Jets release Mark Sanchez, sign Michael Vick

This composite image shows Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, This composite image shows Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, left, and Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick. The Jets announced on Friday, March 21, 2014 that they released Sanchez and signed Vick. Photo Credit: Getty Images, AP

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The closing of one door signaled the opening of another.

Mark Sanchez's time with the Jets officially ran out Friday as the team announced his release after five seasons. But before the dust could even settle on the Sanchez Era, the team ushered in a new quarterback at One Jets Drive: Michael Vick.

The free agent and former Eagles quarterback signed a one-year deal that reportedly is worth $5 million. And now Vick -- who turns 34 this summer -- will serve not only as incumbent Geno Smith's mentor but his competitor.

"As of right now, Geno is the starting quarterback of this football team,'' Vick said on a conference call Friday night.

Vick knows all about being a backup. He lost his starting job in Philly to Nick Foles and said it "would have been tough'' to return to the Eagles because "we all know Nick deserves to be the starter there.''

Vick has no intentions of being a locker-room distraction, but even though he's happy to help Smith prepare in the classroom and on the field, he won't be satisfied to hold a clipboard.

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"I wouldn't necessarily say I'd be OK sitting on the bench for a year. But I know what I signed up for,'' he said.

"Anywhere I go, any team I go to, I'm always going to compete for the No. 1 spot,'' he said, adding that he would encourage all quarterbacks to do the same. " . . . If I was named the starter right now, I would want the guy behind me to push me.''

And high-level competition is exactly what the Jets hope to see from Vick and Smith.

"He's here in a role where he's going to compete and push Geno Smith to become the very best that he can be,'' said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who served in the same capacity in Philadelphia for several years. "Michael will be able to go in and play at a high level and a winning level if called upon.''

The Jets' quarterback swap was made on the two-year anniversary of their ill-conceived trade for Tim Tebow, and there hasn't been much quarterback consistency in that span.

It was a foregone conclusion that Sanchez would be released, but the front office kept its plans under wraps for quite some time. Sanchez, 27, was due to earn a $2-million roster bonus on Tuesday and also carried a $13.1-million cap charge in 2014. By releasing him, the Jets saved $8.3 million.

His dismissal was the final curtain call on a roller-coaster Jets career that some will most remember for his infamous "Butt Fumble'' against the Patriots on Thanksgiving night in 2012.

"I'd like to thank Mark for everything he's done for this team and me personally,'' coach Rex Ryan said of Sanchez, whom the Jets drafted fifth overall in 2009 after trading up 12 spots. "We were rookies together and had some early success, becoming the first rookie head coach and quarterback to go to back-to-back [AFC] championship games. We experienced a lot together and I really appreciate Mark.''

Sanchez helped lead the Jets to back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010 but struggled after that, and his long-term status with the team became even more tenuous after Smith was drafted in 2013 and Sanchez suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the 2013 preseason. He was 33-29 as a starter and passed for 12,092 yards (1,028-for-1,867), 68 touchdowns and 69 interceptions for the Jets.

Vick, meanwhile, feels at home in Florham Park -- even if some Jets fans aren't thrilled to have him. "I'm a Jet and I appreciate all the Jets fans who appreciate me and accept me for who I am and what I've become -- not for what I've done,'' said Vick, who spent 21 months in prison for running an illegal dog-fighting operation. "Right now my past is irrelevant.''

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All he cares about now is winning. And there's "a lot left'' in the tank, he said.

"I came to New York to play football,'' said Vick, who has worn No. 7 but plans to allow Smith to keep the number. "As long as I've got a uniform on, I'm good.''

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