when a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback becomes available, you look into it.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics of how many calls or what we did or didn't do, except say we did look into it. But as we did that, we kept the negotiation process with Mark ongoing and they were great throughout this whole process and three hours ago, we found a landing spot."
Sanchez said he didn't hold any ill feelings over the decision to chase Manning. "This is a business and the team has an obligation to consider all its options," he said on a conference call. "I'm excited that the Jets believed in me and I'm a guy they want to move with in the future. I really didn't think too much into it.
"I know there are 15, 20 teams that thought the same thing and they have starting quarterbacks who might get upset about the same thing. But honestly, I was thrilled that these negotiations were going on and I knew if things played out the right way, I would be their guy just like they thought in the beginning. And that means the world to me."