Now that all signs point toward free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins signing a three-year contract with the Vikings, it’s Plan B for the Jets.
Which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Even though Cousins would have represented an immediate upgrade at the game’s most important position, signing him for just three years to a reported $84-million, fully guaranteed deal would have been shortsighted and ultimately counterproductive. Had the Jets been able to secure a more traditional five-year deal with only a portion of it guaranteed, that would have been a far more palatable alternative.
But with the Vikings in desperation mode now that they’re only a quarterback away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender, there’s simply no way to justify a similar deal that could have Cousins potentially gone after three years.
So Plan B isn’t such a bad thing. The Jets have agreed to bring back Josh McCown on a one-year deal, and they’re also expected to sign Vikings free- agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With McCown, Bridgewater and a top quarterback in this year’s draft (with one notable exception), they’ll be in far better shape than they were at the end of last season.
McCown already proved his worth last year, offering a patient veteran presence and putting together his best season. He’s a terrific locker room leader, and he’ll be an excellent mentor for Bridgewater and a rookie quarterback.
Bridgewater is a former first-round quarterback who appears fully healthy after suffering a major knee injury in 2016, and he still has plenty of upside at age 25. Put Bridgewater, McCown and a rookie quarterback (with one notable exception) in the same room, and there is a significant upgrade. Bryce Petty has proved to be mediocre, and though Christian Hackenberg is still young and going into his third NFL season, the fact that he hasn’t taken a single regular-season snap means the Jets may be ready to move on without him.
Now, about that rookie quarterback. With the sixth overall pick, the Jets are in line to potentially get any of the four highest-rated quarterbacks in the draft — USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Any of them would do. But count me out when it comes to Mayfield, who has a size limitation at 6 feet and whose cockiness borders on the kind of arrogance that wouldn’t work in the Jets’ locker room.
Mayfield is coming off a terrific career at Oklahoma, but the fact that he’s so easily triggered — see the flag plant after the win over Ohio State and the crotch grab during the win over Kansas — makes him a liability at this level. He is unapologetic for his attitude, insisting that his confidence is why he was so productive in college. But that stuff just doesn’t fly in the NFL, and his desire to start immediately wouldn’t fit into the structure of a Bridgewater-McCown-rookie arrangement.
Better for GM Mike Maccagnan to swing a trade to get Darnold, Rosen or Allen, or else draft an impact player at another position and perhaps get Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson or Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph later on.
Getting Cousins on a long-term deal could have given the Jets a chance to get an impact player at sixth overall, but now that he’s out of the mix, the alternatives are entirely reasonable.
Not only that, but Maccagnan made good on three other fronts in advance of Wednesday’s official free-agency signing period. Getting reliable running back Isaiah Crowell fills the void left by the retirement of Matt Forte, and snagging cornerback Trumaine Johnson, one of the most highly rated free agents at his position, and luring Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson was fine work.
All in all, Plan B may turn out just fine.